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How to Punish Law School Fraud: Publishing Ban

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When Villanova was caught lying about its LSAT and GPA stats, it got a slap on the wrist from the ABA. All the relevant members of the administration had already left, and so the only punishment given was to have Villanova post on its site a public censure. Slightly embarrassing, but not much more.

With the University of Illinois, we're likely to see the same thing. Responsible parties will be encouraged to resign, and another light scolding from the ABA.

Short of a criminal fraud prosecution or a civil suit for the same, what options are there?

Monetary sanctions are a poor option. If a school is fined, ultimately the price will be paid by students. So, the people harmed by the fraud would also be harmed by the sanction. Not exactly a good punishment.

 

There is however an option that despite requiring a great deal of collective action could work: A 1 year ban on publishing in law school journals.

Tenure-track professors need publications to get their golden tickets. Professors who already have tenure often still write to increase their personal rank in the professorial pecking order as well as the prestige of their university. While journals are pretty meaningless outside of legal academia, they mean a lot inside the ivory tower.

The University of Illinois committed 3 infractions (the 2014 data was caught very quickly, and never submitted to US News or the ABA, so we won't count it), so that's a three year ban on publishing.

To avoid a mass exodus of professors (which would hurt students), or punishing professors who just arrived, the ban on publishing is not on professors at the school today. It's a ban on professors who were there from 2008-2010.

 

What does this accomplish? After all, we're punishing people who weren't the ones who released the bad data.

First, it would create internal pressure to conduct independent audits of the data. Since a school might rack up several years of infractions before getting caught, any professor with a choice of where to teach will place a large premium on being protected from sanctions.

But more importantly, it recognizes that the rank and file professor is not entirely blameless. Professors typically have some say over the administration of their schools, either through formal voting rights, or by merely having the ear of the people in charge. The sanction treats professors as not mere employees, but as citizens of their university.


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