Monroe Price was dean of Cardozo for nearly 10 years, and is known throughout the Law School community as a most creative thinker, a prolific writer and scholar, and someone with interests and expertise that span Indian affairs, legal history, media law, art history, and more. Now, he is, as noted by Dean David Rudenstine, the first Cardozo professor to hold a joint appointment. In 2004, Professor Price was named director of the Center for Global Communication Studies (CGCS) and adjunct full professor at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania.
An Interview with Monroe Price
Joseph and Sadie Danciger Professor of Law
Director, Howard M. Squadron Program in Law, Media and Society
We met on a warm day at Monroe Price’s apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, where the large open windows let in the breezes as well as the street noises of this busy neighborhood. Price and his wife, Aimee, an art historian, have lived in the apartment for all but two years since moving to New York in 1982 when Price was appointed Cardozo’s dean. It very much reflects the energy, comfort, and years of globetrotting the couple have enjoyed. The old world apartment contains an eclectic collection of books and art work. Price said, “We’ve been collecting for 35 years. Aimee says it’s an ‘assortment.’ There’s a lot of social realism and work from California gathered when I taught at UCLA. It represents a lot of my own activities. There is stuff reflecting my interest in Hungary. There are a lot of Russian materials from my time there. I collect family photo albums—black and white from around the world.”
Price, who was born in Vienna, came to the United States as an infant in 1939, sailing on the Queen Mary with his family. He grew up in Cincinnati after spending one year in New York and three in Macon, GA. Upon receiving a B.A. from Yale in 1960, he wanted to pursue a career in journalism but decided to go to law school for a military deferment. “For the first time in my life, I excelled. And I thought this is really amazing. I liked legal studies. It was interesting and I was good at it. For that reason, I got on the treadmill—if you will—of the legal academy.” Following his graduation with honors from Yale Law School, Price clerked for Associate Justice Potter Stewart of the US Supreme Court and became an assistant to Secretary of Labor W. Willard Wirtz.
In describing his appointment and role at Penn’s Annenberg School for Communications where he is spending three of every four semesters, Price said, “The Center for Global Communications Studies is to make graduate education in communications special. Graduate students and faculty … [in] the field should have a sense of what’s going on in China, India, the Middle East.” In addition, he explains, “the question is how to make a dialogue among disciplines and between Annenberg and other parts of the university.”
Price uses his work in Iraq as an example. According to him, the Iraqi broadcasting scene is wildly diverse and lightly regulated. Annenberg’s partner in London, The Stanhope Centre for Communications Policy Research, was commissioned by the Iraqi media regulatory commission to look at how broadcasters and the media function in the current complex political system and to suggest reforms. The final report, an essay about Iraqi media, and a foreword by Price are being published in the Cardozo Arts and Entertainment Law Journal (Volume 25, number 1).
At Penn, Price teaches one seminar a semester and is always looking for ways to collaborate with Cardozo. For example, Annenberg and Cardozo have cooperated in strengthening the Center for Media and Communications Studies at Central European University (CEU) in Budapest. In 2005, a conference on hate speech was cosponsored by both institutions. “There was one session at Cardozo and one at CEU,” explains Price. Annenberg has built on the framework established by Cardozo’s program at Oxford University and redesigned the summer institute there to widen its focus. This summer young regulators, Ph.D. students, and lawyers will gather for Technology and New Themes in Media Regulation.
He interconnects his two appointments in several other ways. One is through research assistants. Inna Barmash ’07, who was head of the Squadron Program this year, also worked on the Iraq study. The Programme in Media Studies at Oxford has now been transformed into an Annenberg/ Oxford/Cardozo program, and Price had a Cardozo student help run it last summer. Jennifer Blecher, who just completed her first year at Cardozo, will go to Jordan this summer as part of a three-year effort by Annenberg to build the program in media law and policy at Al Isra University.
It’s not only students who benefit from the dual aspects of Price’s work. He invites Cardozo faculty to participate, too. Prof. Justin Hughes, director of Cardozo’s Intellectual Property Law Program, participated in a summer 2006 workshop that is part of an ongoing research project in China led by Price. A group of international scholars is working with the communications department at the University of China, looking at the media in light of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Price was appointed dean at Cardozo when the Law School had barely graduated three classes. He arrived having been a faculty member at UCLA Law School, which was then about the age that Cardozo is now—30. According to Price, “The world is divided into law schools created before and after World War II. … UCLA is a postwar law school and that marks it.” However, UCLA experienced a history very different from that of Cardozo because, explains Price, there was only one other major law school in Los Angeles—University of Southern California. UCLA Law also offered free tuition and was part of an academically rich California public university.
