DOKK Library

Scholars, Teachers, and Servants

Authors James Grimmelmann

License CC-BY-4.0

                            Scholars, Teachers, and Servants
                                                      James Grimmelmann
                                                                   Professor of Law
                                                                    Cornell Tech &
                                                                 Cornell Law School

I would like to play a time-worn tune—an academic’s apology for academia—in
a fresh way. The conventional defenses of research are not wrong, but their ac-
cent falls on the wrong beat. We place too much emphasis on writing and not
enough on reading, and in so doing we artificially isolate scholarship from
teaching and service. Scholarly publication is important, yes, but it is not not
the essence of what we do. So: take it from the top, once more with feeling.

This is an age of crisis and reflection for higher education. Some of its critics
condemn a system that seems to focus on scholarly productivity to the ex-
clusion of all else. Others complain about the apparent irrelevance of profes-
sors’ writing to anything that happens in the “real” world. Still others make
the opposite objection: faculty spend too much time making trouble and not
enough on their “real” work.
      An unstated premise in many of these attacks is that the university ex-
ists to meet the needs of its customers: students. Faculty who step out of
the classroom to pursue their own research for too long are acting disloyally,
as are those who step out to harangue society. This is a consumerist mind-
set; it sees academics as servants, and bad ones at that.
      It’s easy to describe this as an attack on scholarship as such, in which
case the replies are timeworn and predictable. The pursuit of knowledge is
an end in itself, basic research benefits society in the long term, and so on.
These are primarily defenses of scholarship; they are arguments for why so-
ciety ought to support it.
      But these replies miss something important. They do not really answer
the student who asks why her tuition dollars should subsidize the produc-
tion of journal articles, or the legislator who wonders why professors have
so much time to write open letters. Why, they ask, must teachers be bur-
dened with scholarship, and who cares about their opinions on anything
      There is a gap between saying that something should be done and say-
ing who should do it. Not all attacks on the academy are attacks on scholar-
ship; a defense of scholarship is not necessarily a defense of the academy.
The university’s critics have a point, one worth taking seriously, and it is
subtler than the argument that scholarship itself is inherently worthless.
Scholars, Teachers, and Servants                                               2

Instead, they pose a question about who does scholarship, what else they do
with their time, and how they are paid.
     A better answer starts from the premise that the modern university
doesn’t just combine the three missions of scholarship, teaching, and service
It combines them in the same people: the faculty. This choice reflects a belief
that these missions have something to do with each other, that all three ben-
efit when they are done together. They were united for a reason, and we
should not lightly put them asunder.

The essence of the academic attitude to the world is close, careful, and sys-
tematic study in search of truth. Confronted with a gap in her understand-
ing, an academic hits the books. This attitude is progressive: it combines
humility in one’s knowledge with optimism about one’s ability to learn
       This process has a name, and that name is “research.” Since “research”
is a term with many overlapping meanings, I would like to be precise about
what I have in mind. I will emphasize five features. First, the forms of re-
search are many: conducting experiments, observing the world, interview-
ing people, solving equations, running simulations, reading texts, reading
others’ analyses, even sitting quietly thinking very hard about something for
a long time. Anything that yields knowledge through diligent effort is a
form of research. Second, research in this sense is the hallmark of the acade-
mic mindset, but academics have no monopoly on it. Anyone who delves
deep into a subject is researcher, regardless of affiliation. Researchers in pri-
vate industry and at non-profits count, and so do bloggers and journalists
who bring the appropriate attitude to their work. Third, it is common to
talk of a professor’s publications as her “research,” but this usage is error.
The research process precedes publication, and scholarly publications are
just one output of research. Fourth, the purpose of research is to ascertain
the truth abut the world, as best it can be ascertained, whatever it may be.
A good researcher may have a hypothesis, but she is ready to abandon it if
the evidence is otherwise. And fifth, ultimate truth is not required; indeed
it is is rarely possible, even in mathematics. Climate scientists don’t have to
predict tomorrow’s weather, and art historians don’t have to prove what a
sculpture means. It is enough to understand the world better after doing
research than before.
       Scholarship, teaching, and service are the three principal uses of re-
search. Each is a way of communicating research’s results; each speaks to a
different audience. Scholarship is for other researchers, teaching is for stu-
dents, service is for society. They have in common that they are based on
Scholars, Teachers, and Servants                                              3

