First Monday - March 7, 2011
In this issue:
- A Life of Service and Civility: University of Idaho Bids Farewell to Senator McClure
- The Rankings Game: Measuring True Educational Value by Quality, Outcomes, and Cost
- The Legal Aid Clinic: Understanding the Law – and the Rule of Law
- Hold the Date: Law Review Symposium Will Focus on “Conjunctive Management” of Water Resources
On February 26, 2011, James A. McClure (UI Law ’50), age 86, passed away at his home in Boise. His life was shaped by law and public service, starting with his father’s law practice in Payette, Idaho, where he worked as a city attorney and a county prosecutor (at $2000 per year!), then was elected to three terms in the Idaho State Senate, followed by three terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, and, ultimately, three terms in the United States Senate. He never lost an election, and in his last two U.S. Senate races he won all of Idaho’s 44 counties. He became one of the nation’s most influential public figures on natural resources and energy policy. Although a staunch Western conservative, he also urged Congress to exhibit “balanced judgment upon good information.” After retirement he served on the College of Law Advisory Council and was an active proponent of the University’s statewide mission in legal education. He and his spouse Louise also established the James and Louise McClure Endowment for the Sciences and Public Policy at the University of Idaho.
Although Senator McClure mastered the skills of partisanship, he became better known for his openness and civility. Upon receiving word of the Senator’s passing, University of Idaho President M. Duane Nellis said, “Words seem inadequate to capture all that is his legacy. Jim McClure will stand as one of Idaho’s best public officials and one of our very best citizens …. He modeled both civic engagement and civic leadership ….” Senator Mike Crapo lauded his “unfailing good will and respect for others,” and Senator Jim Risch (UI Law ’68) described Senator McClure as "one of the most civil human beings that you will ever meet.” Former Democratic Governor and Secretary of the Interior Cecil Andrus, who worked with Senator McClure on public lands legislation, said, “Idaho has lost a genuine statesman who loved Idaho and served it well.” Professor David Adler, Director of the James A. and Louise M. McClure Center for Public Policy Research at the University of Idaho, wrote, “Of [Senator McClure’s] many distinguished contributions to Idaho, his commitment to civil discourse and political civility—the engines of the republic – and his sense of decorum in the arena may well be his finest and most important legacies.”
he Cathedral of the Rockies in Boise, the theme was not so much about a life in politics as about a life characterized by civility and human decency. The eulogies and remarks, including statements by the Senator’s son Ken McClure (UI Law ’80) and by the Senator’s one-time chief of staff Tom Hill (UI Law ’73), focused on the warmth of the Senator’s immediate family and of his “extended” family of colleagues. The memorial service had a distinctively University of Idaho flavor. Commemorating the fact that the Senator and Louise had met at the University and had sung together as Vandaleers in the 1940s, a 2011 entourage of Vandaleers provided musical grace notes for the service. At the conclusion, the University of Idaho Jazz Band led the assemblage down the Cathedral’s center aisle with a spirited version of “When the Saints Go Marching In.” Tears gave way to smiles. “That’s how I want to go out,” the Senator had told his family.
And so he did.
A recent article in The New Yorker magazine (February 14, 2011), criticizing the college and university rankings published (and widely promoted) by U.S. News & World Report, is making the rounds in higher education. The article by Malcolm Gladwell, entitled “The Order of Things: What College Rankings Really Tell Us,” examines the implicit ideological choices embedded in the rankings criteria and exposes the fallacies of the anonymous mail-in reputational opinion surveys – all of which have caused the American Bar Association, the Association of American Law Schools, and the Law School Admissions Council to caution against reliance upon the U. S. News rankings of law schools. (The surveys have several flaws: they implausibly assume that the respondents have detailed, current knowledge of all the schools they purport to rate; the surveys can be manipulated by voting a favored school up and its competitors down; and the surveys produce data that are skewed by the size of each school's alumni (and potential respondent) base.
Moreover, Gladwell makes this observation: “By choosing not to include tuition as a variable, U.S. News has effectively penalized those schools for trying to provide value for the tuition dollar,” he writes. “At a time when American higher education is facing a crisis of accessibility and affordability, we have adopted a de-facto standard of college quality that is uninterested in ”education value.” An abstract of the article is available at http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2011/02/14/110214fa_fact_gladwell; a full copy may be ordered from The New Yorker.
The article goes on to highlight law schools as an example of how U.S. News distorts the analysis of educational value. The article invites attention to a ranking tool devised by Indiana University School of Law professor Jeffrey Stake. Professor Stake has compiled a ranking that is based, not upon anonymous subjective opinions about law school reputations, but upon three fundamental data points: the value for the dollar (40%); LSAT scores (40%); and faculty publishing (20%). This methodology shows the University of Idaho College of Law ranking #31 out of approximately 200 ABA-approved law schools in the United States, based on 2008 data.
