Thursday, February 3, 2011

Sotomayor Comes to Chicago

Justice Sotomayor spoke at the University of Chicago recently, and the first thing that caught my eye was the picture chosen by the University of Chicago to go alongside its news release:

According to David Strauss, professor at the law School and moderator for the event, the justice "has had a remarkable and distinguished legal career as a prosecutor, a lawyer in private practice, and a judge at every level of the federal court system."  And yet, the first question that came to mind when seeing this picture was whether the law school would have invited Justice Sotomayor to join its faculty had she been a candidate.  

The reasons should be quite obvious.  Justice Sotomayor told her audience as much.  In her words,
I have spent my whole life with my knees knocking in every job. I did not get a law firm job I applied for because I was not adequately prepared, and no one in my family was there to teach me because they never had to do it. I did not make that mistake again. I have dealt with challenges in my life, other jobs I did not get, some of which I did not deserve to get, personal failures, and death and illness in my family. 

Think about what that means in the context of debates over admissions and hiring. This reminds me of a post I wrote last April in reference to merit and the value of networks. I wrote then that
in a world where networks and connections matter, we already know who will not get jobs and gaudy appointments to important places. We can focus on Mr. Ricci and Ms. Gratz all we want, but the world that conservatives on the Court want us to believe exist, a world where hard work and individual effort will get you places is simply not the real world.  
This is the reality Justice Sotomayor is describing, a reality where she did not get a job she applied to even with the credentials of a person who would ultimately be confirmed to the Supreme Court.  That is the real world.

To the question, then, whether Chicago would have even considered her for a faculty position, the answer could not be any clearer.

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