Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Law and Policy of Telecommunications and Plumbing

      I used to revel in the interdisciplinarity of my chosen research, teaching and outreach agenda.  Throughout my career I thought it a blessing to work with and generally understand the lexicon of economics, engineering, law, business etc.  At various times I have felt blessed to work across disciplines rather than bore deep into one—possible narrow and constraining—subject area.

      I grow increasingly worried that I have made a major career blunder by not fitting into one of the traditional academic or applied units.  Just now the American Association of Law Schools seems to wonder whether I qualify as a law school educator.  I have two academic appointments at Penn State—in the College of Communications and the Dickinson School of Law.  Rather than evidence a wider and laudable wingspan, I run the risk of being branded an impostor!

      Just what have I done in 32 years of professional and academic work in telecommunications?  To some I bore down in the tedium of plumbing.  My College of Communications affiliation leads some to think I teach most of the football team at Penn State.  At weak moments I characterize my career as one-third adult day care provider, one-third talk show host and one-third educator.


     Apparently the educator part appears woefully inferior to the stature accorded pure bred professors, particularly ones at law and business schools. Regrettably when I sought to make the move from practicing law to teaching it, few schools had fellowships and other ways to make the transition.  I jumped at the chance to teach at a College of Communications.  In this forum I had to convince the mandarins that a law review publication was every bit as rigorous as a peer-reviewed publication in the communications field.


    So in achieving legitimacy in communications, I apparently am illegitimate in law.  I hope readers of my work don’t feel this way,  but I’ll understand.

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