Analysis and Commentary on Education
The Figurative and the Literal: Disagreeable Speech versus Intimidation and Physical Attacks

Continuing his discussion of the incident at Stanford Law School, UF Levin College of Law professor Neil H. Buchanan explains the essential difference between disagreeable speech and intimidation and threats of physical violence. Professor Buchanan reminds us that the consequences of being disfavored and vulnerable are not a matter being socially unpopular, but matters of life and death.

How Should Universities Respond to Organized Right-Wing Trolling?

In this second of a series of columns in response to a recent controversy at Stanford Law School, UF Levin College of Law professor Neil H. Buchanan considers how universities should respond to organized efforts to stir up politically useful controversy on campus. Professor Buchanan argues that it is a recipe for disaster to fail to see through the schemes of individuals or organizations who are acting in bad faith and that other universities should not play along.

A Public Statement About Law Students (and Others) Acting Like Children, from a Fictional University President— Or, the Stanford Incident is Not What You Think

UF Levin College of Law professor Neil H. Buchanan assumes the role of president of a fictional university writing in response to the recent “shouting down” incident at Stanford Law School. Specifically, Professor Buchanan takes on the claim some have advanced that the law student protesters were acting like children, and he argues that in fact, the (adult) federal judge behaved in the most juvenile manner.

What Law Students Should Take Away from the Stanford Law School Controversy Involving Disruption of a Federal Judge’s Speech: Part One in a Series

In response to the Stanford Law School controversy involving disruption of a federal judge’s speech, Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar and professor Jason Mazzone offer thoughts about how to design a training session about the freedom of speech and norms of the legal profession should include. In this first of a series of columns, Dean Amar and Professor Mazzone focus on two key topics: (1) What, precisely is “shouting down” of a speaker, and why can such activity be prohibited and punished? And (2) What About the Venerable Tradition of “Civil Disobedience”?

Law Teaching in the Liberal Arts in the Trump Era

In light of unsubstantiated comments by former President Trump about prosecutors with a political agenda, Amherst professor Austin Sarat reflects on the importance of teaching law in the liberal arts. Professor Sarat points out that legal courses in the liberal arts are one place where students can learn about the politics of law and appreciate that while law is not completely separated from politics, nor is law completely subsumed by it.

More on Ranking Law Schools, and What Can be Learned from Ranking of Sports Teams: Part Two in a Series

In this second in a series of columns about law school rankings, Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar explains how rankings for law (and medical) schools can benefit from innovations in college sports rankings. Specifically, Dean Amar suggests greater reliance on numerical, analytic metrics to help with assessments, less frequent updating of the rankings, and enabling consumers to adjust the weight of various ranking factors according to what they value in a school.

Some Thoughts on the Recent Controversies Concerning Law (and Med) School Rankings: Part I in a Series

In this first of a series of columns on the controversy over the rankings of academic institutions, Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar explains the source of the controversy and describes some of the inconsistencies among the critics—among whom he counts himself. Dean Amar points out that academic rankings might look to sports rankings to see how the latter solves some of the issues inherent in prominent national rankings.

The College Board Fails History by Caving to Ron DeSantis

Former federal prosecutor Dennis Aftergut comments on the decision by the College Board, which certifies Advanced Placement (AP) high school curricula, for acquiescing to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis by revising the curriculum in African American History. Mr. Aftergut argues that, by acceding to DeSantis’s bullying, the College Board has short-changed freedom of thought for the next generation of high school students and has helped erode our pluralistic future.

Does President Biden’s Plan to End the COVID Emergency Affect Pending SCOTUS Litigation Involving Title 42 and Student Debt Forgiveness?

Cornell Law professor Michael C. Dorf considers whether the Biden administration’s announcement that it would end the COVID states of emergency in May affect pending Supreme Court cases involving immigration policy and student debt forgiveness. Professor Dorf explains why the news is unlikely to affect the outcome of the immigration case and, conversely, why it might affect the student debt forgiveness case.

