Should Law Schools Support Faculty Research?

“Should Law Schools Support Faculty Research?”

Vanderbilt Public Law Research Paper No. 08-12

EDWARD L. RUBIN, Vanderbilt University – School of Law

Law schools are predominantly financed by student tuition payments, yet a significant proportion of their expenditures do not directly benefit the students, but rather support faculty research. Moreover, as Judge Harry Edwards has argued, the research that faculty members are conducting is increasingly remote from their pedagogic role. Thus, that great bete noir of economists, the cross-subsidy, seems to be operating in force – students are paying for something that does not benefit them, and they are being compelled to do so by means of an intra-institutional transfer that they cannot control. Without venturing into the complexities of moral theory, one can say that this appears to correspond to most people’s notion of unfairness. This article has two purposes. The first is to identify the nature of the cross-subsidy with more precision, and the second is to explore the question of its possible justification or correction. The article is also divided into two main parts, but rather than addressing these two questions in turn, each part attempts to serve both purposes, although in different ways. The first part of the article concludes that the cross-subsidy is a good deal more complex than it initially appears, and, as a result, a good deal less unfair. The second argues that there is nonetheless a residual unfairness toward students that should be remedied. The remedy, however, does not involve reducing research costs, or altering research to relate more closely to the curriculum, but rather lies in altering the curriculum to correspond more closely to existing faculty research.

Source: LSN Legal Education Vol. 5 No. 28,  07/18/2008

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