the results of research, diligently conducted and honestly reported. The
academic’s commitment is to do research and convey the knowledge thereby
gained to whomever needs it. Peers, students, and the public depend on us
to get it right.
      This is a different way of thinking about the nature of scholarship,
teaching, and service. It has important implications for which activities
should count as doing them.
      Start with scholarship. The content of a publication and the attitude
behind it are more important than the form it takes. A rushed and superfi-
cial treatment of a subject based on idle speculation and a little Googling is
not scholarship, even if it appears in a prestigious journal. But a serious
treatment of a subject based on careful thought is scholarship, even if it cir-
culates only on a mailing list or a website for pre-prints. Scholarship is re-
ported research that other scholars find useful; the medium of the reporting
is irrelevant as long as it is reasonably calculated to come to the attention of
those would benefit from it. Similarly, an author’s identity and affiliation are
irrelevant; the company of scholars is not limited to faculty.
      Next, teaching. Teaching is a broad term, and not all teaching is acad-
emic. Good kindergarten teaching may in some sense be based on research
about effective pedagogy and curriculum design, but most kindergarten
teachers do not need to directly engage with that research. Liberal education
and professional education are built around research in a more fundamental
way. There, students acquire a body of research-based knowledge and the
mental tools to apply it to new problems. They learn both the results of re-
search and how to do research themselves.
      Finally, there is service. Here, I mean the external service that takes
place beyond the university’s walls rather the internal service that helps
govern and maintain the university. Writing for a popular audience and
speaking to reporters can be external service; so can filing amicus briefs and
testifying before governmental bodies; so can consulting with companies
and launching startups; so can activism, lobbying, volunteering, writing let-
ters to the editor to clear up gross misconceptions, and much more. These
are service when they are carried out by researchers in their capacity as re-
searchers: experts in a matter who are qualified by dint of the research they
have done on it. A professor who speaks to an issue beyond a specialty she
has trained herself in speaks as a citizen, not as an academic.

Scholarship, teaching, and service, rightly understood, are not three isolated
activities competing with each other for academics’ time and attention.
They are mutually supporting, and the same work can advance all three. To
Scholars, Teachers, and Servants                                              4

the extent that this is the case, it is a convincing answer to the critic who
contends that academics waste their time when they do anything but teach.
To the extent that it is not the case, it is a rebuke to academics, because they
are falling short in a duty to lead integrated professional lives.
      The most obvious overlap, so obvious as to be trite, is that knowledge
acquired through long effort is knowledge that can be shared in the class-
room or with the public, as well as with one’s scholarly peers. Just as it
would be a waste to do research and then not publish it, it is a waste to do
research and then not teach it or bring it to the public. (There may be other
reasons not to, such as limited time, but the decision should be made on that
basis, and not on the faulty rationale that the only audience for research is
other scholars.) This is both an opportunity and an obligation. If we want
scholars to publish, we should also want them to teach and to present in the
public sphere.
      Something similar is the case when an academic selects research
projects. Society’s needs for knowledge present themselves both inside and
outside the classroom. Inside, they provide the demand for education, or, if
you prefer, they provide the justifications that make education important.
(Teaching is in this respect a kind of indirect service.) Outside, there are
both specific policy problems and a more general public curiosity. It is rou-
tine and reasonable for academics to pick research projects in view of these
missions. To say that a topic is “important” is to say that it is informed by
teaching and by service.
      Academics can and should also approach teaching and service with a
scholarly attitude. Saying “I don’t know” to a colleague’s question at a
workshop and saying “I don’t know” to a student’s question in the class-
room are both occasions for the same follow-up: doing the research to find
out. The expertise that qualifies academics to contribute to public discourse
is not just a specific expertise based on previous work; it is also the general
expertise of being able to develop answers to particular questions. Thus,
while we should value service as service only when academics are able to
contribute as experts, we should recognize that part of their expertise is the
ability to delve deeply when the need arises.
      Academics can do better and worse jobs of integrating the three.
Teaching, in particular, can be either too scholarly or not scholarly enough.
Some anecdotes may be illustrative. One of my friends, reading aloud the
course description of a particularly esoteric seminar, quipped that it should
be renamed “Things I Have Been Thinking About Lately.” That professor
subordinated his teaching to his scholarship; the seminar was a continuation
of his scholarly agenda by other means. At the other extreme, everyone has
a story about a professor who gives the same lectures every year for decades,
word for word. Her teaching could benefit from a more scholarly attitude; a
Scholars, Teachers, and Servants                                              5

