Okay, the legal economy is in the tank. Recent law graduates are having a tough time finding jobs. Graduates from lower tier law schools are getting squeezed as top tier law students and deferred associates compete for jobs and opportunities. You get the picture.
Now enter Thomas M. Cooley Law School. The school that’s ranked 12th by Thomas M. Cooley Law School and is considered fourth tier by everyone else. With over 3,500 full- and part-time students, Cooley gives new meaning to the term “diploma mill.” Despite the terrible economy the school is expanding, ensuring that even more law students will know what it feels like to pay off post graduate educational debts with extra shifts at McDonalds.
What is Cooley Law School doing to improve the lot of the students suckered into a 4th tier law school? It’s buying the naming rights to a minor league baseball stadium. I’m not joking. Cooley is taking the tuition dollars of its students and buying naming rights. Naming rights. I guess replacing all the desks and lecterns with steaming piles of dung was just a little bit too expensive for the bigwigs at Cooley. Buying naming rights gets the same message across to students.
More details on Thomas M. Cooley’s new glory project, after the jump.
Thomas M. Cooley is buying the naming rights to Oldsmobile Park, home of the Lansing Lugnuts (the Lugnuts are the Class A affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays). Oldsmobile, you may remember, was discontinued by General Motors some time ago. But GM kept paying for the naming rights and using the name of its defunct brand until they were forced to break the contract during last year’s bankruptcy. You know, it’s almost hard to believe the American auto industry had any kinds of financial problems when they make smart decisions like advertising car models they no longer make at minor league baseball parks.
GM paid $1.5 million per year for the naming rights. Reports don’t indicate how much Cooley will be on the hook for. The stadium (which opened in 1996) cost $12.8 million and is still maintained in part by taxpayers in Lansing. You’d think that maybe, just maybe, the citizens of Lansing, Michigan would get to name their own damn baseball park — since they pay for it and everything — but that’s not how the business of baseball works these days. As long as fans are willing to pay the price of a ticket, the lords of baseball don’t really care about the fans, the history and tradition of the game, or the civic pride a ballpark can bring to an American town.
The business of law school seems similarly unconcerned with the outcomes of students, so long as people keep showing up and paying tuition. Remember, this past October Cooley Dean Don LeDuc informed students that the school was raising tuition. Did the school raise tuition specifically so it could afford naming rights in Lansing? If so, I need to get on e-trade and buy stocks in pitchfork stores all across Michigan.
I wouldn’t even know where to start the “aren’t there better things to do with this money” list. At the bare minimum, couldn’t Cooley take the naming rights money and hire the two best career service deans in the entire country?
See, that’s where this Cooley naming rights story goes from outrageous to downright sinister. Why does a business inject its garish corporate face into our pastoral and timeless game of baseball? Advertising, pure and simple. And while one can understand why this kind of advertising is appropriate for Oldsmobile, why the hell is Thomas M. Cooley Law School going down this road?
Well, when Dean LeDuc announced the tuition hike, he essentially told us why Cooley would do a thing like this. From LeDuc’s October memo:
Of course, we wish that we did not have to increase tuition, but the reality is that the cost of operation escalates and enrollment varies … It is in everyone’s interest to recruit new first-year students and to retain them in the second and third year.
James Butler, a member of Cooley’s board of directors, echoed the same sentiment in the Lansing State Journal on Monday:
“We thought it was a good opportunity for us, in reference to being very much a part of the community, and also it would be very good for attraction of new students,” Butler said.
That’s right Cooley needs to recruit new students. Apparently, 3,500-plus aren’t enough. And Cooley arguably cannot recruit students by pointing to its graduate outcomes. Cooley doesn’t have a prestigious history or tradition; federal judges aren’t snapping up Cooley graduates; and academic superstars aren’t flocking to the school to conduct scholarship. And so Cooley is left with plastering itself all over a minor league baseball stadium. The school has to use aggressive advertising campaigns to trick students into purchasing an education that would advertise itself if it was actually worth the price of admission.
So, if you happen to be taking in a game at Thomas M. Cooley Law School Stadium this summer, remember that you want to go to a law school that at least pretends to be as concerned with its current students as it is with prospective ones.
Lugnuts ballpark soon will be Cooley Law School Stadium [Lansing State Journal]
Earlier: Enrollment Drops, Tuition Rises at Thomas M. Cooley Law School