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May 17, 2001


More on rankings

To the editor:

The April 5 University Times reported that the University of Pittsburgh School of Law's health law program "was ranked 12th of 13 listed" by U.S. News. This somewhat incomplete statement might be thought to imply that the program was next to last.

This is not the case. Of the 180 ABA-accredited American law schools eligible to be ranked, 175 provide data for the U.S. News survey. Of those, according to those at U.S. News who performed the rankings, "between 50 and 65 schools" received at least one vote from the approximately 150 law professors chosen at random from all professors who teach health law.

Thus it would be more accurate to say that our health law program ranked 12th out of 50 or 65, or even 175 law schools, but not 12th out of 13.

David J. Herring

Dean and Alan Meisel Professor of Law

Director, Health Law Program

(Editor's note: The University Times took its information from the U.S. News & World Report web site report on the rankings, which was more extensive than the published report. In the published report, only the top 10 health law programs were listed.

As with all of its rankings, U.S. News did not specify how many health law programs existed or had been considered when the programs were ranked. Thus, the University Times story indicated that Pitt's health law program "was ranked 12th of 13 listed" by U.S. News, which is correct.

We appreciate Dean Herring and Professor Meisel providing information on the health law program's ranking that was not included in either the published or web-site version of U.S. News & World Report's rankings.)


Confrontation is not a dirty word

To the editor:

I was much disturbed by the statements made by the three recently elected officers of the University Senate (University Times, May 3, 2001). All agreed, said the reporter, that their styles were "non-confrontational." All seemed adamant; all seemed to agree with Professor Metzger that "you have to collaborate with the administration. Being confrontational is a mistake." When I finished reading the article, I had the feeling that somehow we had entered into a new world, a world in which confrontation had become a dirty word, a word not to be used either in mixed company or among civilized people.

I must seriously object. I would like to suggest that in dealings with the administration, one must watch and be aware both of what they say and what they do. I have too often seen administration make the statement: That is the way we interpret it. Most recently, I understand that a clause in our retirement program which said that a faculty member may become a permanent part-timer as he/she eased into retirement was interpreted to mean that he/she could do so for two years. Permanent now means two years. Would a faculty member who objected — say, a member of the English department who believed, in some old fashioned way, that words do have meaning, and that the distortion of language will lead to chaos –would such a faculty member be accused of being confrontational? Of course. But what of the provost who made such a decision? Could he be called ignorant of the meaning of words, dictatorial, abusive of power? All of these would be true; but if we followed the advice of the three newly elected officers of the Senate, we would have to forbear speaking truth to arrogant power because to do so would be confrontational. I fear such advice. Not only does it undermine the purpose of the University — to seek truth — but it is stupid politics.

In the real world, we have to admit that the administration has all the power and the faculty has all the collegiality. When administration wishes, it does what it will; that is its job — to run the University, to make sure that the doors are open every Monday morning and stay open for that week. We are all members of the same enterprise, but we have different interests. The interest of students is not the same as the interest of staff; the interest of staff is not the same as the interest of faculty; the interest of faculty is not the same as the interest of administration. Each has its own set of interests. Somehow, administration has managed to convince people that when faculty stand up for their own interests, either by saying a firm yes or a firm no to administration, they are being confrontational. I really do resent the diminishing and tarnishing of a good word. If we allow administration to control the defining language of the discourse, we have indeed lost the game. Rather than kow-towing to administration and beginning by surrendering, I would prefer a set of officers who are willing to state that faculty have interests and they are there to protect those interests. If that means working with administration, fine; if that means being confrontational to administration, fine. But they will then be doing the job to which they were elected.

Myron Taube

Professor Emeritus

Department of English


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