good scholar would not think about publishing the same article again and
again, word for word.
     There is an important difference in emphasis here from some more fa-
miliar defenses of scholarship in higher education. We want to employ schol-
ars and public servants as teachers not because they are the most qualified
but because engaging in scholarship and service makes them better teachers,
and because engaging in teaching makes them better public servants and
     Let me emphasize this. Because the synthesis of scholarship, teaching,
and service is characteristic of the university today, any convincing defense
of the university must justify that synthesis and live with the consequences.
If scholarship exists for its own sake, separate and apart from teaching and
service, then scholars have no good argument for why society should sup-
port their teaching and tolerate their service. But if, on the contrary, schol-
arship should be integrated with teaching and service, then academics
should continually be asking themselves whether they are being true to this
integrated ideal, not just to the scholarly ideal. Being an academic means
keeping abreast of the literature in your “service” courses; it means polishing
the anecdotes in your lectures and the footnotes in your articles with the
same diligence the same way. Being a scholar in a university setting creates
an obligation to carry your work and your wisdom beyond the university’s
walls for the betterment of society. One reason that professors have failed to
make this obvious defense of the importance of scholarship to teaching and
service as forcefully as they should may be a bit of a guilty conscience about
these duties to be scholarly teachers and scholarly public servants.

Combining scholarship, teaching, and service is usually thought to pose a
threat to academic integrity. One version of the argument is that scholarship
is its own end, so to link it to other missions risks compromising it. Another
version is that service in particular distracts faculty from scholarship and
teaching and tempts them to take positions at odds with the truth.
      There is something to these arguments, but I would put things differ-
ently. Academic integrity is the integrity of research: following the truth
wherever it leads. That is precisely what is valuable about the academic atti-
tude, regardless of whether it is applied to scholarship, teaching, or research.
In all three endeavors, society trusts academics to get the research right. In-
deed, the academy is the one institution in society wholly oriented to get-
ting the research right, free from outside influences (at least in principle).
      The issue, then, is not that service is uniquely corrupting to scholar-
ship. Service is potentially corrupting to research, and to that extent can
Scholars, Teachers, and Servants                                               6

compromise everything academics do. The professor who is paid to take a
position and dedicates her research to proving that position sins against oth-
er scholars, to be sure, but she also sins against the public. It is no answer to
say that professors should avoid service for this reason; that simply leaves
that public worse off, with even fewer independent voices. There is a duty
to serve, and that means a duty to serve honestly, presenting the truth. So-
ciety depends on disinterested experts.
     The details will often be difficult to negotiate. A good starting point is
that paid service is prima facie problematic. Professors who take it on need
to make an affirmative case that they can do so without compromising their
other duties. This is not to say that money is the root of all academic evil;
there are ways to undercut one’s integrity for free. A professor who speaks
out publicly in support of causes whose correctness he is professionally cer-
tain of does what we want him, to—but when his advocacy crosses back
into producing scholarship to support his views, he pursues something other
than truth.

