Earlier today, we reported that protests over the proposed tuition hike at UCLA got a bit testy. But we also noted that the protests didn’t seem to include a lot of law students, even though their tuition is going through the roof as well. One friend had this apathetic response when asked about the protests:
Dude, I have finals. And my 2L grades matter because I’ll be doing 3L recruiting. Unless we’re protesting canceled summer programs, count me out.
We wanted to know how the law school generally was reacting to today’s festivities, so we reached out to the UCLA Student Bar Association President, Lenny Sandoval. We asked him why law student participation seemed lacking:
Being a third year with one foot out the door, it’s tough for me to give a totally representative view, but while I agree that the involvement of law students as a whole is a bit subdued, I think the reaction from the identity organizations and their leadership (Raza, BLSA, etc.) has been very supportive and vocal of the undergraduate led movements. Based on FB status updates and gChat blurbs I saw at least 6 or 7 people either returning from the protests or planning on going to the protests, so that’s something at least.
Sandoval also noted that law students need to be a little bit more careful when it comes to potentially getting arrested than college kids.
That’s certainly true, especially in this economy. There’s no sense having your tuition jacked up and hurting your chances at snagging a legal job.
But something other than fear and general apathy might be driving down law student participation in civil disobedience. We also spoke with UCLA Law professor Stephen Bainbridge and he notes that people at the law school might just be paying a little bit more attention to the general state of affairs with the U.C. system than your average college student.
Thoughts from Professor Bainbridge after the jump.
According to Professor Bainbridge, people could have seen this U.C. system crisis coming from a mile away:
The University is going through a rough patch, but the problem has been building for a long time. The California university system was founded on a premise of full state funding. Unlike private universities and many of the so-called public Ivies (e.g., Michigan and Virginia), the UC system had very low fees and made little effort to raise private endowment funds….
It is now finally clear to anyone with eyes to see that the state will be a relatively modest source of funding in the future. So we are going through a period of finally adapting to that reality.
He notes that U.C. faculty are paying the price — along with the students — for the state’s lack of vision:
Students aren’t the only ones who are suffering either. The faculty is taking pay cuts of up to 10% (disguised as a so-called furlough). At the same time, our out of pocket costs for benefits–especially health insurance–have risen dramatically.
So we’re all in the boat together. At the moment, we’re encountering some rough seas. But I think we’ll come out of it stronger, less reliant on state funding, with a bigger endowment, and competitive tuitions.
If the professor is right about this feeling that both students and faculty are in the same boat, it could go a long way towards explaining why some students don’t feel the need to take to the streets. “Students versus Fat-Cat Faculty” is the kind of program you can run on Spike TV. “Students versus Bureaucrats and Lackeys” doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.
Bainbridge reminds us that there are other law students in California that have more cause to complain than UCLA law students:
As far as UCLA law school goes, it’s true that our tuition has risen. But 92% of our J.D. students are receiving some type of financial aid. And, according to data from your own website, UCLA tuition currently is lower than both Berkeley and Irvine. The forecast through 2013 has UCLA tuition remaining below that of Berkeley and Davis, while being basically tied with Irvine.
Contrary to my prior post, it appears that UCLA law students are not “mad as hell.” Instead, it sounds like they are “vaguely annoyed by the general state of affairs.” If that’s how you feel, you’re not going to risk getting hit with a billy club.
It doesn’t appear that a whole lot of people think UCLA Law is facing any sort of crisis. Certainly, Bainbridge isn’t worried:
Indeed, I’m so confident in the long-term health of the UCLA law school that I turned down an opportunity to visit elsewhere next year and, as part of the agreement, committed not to consider other opportunities for the next 5 years. At my age (approaching 51), that probably means I’ll be a UCLA lifer. And I’m fine with that.
Cooler heads prevailed at UCLA today … so what other law school can we put on the “blood in the streets” watch list? Tulane? You guys haven’t been on Above the Law in forever.
The UCLA Tuition “Riot” [Professor Bainbridge]
Earlier: UCLA Students Protest Fee Hikes
Law School Tuition Hikes Spread Like Wildfires in California