Analysis and Commentary on Education
Should Faculty Be Punished for Publicly Criticizing the Institutions Where They Teach?

Amherst professor Austin Sarat discusses the controversy surrounding Harvard Dean Lawrence Bobo’s op-ed, which argued that faculty should face sanctions for publicly criticizing their university in ways that invite outside intervention. Professor Sarat ultimately disagrees with Bobo, asserting that while faculty should exercise good judgment when criticizing their institutions, universities must protect their right to do so to avoid undermining academic freedom and the free exchange of ideas.

Advice to Alumni Donors: Pay the Piper but Don’t Call the Tune

Cornell Law professor Michael C. Dorf discusses the challenge faced by colleges and universities in accepting donations from wealthy alumni and other benefactors while maintaining academic freedom and independence from ideological influence. Professor Dorf argues that while donors have the right to direct their funds to specific purposes, they should refrain from using their financial leverage to unduly influence hiring decisions or curriculum, as doing so undermines the scholarly and pedagogical judgment that is essential to the success and value of these institutions.

Regulating Civil Disobedience on Campus

Cornell Law professor Michael C. Dorf discusses how colleges and universities should handle student protests that violate campus rules, exploring whether such rule-breaking can be considered civil disobedience and what disciplinary consequences may be appropriate. Professor Dorf argues that while protesters should face consequences for rule violations, universities should consider showing some leniency for peaceful protests involving minor infractions, and that developing fair policies requires an inclusive process involving students, faculty, staff and administrators, as well as robust due process protections.

Why Even Ostensibly Peaceful Expressive “Encampments” at Universities Are Not Immune From Restrictions Under the First Amendment, With Special Attention to Some Analogies to Abortion Clinics

UC Davis Law professor Vikram David Amar and professor emeritus Alan E. Brownstein discuss the regulation of student protests and encampments on college campuses, particularly focusing on the balance between protecting free speech and ensuring the safety and functioning of the university. Professors Amar and Brownstein argue that while peaceful protests should generally be permitted, universities have significant interests—such as preventing physical obstruction, noise pollution, unsanitary conditions, and liability issues—that can justify content-neutral time, place, and manner restrictions on encampments, even if evenly enforcing such restrictions during tense situations presents challenges.

Can a Public High School Punish a Student for Asking a Question that Refers to “Illegal Aliens”? Part Two in a Two-Part Series

In this second of a two-part series of columns discussing a recent incident at a North Carolina high school where a student was suspended for using the term “illegal alien” in class, UC Davis Law professor Vikram David Amar and Illinois Law professor Jason Mazzone explore how the dispute might be analyzed applying only the Supreme Court’s seminal decision in Tinker v. Des Moines Independent School District. Professors Amar and Mazzone argue that while schools have some authority to regulate disruptive student speech under Tinker and Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier, the student’s suspension here likely violated due process because he lacked clear prior notice that using this term, which appears in Supreme Court opinions and federal statutes, was prohibited.

Mike Johnson’s Visit to Columbia Ups the Ante in the Right-Wing Attack on Universities

Amherst professor Austin Sarat discusses House Speaker Mike Johnson’s recent visit to Columbia University, which Professor Sarat argues is part of a broader right-wing attack on universities, particularly those with elite reputations. Professor Sarat explains that Johnson’s visit, which called for the resignation of Columbia’s president due to alleged antisemitism on campus, was a politically motivated stunt designed to appeal to MAGA Republicans, and that universities must band together to defend their independence against such outside political interference.

Ten Tips for Success on Law School Exams

UC Davis Law professor Vikram David Amar offers advice to law students on how to perform well on law school exams. Professor Amar’s main points include the importance of outlining before writing, addressing all major course topics, answering the specific questions asked, allocating time and space wisely, showing one's work, anticipating counterarguments, writing clearly, differentiating between settled and debatable issues, being concise, and proofreading responses.

Federal Antidiscrimination Law Does Not Require Campus Crackdowns

Cornell Law professor Michael C. Dorf discusses the recent conflict at Columbia University involving student protests, potential antisemitism, and the balance between free speech and protection from harassment on college campuses. Professor Dorf argues that while Title VI of the Civil Rights Act obligates colleges to prevent harassment, free speech should be more strongly protected in public campus spaces, and the sensitivities of observers should hold less weight there compared to other campus settings.

Dear Students, I Don’t Care What You Think

Cornell professor Joseph Margulies emphasizes the importance of critical thinking and evidence-based reasoning in the classroom, stating that while he does not care about the specific opinions of his students, he does care that these opinions are well-supported and thoughtfully articulated. Professor Margulies challenges students to understand and defend their beliefs, whether on controversial topics like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, prison reform, or the war on terror, and he expects them to be aware of the complexities, evidence, and counterarguments related to their views.

Big Change to the LSAT May Alleviate Time Pressure for Some Takers

Notwithstanding some recent competition, the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) remains the most widely used and accepted standardized test considered by American law schools to admit new students to law school. That is why it is significant news that the President/CEO of the Law School Admission Council (LSAC), the organization responsible for designing, administering, and grading the LSAT, recently announced changes to the LSAT’s format, beginning in August 2024.

ChatGPT is Notoriously Bad at Legal Research. So Let’s Use it to Teach Legal Research

Rutgers Law adjunct lecturer David S. Kemp argues that despite ChatGPT’s limitations in producing accurate legal research, these shortcomings can be leveraged as teaching tools in law schools. By encouraging students to use AI-generated text as a starting point and then to verify its content using reliable sources, educators can enhance students’ research skills, critical thinking, and ethical responsibility.

