Sunday, July 24, 2011

There You Go Again: NYTimes Letter

What follows in quotations is part of a letter to the NYTimes from Rick Matasar. The bracketed parts are my own comments. You may recall that Rick was more or less the target of an article in the Times last week. I am not picking on Rick because any dean I have known could have written this. And, for the record, after weeks of pounding on law schools it's clear that someone at the Times has a son or daughter who cannot get a job or into law school. Still the inability of Law Schools and their representatives to stop selling their stories continues.

" In my 11 years at New York Law School, which was highlighted in the article, the first-time bar exam passage rate improved to as high as 93 percent." [As high as 93 percent? What does this mean? Most likely that one time it reached 93%. As soon as I see "as high as" I know I am reading something that is biased or intended to make me believe something other than what is most relevant. For example "as high as 30 miles a gallon" or "as high as 50% off"]

"We have built an acclaimed student-centered facility and have instituted a practice-based curriculum, specialized research centers and an intensive first-year skills program." [I am sure that most other deans would claim to be in the process of doing the same. So does that mean the employment rate is higher?]

"Of 10 private metro New York City law schools, our tuition is lower than all but four." We have a flat-rate tuition and guarantee that the price won’t go up while a student is enrolled. [O.K. If my math is right, if there are ten and 4 four are less expensive, this puts you pretty much in the middle. Why say "all but" 4?

"In its rankings of law schools, U.S. News and World Report publishes median salaries for graduates, but those figures are nearly two years old. We give our students current, detailed job and salary information." [This one puzzles me. Students apply in the fall or early spring of the year they are admitted. Are they provided the data from the class that graduated 5 months earlier? Maybe, but why not say that. By the time the applicants begin school, the only statistics the schools themselves could have are a year old. But here he says the USNews numbers are "nearly two years old." What is nearly? I think that means less than 2 years old. How different can that be from the USNews data?

Some weeks ago on this blog, I wrote about the "not technically a lie" culture that exists at law schools. The idea is to tell the truth technically but to lead the reader to believe something that is not quite right. Rick's comments are so mild that I am not sure they fit into the "not technically a lie" examples I discussed in that post but they are representative of a culture and, to some extent, a profession, that has earned the distrust of most people.

Again, as I said before, I think Rick was a pretty good dean. (Since I wrote that some of my colleagues have let me know they disagree.) These comments are, in fact, just standard fare. On the other hand, wouldn't you love to take the deposition of one of these people? Makes me want to shove someone.


Anonymous said...

I dropped a comment about you at The Faculty Lounge

Tarun Kumar said...

you are right... you can also find latest Higher Education alerts online.