May 8, 2021

SHADY GOINGS-ON AT NORTHWESTERN LAW AND NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY. The substance of this email matches what I’ve heard from a Northwestern faculty member whom I know somewhat.

Northwestern law school is facing an unprecedented and outrageous situation. The university is trying to impose a critical-studies woke Dean on the law school; the faculty is fighting back. To overcome faculty resistance, the university set up a Dean search committee with exceptional procedures that violate the ABA rules and the law school’s own long-standing rules. Throughout the Dean search process, the faculty did not receive any information about the candidates, not even the names of finalists. The faculty complained to the Provost, citing the violation of ABA rule 203, but the Provost essentially dared the faculty to make this violation public and cause disaccreditation of their own law school. In response, the faculty unanimously passed a new voting rule, requiring secret ballots for all appointments-related votes, starting September 1.

On Friday, May 7, the interim Dean Jim “I am a racist” Speta sent an email (below). For the first time ever, the faculty learned the identity of the new Dean, Hari Osofsky of Penn State, the school far below Northwestern in rankings. The Dean needs tenure, so, the faculty is instructed to vote tenure to Osofsky the next working day, Monday.

This is an astonishing violation of faculty appointments rules long in effect at Northwestern. Osofsky never met with the faculty. There was no job talk, a strict requirement for all tenured appointments. There was no job talk paper. There were no office interviews. There was no committee of experts from the candidate’s field to study her work in detail and report, also a long-standing requirement that has never been violated in recent history. There were no outside recommendation letters, also mandatory. No reports of citations and other quantitative impact measures, another standard practice. There was no committee report issued in advance of the meeting, also mandatory.

This Saturday Night Special scheme — the surprise meeting, with a surprise candidate, announced on Friday, to be held on Monday morning — is clearly meant to thwart the faculty’s ability to gather information and coordinate. There is no legitimate purpose for this. The secret-ballot voting rule, passed unanimously in the face of the Dean search process, does not become operational until September 1. The faculty has been threatened with severe repercussions if they vote against Osofsky.

We have no choice but to make these egregious violations of ABA rules, law school’s own procedural rules, and basic decency and fairness known to the world. Anonymously.

[Email follows]

Sent: Friday, May 7, 2021 9:55 AM

To: [email protected]

Subject: Meeting Monday, at 10:00 a.m.: Candidacy of Professor Hari Osofsky

Dear colleagues:

I am calling a tenure-line faculty meeting for next Monday, May 10, at 10:00 a.m., for the purpose of discussing and voting on a recommendation that the Provost’s selection for our new dean, Professor Hari Osofsky, be named to the tenured faculty of the Law School. Professor Osofsky is currently the Dean of both the Law School and the School of International Affairs at Penn State. She was previously on the faculty at Minnesota Law, among other schools. She is an accomplished scholar in several fields, including international and environmental law, and, of course, an experienced administrator.

I attach to this email Professor Osofsky’s CV, and here is her webpage. Members of the search committee will also speak to her background and qualifications at the meeting.

This unusually expedited procedure is necessary, given the continuing nonpublic nature of the search. In that regard, this meeting is being held before any public announcement and before any broader internal announcement. I therefore request (as does the Provost) that you refrain from sharing this information either internally or externally and keep this confidential until the matter is concluded and such public announcements can be made.

Please let me know if you have any questions. A Zoom link will be forthcoming shortly.



James B. Speta

Interim Dean

This is, for those who don’t know about such things, quite thoroughly unusual. Normally a person isn’t hired as Dean until the faculty has met that person, and voted — as a binding or non-binding recommendation to the central administration — on acceptability as Dean. The tenure vote is always up to the faculty, and it is a grave breach to threaten the faculty about it.

I have no opinion on whether Hari Osofsky would make a good Dean because I know nothing about her, which places me in the same position as the faculty expected to vote on her tenure — by non-secret ballot — on Monday. Speaking personally, were I a candidate at an institution that was behaving as described above, I would withdraw my name in the face of such tactics, as I would expect them to taint my deanship. Perhaps there is some innocent explanation for this behavior, though I can’t think of one.

UPDATE: Brian Leiter says this report is “alarmist and not entirely accurate.” However, I did in fact speak with a Northwestern faculty member, and this email is genuine.

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