Sunday, December 02, 2007

Scholarly Research in Reverse: the Dershowitz School of Academic Polemics. Dershowitz generally employs one or two full-time researchers, three or four part-timers, and a handful of students who do occasional work—all paid at $11.50 per hour. (Since Dershowitz doesn’t get enough in the $7,500/year research budget the law school accords him, he often has to pay that hourly rate out of his own pocket.) Several students who have worked with him describe his hiring practices as almost arbitrary—barely looking at résumés, hiring anyone who asks him for a job, sometimes having his wife interview applicants, and often forgetting those who’ve worked with him in the past. One long-serving researcher was a local high-school student. Several of his researchers say that Dershowitz doesn’t subscribe to the scholarly convention of researching first, then drawing conclusions. Instead, as a lawyer might, he writes his conclusions, leaving spaces where he’d like sources or case law to back up a thesis. On several occasions where the research has suggested opposite conclusions, his students say, he has asked them to go back and look for other cases, or simply to omit the discrepant information. “That’s the way it’s done; a piecemeal, ass-backwards way,” says one student who has firsthand experience with the writing habits of Dershowitz and other tenured colleagues. “They write first, make assertions, and farm out [the work] to research assistants to vet it. They do very little of the research themselves.” When one student couldn’t find a desired source for an HLS professor’s project, a Harvard research librarian commented, “Isn’t that the opposite of how you’re supposed to do it?”"