The argument so far neglects some important features of the university,
most obviously academic freedom. I would like to say a little, therefore,
about the relationship between professors’ duties as academics and their
conditions of employment. There is a necessary gap between aspiration and
implementation when it comes to the unity of scholarship, teaching, and re-
search. Professors should strive to do all three, but that is not to say we
ought to make them do all three all the time. For many reasons, the obliga-
tions society should impose on them stop short of the obligations they
should impose on themselves.
     Three concerns loom especially large. First, there is academic integrity,
as discussed above. Any attempt to monitor or control the conduct of re-
search—even for the most admirable and important of reasons—risks divert-
ing it away from truth. For example, institutional review boards protect re-
search subjects, but they also slow down research and divert researchers
into less informative studies. The same can be true of tenure reviews and
peer reviews, important as they are: telling researchers to research better
can sometimes have the opposite effect. But to interfere with the integrity of
research for reasons that have nothing to do with its accuracy is especially
     Second, there is the inherent uncertainty of research. It is a creative,
innovative endeavor in a crucial sense: the researcher setting out on a project
does not know what she will learn. (If she knew everything in advance, it
would not be a project we should dignify with the name of “research.”) This
Scholars, Teachers, and Servants                                             7

commitment—to seek the truth and follow it where it leads—means that
every research project is risky. The truth may be surprising, or disconcert-
ing, or uninteresting, or not to be found. We need to leave academics sub-
stantial room to fail, and an academic who does not regularly fail in her re-
search is being too conservative in her choice of questions. Of course, it is
better to fail quickly than to fail slowly, and recognizing dead ends early is
part of the researcher’s craft. Still, a good researcher asks some questions
that end up leading nowhere. The same is as true in teaching and service.
The academic spirit requires casting a critical eye on what one teaches and
how one teaches it, constantly looking for better explanations or bits of ef-
fective classroom shtick. It similarly requires an open mind when looking
into something that concerns the public; maybe the truth about a viral home
video will be strange and surprising.
     And third, faculty themselves have diverse interests, expertise, and
talents. They are trained in different disciplines and in different research
methods. Some are outgoing and quick-tongued; others are withdrawn and
choose their words with care. Some are intuitive, others methodical. There
are foxes and hedgehogs, wanderers and homebodies. Some have personal
experiences that give them particular insight into particular issues; others
are natural expositors who can explain anything clearly. Any good system
will recognize this diversity and channel faculty into jobs and projects
where they can do the most good; often (though not always), the individual
faculty member is better positioned than anyone else to know where that
will be.

These, then, are the basic conditions of academic freedom: The university as
an institution owes academic freedom to all its members when they research,
when they publish, when they teach, and when they serve; that freedom
attaches the moment they cross the university’s threshold. It follows that
much of the time, professors will as a practical matter have substantial dis-
cretion over what they do and how. They can use that discretion to priori-
tize one of scholarship, teaching, and service over another, or to prioritize
particular projects. They can choose to carry out their work in isolated silos,
or to shirk that work entirely. But even if they will not be called to account
by anyone else for what they have chosen, the ethical imperative to choose
wisely remains.
     We accommodate this discretion in a few ways. One is to group acade-
mics into departments, schools, and universities. A department naturally
brings together colleagues with diverging interests; they learn from each
other and among them they cover its curriculum. A university groups its
Scholars, Teachers, and Servants                                               8

departments to offer a coherent set of programs; it finds affinities and pro-
motes them with institutes and centers. The academy as a whole offers even
broader diversity. As Henry Rosovsky noted, most American universities
do not teach Sanskrit, but it is important that some of them do.
      Within any of these groupings, it is also fitting and proper that faculty
differ in their inclinations toward scholarship, teaching, and service. It is
better to have someone who is enthusiastic and skilled in the classroom than
someone who is burnt out and distracted. Not everyone has the energy to
speak to the press, or the greater energy to do impact litigation. Almost
every scholar has a fallow period, during which tending to teaching is an
opportunity for revitalization. Faculty have, I have been arguing, an obliga-
tion to mesh scholarship, teaching, and service. They will pursue that oblig-
ation with different emphases and in different ways. What is important is
that no one is entirely cut off from any of the three, and that the overall bal-
ance is healthy. Departments and professional networks are important not
just in spreading ideas but in keeping academics of different inclinations and
at different points in their own cycles connected to an academy that cares
critically about all three.

