Antonin Scalia Law School Is Under Attack for Being Successful and Different

Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University has a very highly cited faculty, showing that it has a relatively large impact on the world of legal ideas. It is ranked as the 21st, just after the University of Texas. This ranking is an extraordinary achievement, given that it was a young school with a small endowment, not at all comparable to long established schools like Texas. As is clear from objective data, Antonin Scalia Law School’s faculty is also unusual in having a faculty that it is right of center in a profession where every school with a higher citation count is left of center, sometimes far to the left of center.  For instance, schools in the top twenty citations regularly have less than ten percent conservatives and frequently less than five percent.

This is the context of the large recent gifts to the law school, a context that makes nonsense of the idea in a recent New York Times article that conservatives are trying to buy influence over its hiring or anything else. The reporters have the causation exactly backwards. The gift is not designed to elicit conservative thought from the school. Instead the school’s thoughtful conservatism elicited the gift. Those who support liberty, as defined in classical liberalism, want to help an effective institution that does not currently follow the academic orthodoxy arrayed against it. What a surprise!

Anyone who is interested in more diversity of views in the legal academy should also applaud this gift. Indeed, anyone who wants more high impact scholarship should be happy. Given how well George Mason has done with little money, increasing its endowment is likely to do much more at the margin than giving to most other schools.

And the insinuations in the article that there is something wrong with an official of the Federalist Society trying to help land a gift is silly. Charitable donations often occur through networks. Nor is it shocking that someone at the Federalist Society recommends a candidate for a faculty position. Recommendations come in from many quarters. The notion that Antonin Scalia Law School faculty will not hire on the merits is refuted by its extensive track record. The scholars hired there have been far more productive than at all but elite schools with far more resources than George Mason.

It would be charitable to attribute the approach of this article to the reporters’ ignorance of the legal academy, its ideology, and its practices. But another possibility is that it reflects the mindset of the New York Times, composed almost entirely of left-liberals, to entrench left-liberal orthodoxy in realms other than the mainstream media. Indeed, the obsession with donations of the Koch Brothers or anonymous conservatives is reminiscent of the obsession of Victor Orban, the Hungarian Prime Minister, with George Soros’ donations to liberal educational institutions there. Both reflect a fear of challenges to what is conventional in their worlds. Both affront the spirit of liberty that makes for a healthy democratic society.

Reader Discussion

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on May 08, 2018 at 10:14:42 am

No, sorry, Soros is just plain evil, apples & oranges, apples & oranges, your comparison - ha!; but aside from that, good piece.

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Paul Binotto
on May 08, 2018 at 10:34:40 am

I am a proud graduate of the law school. Clearly of one of the best law schools in the country. But your wrong. It isn't "George Mason Law School" anymore (from the title and first line), its the "Antonin Scalia Law School." Proud of that too!

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Devin Watkins
on May 08, 2018 at 10:58:52 am

Thanks. I show my age. I have corrected.

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John O. McGinnis
on May 08, 2018 at 14:24:38 pm


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Mark Pulliam
on May 08, 2018 at 16:56:46 pm

For all the self-righteous keening about "diversity", there seems to be little tolerance for the genuine article. When someone tries something different (that they disagree with), it is tarred.

In an odd way, it reminds me of the NBA's Timberwolves a few seasons ago. The management tried to apply the lessons of Moneyball to basketball and essentially gathered a Euroleague all-star team to see how it would fare. You would have thought the T-Wolves were leading torch-light parades through St Paul from the level of freak-out in the media.

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on May 09, 2018 at 09:34:23 am

Not sure cites mean much outside of the top schools, Mason peeps may just be being cited as the (controlled) opposition to the mainstream

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on May 09, 2018 at 09:59:07 am

Anyone who believes that Sociology, Education, or Women's Studies (to name three) doesn't hire based on ideology is a complete fool and has never been a faculty member at any university.

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Basil Aloysius Gigglesnort
on May 09, 2018 at 17:47:56 pm

I don't know how anyone could trust a liberal with their legal needs. Every liberal attorney I've known has no clue how to present a logical argument. It's never law-based--it's "justice" based. I thought I'd just hit on a nutjob about a decade ago when discussing issues with a liberal attorney. And sure enough, his arguments were never based on the rule of law. But I've found it in others as well--and I can bet that the judges who tried to stop the travel restrictions Trump signed are of the same school. It's not what the law says, but what they, personally, think is the right thing to do. That's tyranny, nothing less, and it's terrifying that Obama infected the judiciary with such thinking. I don't have money to donate right now, but if I did, you can bet I'd support this school over almost any other.

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John Williams

Law & Liberty welcomes civil and lively discussion of its articles. Abusive comments will not be tolerated. We reserve the right to delete comments - or ban users - without notification or explanation.