Cheapness, Commencement, Fashion, Fashion Is Fun, Law Schools, Money

Law Students So Broke They Can’t Afford to Look Decent at Graduation?

There’s poor, there’s broke, and then there’s whatever you would call the economic state of current law students. They are up against it, and they know it.

It’s particularly tough on 3Ls. We’re in March, so graduating law students without jobs lined up are about to get kicked out of school and on to the street (or “mother’s basement” or “youth hostel” or whatever). So right now is about the time when these kids really start to freak out.

At one law school, fear and angst are reaching a fever pitch, over the most trivial of things. The soon-to-be graduates are having a conniption over having to pay $136 to rent a cap and gown for graduation.

Yep, some of these kids took on tens of thousands of dollars in order to go to law school, but now — at the end — they’re making a stand over a hundred bucks…

The school is George Mason Law. The students there have caused such a stir over their commencement regalia that the GMU administration had to send around the following email:

A student asked us to review our policy that graduates must wear a cap and gown in order to participate in the Law School Convocation ceremony. Because of the increasing costs of the regalia, over which we have no control, we thoughtfully considered if this year might be the right year to consider allowing students to opt out of wearing the regalia. This was not a matter considered without significant input regarding all relevant factors. In the end, one critical factor has guided our decision.

Over 100 soon-to-be graduates have already placed orders for caps and gowns, and those orders have been placed for production with the manufacturer. That means that if we changed the policy now to permit an opt out from cap and gowns to a student choice of courtroom attire, those students who have diligently placed orders would not be permitted a refund. Essentially, the opt out would not be an option for most students.

Accordingly, we are maintaining our policy this year of requiring caps and gowns for participation in the Convocation Ceremony.

GMU Law students aren’t taking this lying down. Oh no, they’ve organized a petition over this. I guess putting this together is a welcome break from sending out unsolicited résumés:

To the GMU Law Administration:

We believe that students should not be required to pay $136 and rent graduation attire in order to walk with their classmates. In an historically awful economic climate, some with six figures in debt, and weak career prospects, we have already suffered enough of a financial blow. A $136 entrance fee to graduation that serves mere aesthetic purposes seems unreasonably out of touch with this reality. Students who have earned the right to graduate should get to choose whether to rent graduation regalia.

On February 14, 2011, members of the graduating class received an email from the SBA which stated that students must get measured no later than March 25 for caps and gowns. This email notified students that they could have measurements taken on February 16 and 17 in the Atrium, or anytime thereafter in the bookstore. All students were equally informed that the deadline for reserving robes was March 25, and no students were required to “opt-in” to renting before that date. The mere fact that some students chose to rent graduation attire at an earlier time should not weigh against students who chose to explore alternatives.

Some students have expressed a desire for uniformity in the class picture. We believe this concern merits discussion. But we also believe that since students bear this expense, a decision should be made by the students, not the administration.

For the foregoing reasons, the undersigned request that the Administration remove its requirement of renting regalia in order to walk in the graduation ceremony, or in the alternative, to allow the students who bear this expense to vote on the matter. After all, it is our graduation.

Yes, having to dip into your own pocket to fulfill an administrative requirement is onerous. Especially if you feel that the administration has sold you a bill of goods for three years and you’re staring into the unemployment abyss.

But the time to recognize the “historically awful economic climate” and the “weak career prospects” was sometime before you showed up on campus. The time to get pissed off about paying an unreasonable amount of money for something that only confers a potentially superficial benefit was three years ago.

You’ve taken it this far; now pay your $136 dollars and look pretty for all the parents. Maybe it’s not fair, but it’s a little late in the game to be bitching about how your law school is screwing you out of money.

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