Cheaters Without Cameras

The stair machine must be the most boring exercise ever. The TVs installed in them do not help much unless sports is on. Typically I flip through the channels looking for the least inane programming. Today one of those channels that did not exist when I was growing had a show on about how casinos deter and detect cheating among gamblers and casino workers. The security people are up in the ceiling watching monitors. Those security people come and go by separate entrances and do not socialize with the other casino workers. Makes sense. If you do not know the people you are more likely to be objective. Temptation to cut someone some slack when they steal from the casino is greatly reduced. (I must admit the idea of casinos being cheated by others is a little hard to swallow.)

So what about law school cheating. There are many ways it occurs:
1. Favoring or disfavoring students.
2. Not honestly evaluating scholarship for tenure and promotion purposes.
3. Not honestly reviewing the teaching of tenure candidates.
4. Being influenced in hiring because there are friends or spouses involved or the candidates attended a specific set of schools.

My law school has done all that can be done with respect to number 1. Grading is anonymous and professors are not permitted to teach relatives or the equivalent. The last part of this was not always true and for many years the School dealt with the discomfort of parents teaching their children.

My school and I suspect most others have done miserably with respect to cheating in forms 2-4. The problem is that there is no "security staff" that observes without being influenced by personal connections. This is not to say the personality is irrelevant but scholarship, teaching, and hiring should be independent of personal connections. This would be the law school version of the cameras.

Could law schools get a little closer to the ideal. Suppose all articles from a group of schools were submitted to a panel of scholars. Each piece would be anonymous and the evaluators would assess several pieces and each piece would be reviewed by several scholars. A ranking would be provided to the schools involved as well as an absolute score. Teaching is a bit harder partly because the occasional pre-announced class visitation is so full of holes as a valid form of evaluation. It is close to silly because virtually anyone can do a decent job for a few days and faculty visitors would rather do the stair machine than actually put in writing anything that is negative.

One big step in hiring is not to hire into a specific department anyone who is closely related to a current faculty member. That would reduce some of the temptation. When the hiring of the trailing spouse is in a different department, it should occur only after an national search and an audit of the search procedure.

Law schools are not casinos but are affected by cheaters. They are way behind casinos in efforts to curb cheating. Maybe they just do not want to.