Analysis and Commentary on Education

Rape, Racism, Free Speech, and Fraternities

Cornell University law professor Sherry F. Colb examines two (real, but slightly altered) conversations in order to explore the thoughts and feelings that might affect the weight we give to principles that support our positions, while disregarding the same principles when they run contrary to our positions. Colb describes the interrelatedness of conversations that arise regarding rape, racism, and free speech, specifically in the context of college fraternities, but applicable to many other situations.

Understanding Free Speech Controversies on College Campuses: A Summary of a Very Helpful Conversation Between Two Leading Analysts—Erwin Chemerinsky and Geof Stone

Illinois Law dean and professor Vikram David Amar relates insights on campus free speech principles that came up during a recent discussion with renowned constitutional commentators Erwin Chemerinsky and Geof Stone. Among the insights are some possible explanations for why many college students today seem opposed to allowing offensive speech on campus, the different perspectives on the proper role of university officials regarding controversial guest speakers, and the question of when the costs of providing security for controversial speaker events justifies the cancellation or termination of the event.

Some (Informed?) Musings on the ABA’s Process for Reaccreditation of American Law Schools

Illinois Law dean and professor Vikram David Amar reflects on the ABA’s process for reaccreditation of American law schools and describes some of the positive and negative aspects of that process. Amar explains that during the reaccreditation site visits, schools have the opportunity to learn from others similarly situated and to showcase their own progress, but there are still some challenges such as consistent application of ABA standards and the attempt to treat of all schools, however different they might be, the same for accreditation purposes.

Do Law Faculties Need to Cover the Range of Fields in Scholarship or Only in Teaching?

George Washington law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan explains why a law faculty needs to cover the range of fields not only in teaching, but also in scholarship. Buchanan argues that if a law school is truly committed to covering specific courses, it should also be committed to hiring faculty with deep scholarly expertise in those subject matters. A professor who is not engaged with the subject matter both inside and outside the classroom is less effective in both realms.

One Law School Dean’s (Partial) List of New Year’s Resolutions

Illinois Law dean and professor Vikram David Amar offers five resolutions he, as a law school dean, hopes to achieve in 2018. These resolutions include taking time to read recent scholarship by his faculty, increasing attendance at campus events, improving communication between faculty and alumni, managing (and reducing, when feasible) bureaucratic burdens, and spending more time with students.

Some Tips For Succeeding on Law School Exams

Illinois Law dean and professor Vikram David Amar offers some timely tips for law students during the law school exam season. Noting that there often seems to be a divide between what students know on a given topic and what their exam answers convey to a grader, Amar provides common sense test-taking suggestions to help bridge that gap, as well as insight into what law professors often look for in a successful exam answer.

The Story of Grades: A Fable

Boston University law professor Tamar Frankel pens a fable as a means of providing commentary on law school grades and the debate between pro-regulation approaches and more laissez-faire approaches. Through the voice of a fictional character, Frankel points out that the cost of relying on the market to correct itself is lingering mistrust, which erodes a community's prosperity and undermines its success for a very long time.

Concern About DeVos’s Rescission of Obama Policy on Campus Rape

Cornell University law professor Sherry F. Colb comments on the decision by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to rescind the Obama-era Title IX guidance on campus sexual assault because it allegedly denies due process to students accused of rape. While acknowledging specific instances where accused students have been treated poorly, Colb argues that the existing guidelines are eminently sensible and defensible and that rescinding them rather than editing or modifying them goes well beyond what is necessary to address concerns for accused students. Colb focuses on two commonly attacked features of campus policy—the preponderance of the evidence standard and the affirmative consent requirement—and explains why they are good policy.

Why One Can Support Affirmative Action but Oppose Favoring Whites Over Asians When Administering It

Illinois Law dean and professor Vikram David Amar comments on the recent indications that the Trump Justice Department will investigate and possibly sue colleges and universities that make use of race-based affirmative action. Without expressing views as to the merits of pending lawsuits, Amar explains how one can simultaneously support race-based affirmative action and oppose the so-called “Asian penalty”—that is, systematically requiring Asian American applicants to have higher scores than white applicants.

What Do Colleges Have to Fear From Trump Justice Department’s Anti-Affirmative Action Policy?

Cornell University law professor Michael C. Dorf highlights some potentially dangerous consequences of the Justice Department’s recent indication that it would be investigating and suing colleges and universities that practice affirmative action. Dorf points out that the executive branch holds significant power over both public and private universities and colleges, and that it could exercise that power to induce significant changes in admissions policies.

Remaining Faithful to Free Speech and Academic Freedom

Illinois Law dean and professor Vikram David Amar laments recent instances of censored speech, particularly on university campuses, and reminds us that freedom of speech and academic freedom protect even those speakers whose message might be perceived odious, racist, sexist, or hateful. Amar points out that both freedom of speech and academic freedom are rooted in the principle that ideas and arguments ought to be evaluated on their substance and that the essence of both kinds of freedom is the opportunity to persuade others of the merits of one's argument, rather than the use of power to coerce or silence others.

