We just reported on Villanova School of Law running out of summer work-study money. The University of Michigan Law School is not in such dire straits. But Michigan law students still want whatever money they think they have coming to them.
Tempers flared this week over Michigan’s Student Funded Fellowship program. A tipster explains:
It’s a program where 1Ls doing public interest during the summer apply for funding, and judgments are based on the history of their public service, what job they envision doing, and other essays. Typically around 75% of applicants receive funding, but it’s probably down this year since there will definitely be less people at firms.
Apparently one Michigan student didn’t get the fellowship. Chastened by failure, he or she did what any aspiring lawyer would do, and started filing papers.
More details after the jump, including a response from the rejected applicant.
In response to being turned down by the Student Funded Fellowship program, the applicant filed a Freedom of Information Act request to obtain the names of the students who did receive fellowship support.
That prompted an angry response on the Michigan listserv:
I overheard something today that I couldn’t quite believe, so I am writing to you all for the word on the street. Did a 1L from this school issue a FOIA request on SFF because he didn’t get free money for the summer?
If this is true: jesus. What the hell is this profession coming to when kids out of a top 10 law school are abusing laws like the Freedom of Information Act to get back at a charitable organization. How self-absorbed and self-entitled must you be? Should I blame this on the bail-out?
If this is any indication of the way the character of Michigan is going, I’m glad I’m getting out of here. For those of you who still have time to enjoy this place: I hope you can leave here remembering who you wanted to be when you arrived. And for assholes like FOIA-man, I hope the rest of you can rub off on him and save us all the embarrassment down the road.
We generally defend law students from the charge of being self-entitled. But throwing a FOIA request at a charity because you didn’t get a fellowship? Does that feel right to you?
Maybe this is what happens to a Biglaw dream deferred.
Update (2:25): The person who made the FOIA request has posted a response on the listserv. We’re always happy to print both sides of a story, so you can read the full response below.
UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN LAW SCHOOL — FOIA REQUESTER RESPONDS
Since it seems to have caused considerable consternation, I would like to clarify my actions and objectives in regards to the Student Funded Fellowship program.
I, like many people, have expressed concerns to SFF about the manner in which they distribute grants for a number of reasons. Board members, for the most part, have been incredibly receptive to taking suggestions under consideration. It has become apparent, over time, however, that the two most fundamental changes that I think should be made are areas where SFF and I will not see eye to eye.
The first is that of elected board members. At present, the board members are appointed by the board itself. Any students really wishing to change the organization can only do so at the board’s discretion. I believe an organization distributing such a large amount of federal and school funds should have some outside check and accountability.
Secondly is that I wish to have SFF be more open in both how it spends its money and how it chooses applicants. While they have made a good faith attempt to clarify some things, certain things still don’t add up and, again, I think students should be able to see how this money is being spent.
SFF board members are hard working volunteers doing the best they can and we disagree on issues that definitely have two sides. I realize SFF will probably never have an elected board. However, because I have a codified right to greater disclosure, I exercised it. I did not do so lightly. I had a conversation with the University’s FOIA Officer so that any burden my request makes will fall mostly on the school and is narrowly tailored as to create as little burden as possible. This FOIA request is not designed to, and under FERPA no FOIA request could, obtain any information about applicants or even who the applicants and grantees are.
In the interest of full disclosure, I will say that I applied for and did not receive a grant. I would like to think that I would be acting no differently had I received a grant or not applied at all, but I have no idea if that is the case. I don’t maintain a belief that I should have received a grant, I have no idea if I should have, nor do I think that in doing this I will receive any kind of assistance for the summer. I simply think that something as important to our school as SFF should be more accessible to students with ideas and more open with how it is conducting business.