I do not believe that a system of tenure is crucial to the above. It is valuable,
and it is a good idea. But it is not an essential feature of the academic enter-
prise. Academic freedom is only a right not to be punished for one’s views;
it has more in common with an employee’s right not to be punished for
complaining of sexual harassment than it does with a judge’s life tenure. Se-
curity of position is a structural device that goes substantially further than
academic freedom alone requires: it sets a presumption of continued em-
ployment and a high threshold for overcoming that presumption.
      To be sure, there are good pragmatic reasons to have a tenure system: it
is a powerful safeguard of academic freedom and it attracts faculty to make
the deep and lifelong commitments required to be good professors. But there
are also good pragmatic reasons not to universalize it: tenure is a poor fit for
those whose engagement with the university is peripheral rather than cen-
tral, and a long probationary period is crucial in selecting faculty willing to
make those deep and lifelong commitments. The university as we know it
could exist without tenure; it could not exist without academic freedom.
      To put this another way, time and freedom are more important than
tenure as such. Society gives academics two great gifts: the immense amount
of time needed to truly understand a matter in all its messy complexity, and
the freedom to pursue that study regardless of whom it may frustrate or
frighten. It trusts them as scholars to use that time well, but when they do,
Scholars, Teachers, and Servants                                             9

the insight they acquire is essential also for them as teachers and servants.
Tenure is an elegant system for linking time and freedom, but again, it is the
time and freedom that matter. Overburdened tenured professors are less able
to achieve excellence than untenured ones who are left to their work.
      My view of the close connection between scholarship, teaching, and
service suggests that scholarly publication should not hold pride of place as
the crucial determinant of who enjoys tenure’s protections. There are, to be
sure, good reasons to insist on publication. First, publication is externally
measurable in a way that research itself is not, so rewarding scholars based
on their paper trail rather than their private learning makes the process ob-
jective, or objective enough, to make academic freedom possible. Second,
scholars are already under an ethical obligation to publish: having done the
work to understand a subject, the scholar does her colleagues and the world
a disservice by keeping the knowledge to herself. And third, research done
for teaching or service purposes will often be capable of producing a scholar-
ly publication as well, so looking to publications will capture some of that
work. But often is not always, and universities should recognize teaching
and service when done with the academic mindset. Indeed, they should en-
courage it; there is something presumptively wrong with a CV on which
teaching and service are afterthoughts.
      Finally, a note on faculty governance. My definition of service focuses
on external service. Internal service may be important, but it is a subsidiary
importance. Internal service is maintenance, necessary to keep the academy’s
machinery functioning; it is not something valuable in itself. Indeed, it is
not inherent in the nature of the university that internal service be carried
out by the faculty, rather than by the administration and professional staff.
There are good pragmatic reasons to entrust some or all of this work to the
faculty: one is to safeguard academic freedom, and another is that faculty are
uniquely familiar with the problems and their solutions. But these are prag-
matic reasons; a faculty that retreats from self-governance may be making a
terrible mistake, but it does not thereby cease to be a faculty.

The basic principle of academic free speech is simply a restatement of the
principle of academic freedom: no good-faith effort to understand or explain
the truth is off limits. To be sure, some good-faith efforts fall short of the
appropriate standard of competence or excellence: that is what failing grades
and tenure denials are for. But these standards must be set and enforced
with the same intellectual humility required for proper research. The con-
tent of academic good faith itself cannot be legislated, except within the nar-
Scholars, Teachers, and Servants                                             10