A reader can use Professor Stake’s rankings engine to generate additional results based on the metrics the reader deems most important. For example, if the most important criteria are deemed to be (a) the price of a legal education, (b) the initial career outcomes attained with that education, and (c) the quality of the students, the faculty, and the learning environment as reflected by the faculty-student ratio, then the metrics available on Professor Stake’s database, and an illustrative weighting of those metrics, might look like this:
- (a) Price 30%
- (b) Outcomes 30%
- Graduates employed or in school 15%
- Bar pass rate/state bar pass rate 15%
- (c)Quality Factors 40%
- Students 10%
- LSAT scores above 75th percentile 5%
- GPAs above 75th percentile 5%
- Faculty publishing 20%
- Faculty-student ratio 10%
Plugging these illustrative variables into the rankings engine would reveal a University of Idaho national ranking of #24 (again, based on 2008 data compiled by Professor Stake).
Of course, this ranking scheme, like any other, is subject to many questions as to methodology, definitions, and sources of data. Consequently, the scheme may be of limited value, except to demonstrate – especially to prospective law students and to lawyers, judges, and others outside the daily sphere of higher education -- how much disparity there is between rankings (like this one) that utilize statistical data and take cost into account, and rankings (like those found in U.S. News) that ignore cost and are based in significant part on anonymous mail-in reputation opinion surveys.
The rankings controversy undoubtedly will continue. But it is worth noting that when objective data are used, and the cost of education is considered, the value of a University of Idaho law degree becomes readily apparent.
Further information about law school measures of quality, cost, and value may be obtained from Dean Burnett at firstname.lastname@example.org. (The College of Law provides statistical information to U.S. News, but the Dean does not participate in the anonymous mail-in reputational opinion surveys.)
Clinical legal education enables students to bridge the gap between theory and practice before they enter the “real world” of representing clients. It also enables law faculty and students to help the University of Idaho in fulfilling its outreach mission as Idaho’s land grant institution. Faculty and students in our Legal Aid Clinic are taking the lead in providing educational programs that enhance public understanding of the law, and the rule of law. For example:
- This spring, Professors Maureen Laflin and Pat Costello have taught Negotiation and Conflict Management in the Executive MBA Program conducted by the UI College of Business & Economics at Coeur d’Alene. The instruction enables business executives to learn techniques for resolving disputes efficiently.
- Professor Costello also has earned an international reputation in dispute resolution. He recently consulted with the Faculty of Law at the University of Pristina (Kosovo) on clinical legal education, and this summer he heads to the National University of Costa Rica to teach a course on “Dispute Resolution in the United States and Central America.”
- Students in the Tax Clinic, under supervision of instructor Barbara Lock, are making low-to-moderate income working taxpayers aware of the earned income tax credit (EITC). The EITC can substantially lower tax liability and even result in a refund, but a taxpayer must file a return to get it. The Tax Clinic has actively participated in the IRS’ educational campaign. The effort has included partnering with a Spanish-language radio station in Boise, distributing EITC information to taxpayers waiting to have their returns prepared at an AARP TaxAide site (and answering questions about the credit), and staffing a booth at the Idaho Conference on Refugees, where educational information on the EITC was available in ten languages. A Tax Clinic student also provided an English- and Spanish-language presentation on the federal income tax system at an educational event sponsored by Catholic Charities of Idaho.
- The Victims’ Rights Clinic, under direction of instructor Carole Wells, helps victims of violent crime exercise a voice in the criminal justice system. The clinic recently collaborated with other entities in the Moscow area to produce a program with multidisciplinary perspectives on victims’ experiences and the judicial process.
- The Immigration Clinic, supervised by Professor Monica Schurtman, recently presented a CLE course at the invitation of the Idaho State Bar and Idaho Law Foundation, focusing on new requirements for providing effective assistance of counsel in representing non-citizens pursuant to the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Padilla v. Kentucky (2010). In addition Professor Schurtman, in collaboration with Idaho’s District Director of Citizenship and Immigration Services, Department of Homeland Security, provided a briefing on immigration law basics for members of the Idaho Legislature.
Perhaps no issue more profoundly shapes the economy of the American West, more inexorably determines the viability of western communities, or more clearly demands rigorous policy analysis at the intersection of law and science, than the management of surface and ground water resources. Increasingly these resources, historically developed and regulated under different legal frameworks, are coming to be viewed as “one source” in need of “conjunctive management.” On April 15, at the City Council chambers in the Boise City Hall, the Idaho Law Review will present its annual symposium, entitled “One Source: Evolution of the Policies Surrounding Ground and Surface Water Management in the West.”
The program features an exceptional array of academics, members of the bench and bar, resource users, and regulators from Idaho and other states. Academic participants, for example, will come from the University of Idaho, Stanford University, the University of Colorado, the University of Utah, the University of New Mexico, the University of Tulsa, the University of Wyoming, and Gonzaga University. Speakers also will come from the Idaho Court of Appeals, the Office of the Attorney General of Idaho, and the U.S. Department of Justice, as well as from private resource user groups and administrative agencies. Further information about the program and registration may be obtained at the symposium website, or by contacting the symposium student co-chairs, Emmi Blades and Dylan Hedden-Nicely.