Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Bravo to the Green Bag!

Thanks to Inside Higher Education, Brian Leiter, my dad, and the Green Bag itself, there's a new ranking system in town: Green Bag's Deadwood Report system.

Different from HBO's 2004 Deadwood TV series, Green Bag "will [focus] on the most dully objective of measures: whether the work is being done – whether each law school faculty member is teaching courses, publishing scholarly works, and performing pro bono service."

Here's how it will work, according to the Green Bag itself:

Step 1: We will download a law school’s web pages containing (a) its list of “faculty”; (b) its current and recent course schedules and catalogs; and (c) its individual faculty profile pages containing vitas or lists of publications.

Step 2: We will compile our data. We are interested in providing information about the current state of a school’s faculty, so our focus will be on recent scholarship and recent teaching (and, in due course, recent service). A school whose faculty is heavy with people who used to be active might do well in a citation or reputation study, but it will do poorly in the Deadwood Report. After all, should today’s students be enrolling in schools where the faculty used to be engaged, or in schools where the faculty is engaged now?

Step 3: We will analyze. We are still working on the finer points of our sorting and weighing of various kinds of teaching and scholarship, but we are committed to a few basic ideas, including the following: First, we are interested in well-rounded, active faculty members, and so we will give more weight to the moderately active teacher-writer than to the hyper-writer who neglects teaching or the hyper-teacher who neglects writing. A specialist in neglecting both won’t be worth much. Second, we are interested in well-rounded, active faculties, and so we will seek to avoid perpetuating illusions of faculty strength that can result when one or two or a few members of a faculty publish and teach a great deal, while the rest do relatively little or nothing. Third, we are interested in honest, useful self-promotion by law schools, and so we will go out of our way to reward accuracy and penalize its absence.

Step 4: We will send each school’s dean our school-specific preliminary results, and invite him or her to send us a reasonably quick response identifying any inaccuracies in our work or on the school’s website.

Step 5: We will correct our errors. Then we will re-visit each law school’s website and incorporate any corrections we find there.

Step 6: We will publish our results.

Step 7: We will do it all over again for the next school year.
(Footnote omitted.) I've posted some thoughts about the ramifications about this new rankings system over at MoneyLaw (here).

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