The “Not Renewed” Excuse at Hamline and Elsewhere

Cornell Law professor Michael C. Dorf comments on the recent controversy over Hamline University’s dismissal of adjunct professor Erika Lopez Prater when a student complained after she displayed a historically important 14th-century painting of the prophet Muhammad. Professor Dorf explains why the university president’s technically-accurate statement that Lopez Prater was “not fired” highlights the exploitative nature of colleges and universities increasingly relying on untenured and underpaid adjunct faculty.

No Snowflakes Here: The Cornell University Parole Initiative

Cornell Law professor Joseph Margulies describes the work of the Cornell University Parole Initiative (CUPI), which works with incarcerated persons serving life sentences in New York prisons. Professor Margulies describes the work of CUPI student volunteers and argues that anyone who perceives today’s young people as entitled “snowflakes” should look more closely at what young people are doing and get out of the way for them to fix what older generations have broken.

Congress Should Protect Voluntary Affirmative Action in Private Colleges and Universities

Cornell Law professor Michael C. Dorf explains how Congress can (and argues that it should) protect affirmative action in private colleges and universities in light of the supermajority of the Supreme Court that seems hostile to affirmative action. Professor Dorf points out that even if his suggestion seems far-fetched in the current political climate, urgent calls for action now can effectively arm advocates to effect change when they are better positioned to do so in the future.

Where Have All the (Aspiring) Law Profs Gone?

Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar and professor Jason Mazzone consider some possible explanations for the ever-decreasing number of applicants for tenured/tenure-track faculty among law schools. Dean Amar and Professor Mazzone propose five possible reasons but point out that whatever the true reason(s), the apparent decline in the demand among talented new legal minds for law-teaching jobs should be a topic of discussion and concern.

What the Divided Argument in the SCOTUS Affirmative Action Cases Could Mean

Cornell Law professor Michael C. Dorf comments on the possible significance of the Supreme Court’s decision to divide, rather than consolidate, argument in the affirmative action cases it will be deciding next term. Professor Dorf suggests the decision would allow Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson to participate in one of the cases and could also allow the Court to attend to at least two important factual and legal differences between the two cases.

When Is Revising Admissions Criteria to Alter the Racial Makeup of a School’s Student Body Constitutionally Problematic? A Recent Case from Virginia on the Court’s “Shadow” Docket May Offer Some Hints

Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar and professor Jason Mazzone comment on a recent case from Virginia that suggests when revising admissions criteria to alter the racial makeup of a school’s student body is constitutional (and when it is not). Dean Amar and Professor Mazzone point out that although some Supreme Court Justices have suggested in dicta and dissents some permissible options, they may very well decide that those options too are impermissible, despite the natural and reasonable reliance on those writings.

Where Things Might Go in the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s Seventeenth Amendment Case Involving Senator Jim Inhofe’s “Irrevocable” Promise to Retire in January: Part Two in a Series

In this second of a two-part series of columns on a Seventeenth Amendment case currently before the Oklahoma Supreme Court, Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar and professor Jason Mazzone consider whether Senator Jim Inhofe’s promise to resign is enforceable and whether there anything else Inhofe (and the state) could do to vindicate his (and its) wishes.

Should Congress Ban Legacy and Donor Preferences in College Admissions?

Cornell Law professor Michael C. Dorf comments on the recent proposal to pass legislation ending legacy and donor preferences in college admissions. Professor Dorf explains the context and rationale for the proposal and describes some potential perverse effects it might have, but he concludes that its potential benefits likely outweigh these drawbacks.

Resuming In-person Law School Instruction in the Face of the Delta COVID-19 Variant

Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar describes some of the advantages of the in-person setting for law schools (as compared to remote instruction) as an explanation for why he is looking forward to the start of the fall semester being in person. Dean Amar expresses home that, thanks to the vaccines that the overwhelming majority of faculty and students have chosen to receive, law schools around the country will have a very positive, if not quite normal, intellectual and cultural experience.

Series of Recent Statements from Rutgers University Illustrates the Complexity of Institutional Speech in Higher Education

Using recent statements from Rutgers University as an example, Illinois Law dean and professor Vikram David Amar describes certain cautionary factors that high-level university administrators should bear in mind before engaging in institutional speech. Dean Amar explains the complexity of institutional speech in higher education and suggests that even well-intentioned speech can lead to unexpected criticism and responses.

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