rowest and most obvious limits. The fact that an idea is upsetting or threat-
ening to some—even most—does not bar it from campus.
      Thus, excluding a speaker or speech is inconsistent with the universi-
ty’s mission, whether the demand for exclusion comes from inside or outside
the university. This protection covers researchers engaged in the scholar-
ship, teaching, and service that are the university’s business, and it covers
their invited guests. It is sufficient that someone has something to learn from
them and wants to hear what they have to say; letting anyone else disinvite
them is an interference with the research process.
      Matters are a little less clear-cut when we move beyond the monograph
and the lecture to less traditional scholarly genres, like the op-ed, the plain-
tiff’s expert report, and the tweetstorm. On my broad view of the academic
mission, these can all stand in the right kind of relationship to research to
qualify as service. When they do, as far as the university is concerned, they
answer only to the familiar standards of integrity and quality. This follows
naturally enough from the point that we want academics to do these things
while wearing their academic hats (doctoral tams, I guess), and thus they
deserve and require the same protections.
      The precise boundary is hazy, and different institutions may draw it in
different places. But I think three general principles are clear enough. First,
anything that an institution treats as part of a scholar’s file for one purpose
should be part of it for all. If it’s on your CV, it had better not be plagia-
rized. Second, when an activity is scholarship-adjacent rather than scholar-
ship as such, it should be judged on the merits of its own genre. It’s inap-
propriate to complain that a blog post isn’t as carefully citation-checked as a
journal article, and equally inappropriate to complain that a journal article
isn’t published as rapidly as a blog post. And third, to say that something is
wholly non-academic isn’t to say that academic freedom has nothing to say
about it. Quite the opposite: such things are usually irrelevant to academic
credentials and discipline: neither marching in protests nor posting cute cat
photos is any concern of the university’s.
      It should go without saying, but unfortunately does not, that some re-
strictions on speech are inherent in the academic mission. Most obviously,
there is topicality: anthropology seminars are usually not suitable places to
talk about astronomy, or vice versa. This is a special case of a more general
point: the kind of sustained focus necessary for research and its applications
is possible only when members of an academic community are free to choose
what to think about, and when. The same principle of academic integrity
that gives them the freedom to speak their minds also protects their freedom
to listen (or not) as they choose when they are trying to figure out what to
Scholars, Teachers, and Servants                                                11

     I think then, that most objections to “safe spaces” on university cam-
puses commit the fallacy of division. Giving every idea a seat at the table
does not always mean letting them sit where they choose. A good classroom
is one where everyone is genuinely comfortable taking on difficult material,
and creating those conditions itself requires work. Part of what makes unin-
hibited discussions in some university spaces possible is that there are other
spaces where other norms prevail, where people can prepare for and reflect
on what goes on in the first kind of space. Everyone needs a room of their
own with a door that closes and locks, even if the room, the door, and the
lock are only metaphorical.
     Ideas are powerful things. A university that takes the power of ideas
seriously is a safe space in two senses. First, it makes itself safe for discussion
of any idea by protecting its members from reprisal for speaking inconve-
nient truths. Second, it assures its members that they are safe while dis-
cussing those ideas by protecting their persons and their dignity. These two
commitments are the recto and the verso of the same sheet.

I am a law professor, so I would like to say a bit about the corner of acade-
mia I know best: legal academia. My view of the scholarly enterprise pro-
vides another way of thinking about the challenges facing legal education
today. First, it contextualizes the conversation about scholarship’s “costs.”
Richard Neumann did a much-reported calculation that put the price of each
law review article somewhere between $25,000 and $100,000, depending on
the author’s compensation and productivity. On one level, this a a condem-
nation not of law professors but of how they publish: it reminds us that the
standard law review article is an absurdly inefficient way of transmitting
legal knowledge. But there is also an issue with the denominator, which
would be a good metric for the value of scholarly productivity only if schol-
arship stood alone and isolated. (Those who insist that it does play directly
into the hands of their critics.) An academic who uses an afternoon to trace
back a line of cases shows up in Neumann’s numbers if she does the work
for an article but not if she does it for a course. From this perspective the
scholar who is more dedicated to teaching looks like the bigger wastrel. At
the end of the day, the actual academic effort invested by the two is the
same, and we should be encouraging academics to invest it where the in-
sights they gain will be most useful to others.
     This view of academics’ duties is inclusive about who counts as a legal
academic. Traditional “doctrinal” faculty have no monopoly on the tripartite
commitment to scholarship, teaching, and service. Clinical teaching is teach-
ing of a particularly intensive variety. To say that it is practice-oriented is
Scholars, Teachers, and Servants                                              12