In reminiscing about his early impressions and ambitions for Cardozo, he said that for him the big question was, “How does the School distinguish itself in a city with 13 other law schools? I saw two problems. One was too much effort was spent trying to mirror Columbia or what I call having a fascination with a ‘museum’ of American legal education. And the other was how to innovate nationally rather than thinking only in terms of New York’s highly competitive environment.” He sought solutions that would be especially helpful to Cardozo’s faculty, whom he found “extraordinarily talented, … highly aspirational, and ambitious.
“A problem that plagued me throughout my tenure was convincing the faculty that I was doing OK things, and getting the University to support my strategy,” said Price. He enumerated several elements to his plan. First, he wanted to “give the faculty individually the sense that they could do things and … we wouldn’t say no.” Another was coming up with a way to get Cardozo known to law firms. He worked also, quite successfully, to position the Law School as part of the vanguard of legal education. To develop closer ties to the judiciary, he instituted the Alexander Fellows Program, which places Cardozo students as interns in judge’s chambers. He supported the founding of a journal in law and literature and established a “summer institute” that would give students firsthand experience in key New York industries. His energy and ideas were making a difference in the public’s perception of Cardozo; during his tenure the Law School was named “up and coming” by USNews & World Report.
But the clearest example of the kind of thinking Price engaged in as dean was his desire to find areas of specialization that would be, according to him, “exciting in New York and exciting for our students … that would mark us.” Price wanted to see Cardozo develop intellectual specializations around areas of the law rather than having students learn just general skills. Students would then concentrate their study in their desired specialty.
“The focus on the entertainment industry—or intellectual property—came from this conception of a bright Cardozo future,” said Price. Since the Law School began offering students the opportunity to concentrate in an area of specialization, a growing number have chosen this option. In 2006, approximately a third of all Cardozo J.D. candidates graduated with a concentration—half of them in intellectual property.
Finally, the challenge Price faced was how to package these efforts and help push Cardozo to the forefront in the minds of its various publics—especially prospective students.
He explained, “A medical school can say ‘we cure
cancer.’ Was there an equivalent at a law school? We were trying to develop passion and support, and the clinics (like Barry Sheck’s Innocence Project) were part of that.”
According to Price, “Clinics were definitely touch and go then. Both the faculty and the University were concerned because they were expensive, they took on what seemed to be scary cases, they did not seem to be efficient in terms of teaching. I feel very proud of supporting clinics,” said Price. “They were something that had emotion and passion attached to them.”
When asked about other accomplishments of which he was proud, Price pointed to the founding in the early 1990s of The Samuel and Ronnie Heyman Center on Corporate Governance. “It was a really important issue in American society: How corporations were run. Sam Heyman was on the Cardozo Board, so we could get support. And, given that we were in New York, it seemed an area we could pioneer and get behind.” When asked how he would describe Cardozo today, he called it “a kind of bipolar law school” that provides a fine education, with a sustained commitment to the intellect, one that offers interdisciplinary courses like law and literature as well as skills training. “You have the faculty holding Ph.D.s on one hand and the clinicians on the other.”
Price still seems intrigued and bothered by the question of how to distinguish Cardozo’s academic program so that it stands out in the minds of prospective students. “People choose to go to graduate school because of a particular professor or the quality of a program. So how do we do the same?” As he continues to grapple with the question, he is trying to determine how you can offer law students what he calls “an alternative architecture to law school.” He explains that students would be able to choose a progression or “an informal pathway through law school, with a clinic, a seminar, a journal, and a career path.”
Another question for him is: How does Cardozo become international? “That was one of my aspirations for the Law School that has partially succeeded…. I would like Cardozo to develop first-year curriculum opportunities for students to think internationally so they are not fixed in a particular way of thinking and then have to change it…. This is a very hard thing to do—to alter the culture of the Law School or any institution. Now I hope to play somewhat the same game at Annenberg.”
"In reminiscing about his early impressions and ambitions for Cardozo, he said that for him the big question was, How does the School distinguish itself in a city with 13 other law schools?"