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Volume17
Year2008
TitleDefining Our Responsibilities: Being an Academic Fiduciary
Author(s)Richard A. Matasar
First Page67
AbstractThis essay traces my learning path-about law school culture, the purpose of our institutions, and the future of our schools. Higher education is evolving from a traditional model of shared governance focused on teaching, scholarship, and service to concerns about our stakeholders: students, graduates, donors, regulators, etc. This is ground I have trod before, extolling the virtues of market sensitivity and urging schools to act as businesses -a superior metaphor to organize us than one relying solely on the faculty-centered holy trinity of teaching, scholarship, and service.

Over the last few year, however, I have been increasingly uncomfortable with a market model as a sole governing driver. It simply fails to embrace the spirit and nature of the higher education enterprise. The market conjures up too deep a commitment to selfish ends. It inadequately captures the academic pulse: to create schools, to create knowledge, to promote individual intellectual growth in faculty and students alike. The metrics of the market sometimes get only at the financial side and do not reflect our commitment to intangible goals. Without those intangible values, we do not create proper accountability measures that ought to underlie our works and we are likely to fail over the long run.

This essay suggests another metaphor that may more comfortably fit our schools. I argue that the next step is to delineate our responsibilities as academic fiduciaries-a definition more closely comporting to the way we must act than either as self-interested governors or market actors. First, I discuss the move from faculty centered enterprises, to commercial enterprises, to an emerging trust model. I then define this trust and the consequences of a fiduciary model for every beneficiary of the trust. Next I turn to what a new law school culture might look like and the various forms it might take.

Finally, I argue that this model may be the only way for our schools to continue to prosper in the years to come and the risk to our futures if we persist along the current path.