Category Archives: Legal Academia

Personal note: “Education and Walls”

[Though I originally wrote this as an op-ed, the places I submitted it to properly recognized that this was more of a personal note than an op-ed, so I am posting it here instead… of course, if lightening strikes and this gets picked up anywhere else, I’ll provide links (though I doubt it).]

When I first started teaching, I thought I could be friends with my students.  I was young, 26, and naïve.  That year I taught some of my favorite students, people who I still keep in touch with and whose lives I observe through social media.  Since then, I have many more students who are my “Friends” on Facebook, but I have come to accept that we are not really friends.  In their minds, I will always be “Professor Rosser,” even if they do become comfortable calling me by my first name.  And I don’t blame them.  Though being a professor myself helps break down some of the barriers with my mentors, I likely will never consider them peers.  In the back of my mind they are professors for life, even if we end up working together or writing together.

This separation between professor and student is strongest in my large lecture class.  Ninety-five students this semester will dutifully laugh at my jokes—unless they are incapable of turning off Facebook during class—as we march through the intricacies of 1L Property Law.  On the first day, I ask them to try to find the joy in Property, but if I am honest with myself, the best I can hope for is that some of my joy spreads to them.  There isn’t actually all that much joy in the rule against perpetuities  or aesthetic zoning.  I like my students, I want the best for them, but I only really get to know the handful of them that I teach in my upper level classes.

Partly because our relationship is necessarily limited, there is a wall in the most professor-student relationships.  And this wall extends to politics.  I invite progressive students to observe and debate the racism in many of the opinions we read, but I also am quick to encourage conservative students to express their disgust at doctrines, such as adverse possession and eminent domain, that can serve to take property away from landowners.  I often see my role as facilitating disagreement and, if need be, playing devil’s advocate so that the discussion brings out both sides of the debate.  The book I teach from is the middle-of-the-road textbook and my only standard “political” stance every year is to dedicate one day to studying the poor.  But, in my defense, it seems absurd to study “property” without spending some time on those without property.

For me, the Trump Era forces the question of how much politics is it appropriate for a professor to insert into a standard syllabus?  I know other professors for whom everything has always been political.  When I was a student, I was taught Constitutional Law by a brilliant professor who worked on the Bush-side of the Bush v. Gore case.  His class was a constant series of political moves that culminated with an end-of-the-semester celebration of United States v. Lopez, a Supreme Court decision limiting the reach of the Commerce Clause and elevating states’ rights.  I respect such professors for their honesty, but until now, I did not struggle with my choice to remain largely neutral in my large lecture class.  After all, if there is anything I have learned from teaching a seemingly endless series of Property classes, it is that it is great when libertarians feel comfortable enough to speak their mind in class.  Every year, I have more than a fair share of instinctively progressive students, but the classroom dynamic is best when libertarians do not let their position get drowned out by the self-righteousness that seems to be a pre-condition for going to law school.  I get to know many of the progressive students well—the most progressive of them seem inevitably to sign up for my upper level Poverty Law and Federal Indian Law classes—but I often have the most fun with the conservative students.

I have been very reluctant to interject my (far-left-of-center) politics into the classroom not only because I am afraid doing so might silence debates in class but also because I feel that only my wife needs to suffer through my political ranting.  (Oh to have been born in a society that actually cared about poor people…)  But this year I think is going to be different because Trump and the Republicans in Congress are different.  Their record already shows that they do not care about making sweeping changes that are antithetical to our nation’s ideals.  This is a man, a party, and far too many supporters with no sense of decency, no understanding of history, and no shame in embodying the worst parts of human nature. These are dark days.

America is a truly great nation and in many ways has been a beacon for other nations across the globe [which I write despite teaching both Indian law and poverty law].  It seems to me that the professoriate not only should be allowed to be more political nowadays but ought to speak openly with students about the grave danger the country is in today.  In such a crisis moment, I hope my students will forgive me if from time to time I break down some of the walls between professors and students by being honest about the need for resistance.

Opinion: Standing up for ‘so-called’ law

Opinion: Martha Minow and Robert Post, Standing up for ‘so-called’ law, Boston Globe (Feb. 10, 2017).

New Report: “Law School Scholarship Policies: Engines Of Inequity”

New Report: LSSSE, Law School Scholarship Policies: Engines Of Inequity (2017).  News coverage here.

 

 

Health Justice – Teaching Fellow Position

Loyola University School of Law is seeking to hire a Teaching Fellow/Supervising Attorney for its Health Justice Project, health-justice-project-loyola-law-chicago, a medical-legal partnership housed in the Beazley Institute for Health Law and Policy at the Law School. The position is a two- year fellowship, and is designed to provide the fellow with clinical teacher training, leadership development, experience collaborating on an inter-professional team, and career growth for public interest leaders.

The partners in the MLP include Loyola’s School of Law, School of Medicine, and Department of Public Health, Erie Family Health Center, and LAF Chicago.  Students enrolled in the clinic engage in director client representation and policy advocacy under the supervision of the faculty member and the fellow.