An Academic Year-End Look at Some Bright Spots and Significant Challenges for Legal Education

Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar comments on two important indicators of the health of legal education—employment outcomes and bar passage rates. Amar points out that based on the currently reported data on employment for America’s ABA-accredited law schools, the overall percentage has gone up for the Class of 2016 as compared to the Class of 2015. Amar also argues that law schools should take a deeper look at the factors contributing to low (and in some cases, increasingly low) bar pass rates.

An English Teacher Corrects Shakespeare

Chapman University, Fowler School of Law, professor Ronald D. Rotunda critiques an English professor at Northern Arizona University for insisting that a student use the word “humankind” rather than “mankind.” Rotunda points out that the origin of the English word “man” encompasses both sexes and that for English professors (or any instructor) to force students to use certain words and shun others is an abuse of the power of words.

Vouchers, Charters and Public School Debt: Not Just Different Education Policy Priorities

Guest columnist and former U.S. Congressman Brad Miller argues that the Trump administration’s plans to expand charter schools and provide vouchers for religious and other private schools may violate the Contract Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Miller points out that by paying for charters out of traditional public schools’ funds, states have de-prioritized their obligations to the purchasers of public school bonds in violation of the Contract Clause.

Another Senseless Act of Destruction: The Trump Administration Undermines Protections for Transgender Students

SMU Dedman School of Law professor Joanna Grossman argues that the decision by the Trump Administration to roll back protections for transgender students is mean-spirited and serves no legitimate purpose. Grossman briefly describes the history of the recognition of transgender rights under federal statutes and explains why protections for transgender students make far greater legal sense than denying those protections.

How the Conservative Religious Coalition Won the 2016 Election— Part I: Education

In this first of a three-part series of columns, Marci A. Hamilton, a Fox Distinguished Scholar in the Program for Research on Religion at the University of Pennsylvania, explains the U.S. Supreme Court jurisprudence that allowed a conservative religious coalition to implant itself in the American public education system. Hamilton argues that the coup de grâce of this movement is Donald Trump’s appointment of Betsy DeVos to Education Secretary, signaling a focus on ideology over the best interests of children.

California’s July 2016 Bar Results, and the Bar’s Apparent (and Wrong-Headed) Decision to Stop Providing School-by-School Data

Illinois Law dean and professor Vikram David Amar comments on the dropping passage rate of the California bar exam, and the bar’s apparent decision to stop providing school-by-school data on passage rates. Amar explains why releasing less—rather than more—data is a poor decision and calls upon the California bar to correct this wrong.

Education, the 2016 Election, and the Future

Marci A. Hamilton, a Fox Distinguished Scholar in the Program for Research on Religion at the University of Pennsylvania, discusses the connection between an educated society and a successful, effective representative democracy. Hamilton argues that a significant reason that uneducated voters are more likely to vote for Donald Trump than educated voters are highlights this country’s failure to ensure that every student is adequately educated, particularly with respect to government.

Balancing Teachers’ Liberty Against Students’ Right to Unbiased Education

Antonio G. Sepulveda, Carlos Bolonha, and Igor De Lazari comment on a law recently passed by the house of representatives of the Brazilian state of Alagoas—over the governor’s veto—that places certain restrictions on teachers’ autonomy in the classroom. Sepulveda, Bolonha, and De Lazari discuss the purpose of the law and the criticism leveled against it and draw upon United States federal case law as a basis for analysis.

The Thin Pink Line: Policing Gender at Every Corner

Hofstra University law professors Joanna L. Grossman and Grant M. Hayden explain how recent controversies over same-sex marriage, transgender use of bathroom, and differentiated high school graduation attire for males and females reflect a collective unwillingness to blur gender lines. Grossman and Hayden further describe how these controversies are really simply part of a larger game of gender oppression.

Meet our Columnists

Vikram David Amar
Vikram David Amar

Vikram David Amar is the Dean and Iwan Foundation Professor of Law at the University of Illinois Co... more

Neil H. Buchanan
Neil H. Buchanan

Neil H. Buchanan is an economist and legal scholar and a Professor of Law at The George Washington U... more

Sherry F. Colb
Sherry F. Colb

Sherry F. Colb is Professor of Law and Charles Evans Hughes Scholar at Cornell University. Colb tea... more

John Dean
John Dean

John Dean served as Counsel to the President of the United States from July 1970 to April 1973. Befo... more

Michael C. Dorf
Michael C. Dorf

Michael C. Dorf is the Robert S. Stevens Professor of Law at Cornell University Law School. He has w... more

Joanna L. Grossman
Joanna L. Grossman

Joanna L. Grossman is the Ellen K. Solender Endowed Chair in Women and Law at SMU Dedman School of L... more

Marci A. Hamilton
Marci A. Hamilton

Marci A. Hamilton is one of the country’s leading church-state scholars and the Fox Professor of Pra... more

Joseph Margulies
Joseph Margulies

Mr. Margulies is a Professor of Law and Government at Cornell University. He was Counsel of Record... more

Anita Ramasastry
Anita Ramasastry

Anita Ramasastry is the UW Law Foundation Professor of Law at the University of Washington School of... more

Ronald D. Rotunda
Ronald D. Rotunda

Ronald D. Rotunda is the Doy & Dee Henley Chair and Distinguished Professor of Jurisprudence... more

Lesley Wexler
Lesley Wexler

Lesley Wexler is a Professor of Law at the University of Illinois College of Law. Immediately prior... more