Why Stay to Fight a Losing Battle? (Part Two of a Series)

Professor Neil H. Buchanan—an economist and legal scholar who is a visiting professor at both Osgoode Hall Law School and the University of Toronto Law, and who has accepted a research sabbatical and retirement offer from the University of Florida—discusses the erosion of academic freedom and tenure in universities, specifically focusing on recent legislative changes in Florida that undermine intellectual freedom. Professor Buchanan argues that the political climate has made it nearly impossible to challenge these changes effectively, leading him to conclude that sometimes a strategic retreat is necessary when facing an unyielding and empowered opposition.

Does Diversity Have a Future?

Cornell Law professor Michael C. Dorf argues that while the recent departure of Stanford’s associate dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) is noteworthy, the broader issue is the legal status of diversity initiatives following the recent Supreme Court ruling in Students for Fair Admissions v. President and Fellows of Harvard College. Professor Dorf contends that despite the Court’s skepticism towards race-based affirmative action, DEI offices still have a legitimate role, albeit one that may need to adjust its approaches to promoting diversity and inclusion.

Is Higher Education Spending Excessive? In Some Ways Maybe Yes, in Others Perhaps Not

Responding to an article earlier this month in the Wall Street Journal criticizing spending by state universities, UC Davis law professor Vikram David Amar argues that while public universities have indeed increased spending and tuition, the situation is more nuanced than simply blaming administrative bloat or wasteful spending. Professor Amar contends that higher education today offers a qualitatively different product than it did two decades ago, with enhanced services in career planning, mental health, and academic support, among other things, and that these changes, along with external factors like professorial salaries and underfunded pensions, contribute to the rise in costs.

Abandoning Precedent: The Case for Bringing ChatGPT into Law Schools

Rutgers Law adjunct lecturer David S. Kemp argues that generative artificial intelligence (AI) tools like ChatGPT can effectively complement conventional methods of learning in law school and can push law students (and their instrutors) to think critically and creatively about the future of legal practice. Mr. Kemp points out that generative AI is poised to revolutionize the practice of law and that forward-looking law educators should embrace the technology to best position their students to succeed today and tomorrow.

Fighting the Good Fight versus Knowing When to Move On (Part One of a Series)

Professor Neil H. Buchanan, a professor who has accepted a research sabbatical and retirement offer from the University of Florida, explains his decision to leave. He cites Florida’s increasingly hostile stance towards professors and higher education, driven by the state’s Republican Party, as the main cause for his departure, expressing concern over the state’s attacks on tenure, academic freedom, and its enactment of vaguely written laws that could compromise educational integrity, leading to a “brain drain” from the state.

Why I Want My Students to Read Trump’s Latest Indictment

Amherst professor Austin Sarat highlights the potential of Special Counsel Jack Smith’s indictment of former President Donald Trump as a teaching resource in civics education, particularly in understanding the intersection of free speech, political lies, and democracy. Professor Sarat argues that the indictment can help clarify First Amendment rights concerning false statements, explain the importance of federalism in the U.S. electoral system, and illustrate the roles of “moral rebels” who stood against potential autocratic behavior, thereby offering crucial insights into America’s political culture and constitutional system.

Is Resistance to AI in the Law School Classroom Futile?

Cornell Law professor Michael C. Dorf considers the implications of ChatGPT and other generative AI tools in law schools. Professor Dorf observes that for now, smart, well-motivated students will outperform AI in most tasks required of law students, but legal educators will soon have to grapple with the reality that banning AI-based tools will make less and less sense as they become more mainstream various ways in legal practice.

Another Free-Speech Dustup Arising from A Student-Invited-Speaker Event, This One at Pitt, Highlights Recurring Problems at Universities, and in Free Speech Doctrine

Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar and professor Jason Mazzone comment on another free-speech controversy related to a student-invited speaker at the University of Pittsburgh. Dean Amar and Professor Mazzone describe the demand letter sent to Pitt officials by the Alliance Defending Freedom and explain why some of their arguments are on solid legal ground while one is tenuous at best.

Chat Got a B

Cornell professor Joseph Margulies expresses concern over the ability of ChatGPT—the AI-powered chatbot—to draft increasingly sophisticated and accurate writings that some college students might use instead of putting in the painstaking work of writing on their own. Professor Margulies asked ChatGPT to generate a response to an assignment akin to one he would assign in his own class, and it generated a B-quality essay. He then explores what this means for student learning—particularly in the context of writing.

Meet our Columnists
Vikram David Amar
Vikram David Amar

Vikram David Amar is a Distinguished Professor of Law at UC Davis School of Law and a Professor... more

Neil H. Buchanan
Neil H. Buchanan

Neil H. Buchanan, an economist and legal scholar, is a visiting professor at both Osgoode Hall... more

John Dean
John Dean

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

Michael C. Dorf
Michael C. Dorf

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

Samuel Estreicher
Samuel Estreicher

Samuel Estreicher is Dwight D. Opperman Professor of Law and Director of the Center of Labor and... more

Leslie C. Griffin
Leslie C. Griffin

Dr. Leslie C. Griffin is the William S. Boyd Professor of Law at the University of Nevada, Las... 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... more

Marci A. Hamilton
Marci A. Hamilton

Professor Marci A. Hamilton is a Professor of Practice in Political Science at the University of... more

Joseph Margulies
Joseph Margulies

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

Austin Sarat
Austin Sarat

Austin Sarat is the William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence and Political Science at... more

Laurence H. Tribe
Laurence H. Tribe

Laurence H. Tribe is the Carl M. Loeb University Professor Emeritus at Harvard University and... more

Lesley Wexler
Lesley Wexler

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