For more information on the position and to apply, please go to:

www.careers.luc.edu/applicants/Central?quickFind=59482

Personal Thanks to Marc-Tizoc Gonzalez

I just wanted to give a personal and public thank you to Marc-Tizoc Gonzalez for his leadership of the AALS Poverty Section this year; for his organization in the section’s main panel today and for finding an excuse to highlight The Poverty Canon yesterday.  Even though I am incapable of his level of constant sincerity and concerned approach to everything (my mind seems to brim over with snide comments or jokes), it is great to get to watch Marc-Tizoc Gonzalez in action, it is a reminder that I could potentially be a better person.  So thanks for your leadership and behavior modeling.  =)

News Article: “Bringing Together Medical and Law Students to Help Disadvantaged Residents in DC”

News Article: “Bringing Together Medical and Law Students to Help Disadvantaged Residents in DC,” Georgetown University Medical Center, Nov. 22, 2016.

News Article: “Law School Debt Rankings – Law Schools with the Highest Debt”

News Article: Andrew Ostler, “Law School Debt Rankings – Law Schools with the Highest Debt,” JD Journal, Nov. 22, 2016.

News Article: “How the LSAT Destroys Socioeconomic Diversity”

News Article: Caroline Kitchener, “How the LSAT Destroys Socioeconomic Diversity,” The Atlantic, Oct. 18, 2016.

Article: “‘Just Another Little Black Boy from the South Side of Chicago’: Overcoming Obstacles and Breaking Down Barriers to Improve Diversity in the Law Professoriate”

Article: Michael Z. Green, “‘Just Another Little Black Boy from the South Side of Chicago’: Overcoming Obstacles and Breaking Down Barriers to Improve Diversity in the Law Professoriate,” 31 Colum. J. Gender & L. 135 (2015).

As I reflected on my personal experience to help address the persistence of discrimination in legal academia, I chose to focus on five areas of discussion for the open mic portion of the program held at the Association of American Law Schools Cross-Cutting Program, “The More Things Change…: Exploring Solutions to Persistent Discrimination in Legal Academia,” held on January 4, 2015, in Washington, D.C. First, I decided to address my personal development as an only child and male in a family of mostly black women struggling through the socioeconomic challenges of being poor and black. To add to that predicament and the narrative discussing it, I lived and grew up in one of this country’s most racially segregated cities in a community permeated with deadly criminal activities and hard core gangs. As an elementary school student, I lived on a block where people were stabbed, beaten, and killed. I saw people robbed and someone attempted to rob. me at knifepoint in a violent confrontation. And those experiences still shape me today.

Second, I decided to reflect on how core parental dedication helped to make sure that despite those surroundings I would be given a foundation to recognize that I could succeed and transcend the demoralizing pitfalls being observed on a daily basis in my neighborhood. Third, I must highlight how a lack of resources to adequately guide choices limits the pipeline possibilities even for those few like me who have the abilities to go forward. This discussion involves a lack of knowledge and financial support to even consider an Ivy League education and its benefits despite having the academic qualifications as a National Merit Finalist in high school. It also involves a discussion of being pushed to pursue a career in engineering when further reflection might have suggested development of other educational interests leading to a more traditional path in the law.

Fourth, I have to bring forward my experience in recovering from a somewhat ill-advised engineering educational focus by going to law school which culminates with me obtaining a position in the academy as a law professor despite not having Ivy League credentials. The most important part of this discussion must include the support and the validation I received in my quest to join the professoriate that I gained by becoming a Hastie Fellow at the University of Wisconsin Law School. Finally, as an African American male who practiced employment discrimination law, worked at large law firms, a boutique, and a union law firm, and who now teaches and writes about issues of race and workplace discrimination, I believe that my personal experience adds a unique perspective especially given the dearth of African American male law professors who teach and write in an area of law so important to African American males.

However, given the three minute timeframe during the actual presentation I only discussed the first two areas of focus: 1) the initial aspect of growing up in the Englewood neighborhood; and 2) how important parental involvement and activism was in pushing me forward despite the burdens of my surroundings. At the end of my presentation, I couched that discussion by asserting why I believed my story highlights how the lack of black male law professors who teach workplace law and discrimination supports the overall narrative of ongoing discrimination in the academy. The presentation and this Article reflect what it meant for me growing up under certain circumstances that presented barriers to becoming a law professor, and how that initial experience as shown by my personal narrative further indicates why discrimination in the academy continues.

Job Announcement: “Executive Director for UCLA Law School Office of Public Interest Programs”

UCLA Law School is hiring a new ED for our Office of Public Interest Programs. Broad responsibilities include our specialization in public interest law & policy, student pro bono initiatives, supporting public interest career development, and more. Announcement attached and linked here: https://recruit.apo.ucla.edu/apply/JPF02706.