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Wednesday, May 26, 2004

And the nominees are...

This is the week we promised our readers the nominees for the first Law Prof Hunk / Babe of the Year contest -- our quest to find the best-looking law professor in the United States. Before fulfilling that promise, at least in part, a few cautionary words are in order.

A number of comments we have received have prompted us to re-think why we're doing this. What are the pro's and con's of a survey that judges law professors only on their looks?

Why do it. A law Prof Hunk / Babe competition makes a statement, however small, about the silliness of the many "best of" lists that now surround the practice of law and the legal academy. For a decade or two we've all labored under the pressure of the almighty U.S. News & World Report rankings of law schools. Our mailboxes are full of glossy brochures and announcements from lower-tier schools trying to move up in the peer ranking portion of the survey. Admissions decisionmakers now routinely have one eye on how their policies will look in the U.S. News selectivity ratings. And although the methodology behind the U.S. News standings is so full of holes that it would take a book to explain all the problems, there's no use fighting them. They're the 900-pound gorilla who won't be leaving the room any time soon.

But now we've got something called LawTV going to rank law professors' "influence" based on some sort of poll of every Tom, Dick and Harry with an internet connection. It's so absurd that Paul Caron wondered aloud on his excellent TaxProf Blog whether a swimsuit competition would be part of the festivities. Which led me to think, why not? Why not a law professor competition based on looks alone? It might point up the exquisite absurdity of yet another set of pointless rankings.

And it might be fun.

Why not to do it. What harm could come of a Law Prof Hunk / Babe competition? One reader points out:

The Greedy Associates webboard has had similar threads, threads that led to female professors' pictures being posted and incredibly obscene things being written about them. I really, really hope you don't post the "winners" of this contest. Young, attractive, female professors have a hard enough time being taken seriously--how nightmarish to find your face and name being posted on the website (of a fellow professor!) as a person who should be viewed as a sexual object. The Greedy Associates threads became very well known, so much so that when I mentioned the name of a professor at law school X to a student at that law school, the student's response was, "Oh yeah, did you hear that according to Greedy Associates she's the most f**kable prof?"
How sad, but now that I think about it, I see that's a real risk. One thing I have learned interacting with people on the web is that everybody's out there, including all manner of sexists and perverts. I would hate to feed into that.

I must object to part of the comment: "how nightmarish to find your face and name being posted on the website (of a fellow professor!) as a person who should be viewed as a sexual object." There's a difference -- at least to me -- between admiring someone's physical beauty and holding them out as a sex object. Nonetheless, while the vast majority of readers of this blog can doubtlessly appreciate that distinction, I wouldn't swear that all of them can.

So what to do? Cancel the contest, after it's brought so many visitors to this site? Doesn't seem fair. Since the problem appears to affect female professors more than males, I've decided to go with the male side of the contest first, and see what happens. (With my luck, that will get me in more trouble than any other course of action.)

Here then, in no apparent order, are the nominees in the Hunk Division. The following links will send you only to each nominee's picture:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16

To vote for your choice, just send an e-mail to Please give your name and law school affiliation, plus the number of your selection. You may vote only once, and for only one nominee. Be sure to put "Hunk vote" in the subject line of your e-mail message.

The deadline for voting is 11:59 p.m. PDT, Friday, June 4. The winner will be announced the following week. If we left someone out, there's still time to add a nomination, but there will be no extensions to the voting deadline.

As for the Babe Division, I'd like to hear more from readers about the concerns addressed above. Please sound off in the "Comments" section to this post, and I'll get back to everyone after we've had a chance to digest what gets posted there.

Meanwhile, good luck to all the Law Prof Hunk contestants! Readers, readers, on the net, who's the hunkiest law prof yet?

UPDATE, 6/8, 9:24 p.m.: The winners are announced here.

Comments (14)

In the name of equal treatment, I think you should definitely go ahead with the female prof vote. It's silly to think that women are only offended when targeted due to their looks...some women love to receive the attention. Do you think Ann Coulter would be as popular as she is if she weren't something of a babe? (It's surely not for her politics.)

A female law professor writes:

Having the contest for men but not women contributes to students' perceptions that their male professors fit that loveable law-prof persona (scary on the outside, but self-deprecating, entertaining, etc. on the inside), while female professors are mean, humorless woman lawyers. That gender stereotype has been far more prominent in my experience than being evaluated only for looks.

Someone from LawTV writes:

LawTV is not ranking the law professors. Law students, law school administrators, law professors, and attorneys are the only ones eligible to nominate.

Shortly, LawTV will announce the procedure for voting.

Even now, major patterns are developing and it is apparent who the "most influential" might be.

A recent female law school grad writes:

[D]o go ahead with the female contest as well. What's good for the goose and all that. Besides, it’s not as if we all aren’t being judged on our looks all the time anyway. It’s a cruel, cruel world.

I tend to think you should go ahead as well. While I can't speak for any of the women professors who might be affected, I completely agree with the above remark about encouraging people to think women are too precious and humorless to withstand what's essentially ribbing.

Furthermore, I think that not only does it feed a weird thing about women being humorless, but it also feeds the idea that you can't find a woman physically attractive and still take her seriously. That's kind of the part I like even less, because there's a rather nasty stereotype that says that pretty people are not as smart as ugly people, and I think it's perfectly healthy to suggest that one can be gorgeous and smart and a good professor all at the same time without anyone's head exploding.

You're not going to be posting swimsuit photos, and you're not going to have an unmoderated thread where weirdos can let their inner pervert run wild. I don't think you're going to hurt anyone.

What a motley crew! (or is that crue?)

Professor Kanter is pretty hot and all, but hunk number 9 is just so...dreamy. (sigh).

That is quite possibly the ugliest bunch of dudes I have ever seen assembled. I am assuming that a few of those were joke nominations?

To quote the writer John Moe, Ann Coulter is composed entirely of spiders and deadly snakes writhing beneath a latex "skin".

I, as much as the next guy, want to see Professor Travis come back for some hot nasty action with Professor Steverson, but the man in me gets all tingly when I see Professor Whitebread pointing his stout fingers. Oooo…pointing at me, butter-lover?

Now, you see? That right there is what people are worried about.

I can't believe Funk didn't make the finals.

Does anyone else find it ironic that the url for Prof. Kanter has his picture sub-filed under "objects." I mean, is he "just" and object?

If so, I object.

Well, once I made it in as "Mr. August" in a Millenium tax calendar anything else would be a let-down (with "competition" far more extensive and intense, as it included tax practitioners, who we know are much better looking than tax professors, generally speaking, ha ha, ...)

Except when my niece, when seeing the calendar for the first time at the age of 7, asked my sister, "Is he a President?"

May all powers and Powers have mercy on us. Perish the thought!


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