Tuesday, July 08, 2008

No Working People Allowed in Law School

If you have not seen it, please read the post by Nancy Rapoport on the latest USN&WR fuss. Briefly here is the issue. If USN&WR includes the data (GPA & LSAT) of part time (often night) students in their rankings, will schools be more likely to eliminate or not institute these programs. The suggestion is that they will.

Although I have often derided the USN&WR rankings, now I praise them. While publishing a deeply flawed ranking system, they have inadvertently exposed the cravenness and hypocrisy of some law faculties, deans, and even alums. The magazine has now shown that when between the rock and the hard place of doing what is right and what is expedient, expediency wins.

In this latest possible change in the rankings, USN&WR appears to be reacting to schools that game the system. One way to do that is to admit fewer first year students and then admit transfers. The transfer student data is not included. Another way is to admit students as part time. These numbers too, at least right now, do not count. As USN&WR tries to plug the holes in the dike, Law School officials dream up new ones and none of this, as Professor Rapoport points out, has anything to do with improving legal education.

Now, however, we can see that the burden of gaming the system may fall on the backs of working people. Having taught at an urban school with a night program, I know these people. They often have full time jobs and families and then trudge off to law school at night. Their work ethic is unquestioned. Or they may be stay at home moms or dads who can only get away when their partner comes home. Very few would not be full time if they could afford it. I wonder if the specter of eliminating these programs would be a quickly raised if those relying on them were more privileged.

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