columbia law school logo.jpgTuition at Columbia Law School this year is $48,004 (which doesn’t include $1,638 for health insurance and a $95 “transcript fee”). The estimated living cost for an academic year is $21,263. Putting it all together, students are looking at more than $70,000 for a year of legal education, during the worst recession in the legal industry most people can remember.
You’d think all of that would at least buy you a plastic fork at lunchtime. But you’d be wrong. Tipsters report that Columbia is now charging $.15 for plasticware in the law school cafeteria.
I’ve been doing this job for over a year now, and in that time some pretty petty cutbacks have scrawled across my inbox. But this might be the most outrageous “reverse perk” of all.
Let’s take a stroll through some other recession cutbacks.


A cursory glance at the Above the Law archives reveals some major cases of cheap behavior:
Last year, K&L Gates decided to downgrade its bathroom supplies, as if their lawyers’ desire for hygiene was really holding the firm back.
In February, McDermott Will & Emery cut off free coffee service (a step that one partner felt “sen[t] a message of desperation”).
Just a couple of weeks ago, Quinn Emanuel started charging for soda.
You know what all three of these stories have in common? They are all about law firms. You know, businesses. Run for profit.
Columbia is a school. People are paying to be there! I know it’s only $.15, but in what universe does Columbia need to get $.15 out of its students who want a freaking fork? The students are wasting spending 70 grand a year to be there already. I think Columbia could comp them a fork — hell, two forks, if that is how a guy rolls.
Moreover, tipsters remind us that the CLS just renovated its cafeteria. It’s new, it’s pretty, students are psyched about the new coffee bar — and the school wants to nickle and dime people over a piece of disposable plastic?
You know, this is too horrible. I can’t believe, I won’t believe, that a Columbia Law School official actually thought this was a good or necessary idea. Based on absolutely no information, here’s what I believe. I believe that as part of the renovation, Columbia turned management of the cafeteria over to some outside company. Happens all the time. This company just happens to have the grating policy of charging people for plastic forks. Columbia’s administration doesn’t even know about it.
At least one student doesn’t care how this state of affairs came to be. He just doesn’t want to eat with his hands:

[A]ll I know is a week or two ago, there were forks for free.

And maybe they will be again. But in the meantime, stick to sandwiches.
UPDATE: According to our covert operatives at CLS, as of yesterday there were still free chopsticks.
Earlier: K&L Gates to Nickels and Dimes
Reverse Perk Watch: McDermott ‘Sends a Message of Desperation’
Reversed Perk Watch: No Soda For You


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