simply to locate closer toward one end of the spectrum from liberal to pro-
fessional education, both of which are worthy callings. A clinician whose
students works with live clients serves those clients; a clinician whose stu-
dents engage in impact litigation or amicus briefing or law reform serves the
legal system more broadly. Again, both versions are worthy callings.
      That leaves scholarship, and this is where the clarity of vision that gave
us the law-school clinic truly shows itself. Good clinicians are full-fledged
members of the scholarly community; their primary emphasis is not on the
scholarly leg of the stool, but their stool still has three legs. In addition to
pedagogical theory (which every professor should have some acquaintance
with but clinicians often do particularly well), good clinicians are necessarily
engaged with the substantive scholarship on the fields in which they teach.
This is not to say that every clinician must be a productive scholar, not to
the same degree as a doctrinal professor, or even necessarily at all. But if
they are engaged in close, careful, and sustained study, they are academics in
every sense that counts. A faculty whose clinicians are not part of its schol-
arly conversations is failing as a faculty.
      It’s not just clinicians. Law librarians literally spend their professional
lives in closer proximity to scholarship than anyone else on a faculty; they
regularly teach; and their libraries almost always have a public-facing com-
mitment. Legal practice faculty teach first and foremost, but to say that
makes them only teachers is to put the cart before the horse. The same is
true of adjuncts. A law-firm partner who co-edits a treatise, for example, is
engaged in a form of scholarship, and ideally comes to the classroom as a
scholar as well as a practitioner. What matters is that one participates in the
tripartite commitment to scholarship, teaching, and service. Someone who
does is a professor in the sense that matters, regardless of their formal posi-
tion or rank. Indeed, they have a better claim to the name than a doctrinal
faculty member who lets one or more of the branches wither. To be only a
scholar is to be not fully a scholar.
      There are also consequences at an institutional level in the present age
of straitened circumstances for law schools. It is better to scale back one of
the three missions than to give it up entirely; almost any institutional price
is worth paying to keep them united. Take teaching loads and compensation,
both of which are under great pressure as law schools’ budgets contract.
Law school faculty today are well paid and teach relatively little by histori-
cal standards or by the standards of other disciplines. If those trends re-
verse, it may be hard on faculty, but it will not strike at the essence of what
they do. All the evidence we have is that professors who teach six courses a
year and earn half what law professors do are still meaningfully professors.
      On the other hand, taking scholarship out of law schools would destroy
them. A world where students preparing for the bar sit for self-paced
Scholars, Teachers, and Servants                                             13

MOOCs taught by a few well-paid superstar lecturers is a world in which
something essential has been lost—not just for society but for students
themselves. What belongs in the canonical course on Contracts? Today,
those choices are driven by the conversations among the hundreds of faculty
who teach some version of the course and the thousands of faculty who
study one of the many facets of contract law. To cut those conversations off
from the course is to cut the course off from the world.
     Even more fundamentally, there is no reason to go to the barricades to
defend the autonomy of law schools as distinctive institutions within the
academy. What matters is the preservation of legal scholarship, teaching
about the law, and service relating to the legal system. If those are done by
professors located in law schools teaching law to future lawyers, so be it. If
those are done by professors located in legal studies departments teaching
law primarily to non-lawyers, so be it. If they are done by professors scat-
tered throughout the faculty of arts and sciences, so be it. Being a law school
is not the essence of what a law school does.

A modern academic has three jobs: scholarship, teaching, and service. To say
this is not just to say that all three are worth doing, not just to say that all
three are worth doing by the same institution, but to say further that all
three are worth doing by the same people. To put it this way is to emphasize
that scholarship, teaching, and service really are a trinity: a single essence
with three forms.
      This unity is under attack. Critics of the academy argue that scholar-
ship and service are distractions, and that teaching would be better off
without them. For many academics, it is teaching and service that are the
distractions from the rewards of scholarship. And those who focus on soci-
ety’s many problems sometimes see scholarship and teaching as ivory tower
irrelevancies. But to sunder these three missions is to give up something es-
sential, because the autonomy of the modern academic can be justified to so-
ciety only when all three are united. Teachers who are scholars, and schol-
ars who are teachers, are something more than mere servants.

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