Commencement, Job Searches, Law Schools

Possibly The Most Hypocritical Commencement Speech Ever

Honestly, I think it’s time to feel sorry for the Emory Law class of 2011. Things are tough for a lot of graduating law students, but the way the Emory administration and faculty have treated the class of ’11 is simply shocking. If you ranked ABA-accredited law schools based on how the administration reacts to student concerns, Emory would have to rate near the bottom.

We can’t know how Emory has been treating the class of ’11 internally, but the ridiculous public behavior started when U.S. News released its most recent law school rankings. Emory plummeted eight spots, one of the biggest drops within the first tier. Since then, the Emory administration has gone to such lengths to cover its ass that there’s been a run on butt plugs in Georgia.

All of the self-serving rhetoric and “blame the students” mentality crested during commencement, where the class of 2011 couldn’t even receive their diplomas without being scolded and condescended to…

A quick recap is in order so we can put the commencement address of Professor Sara K. Stadler into context. After Emory Law’s drop in the rankings, Dean David Partlett came out with a ridiculous statement. He blamed the drop in ranking on U.S. News’s new emphasis on employment outcomes — as if that was a bad thing.

Then he said that Emory Law students disproportionately favor Biglaw jobs, and since Biglaw was particularly affected by the recession, that’s why Emory employment stats are suffering. You can read the full statement in our prior post, in which we explored the silliness of the dean’s claims.

A month later, Dean Partlett abruptly resigned, to go back to teaching. This change in leadership happened too late to help the class of 2011, but at least it could be interpreted as the school finally listening to student concerns.

Well, not so fast. Because on their way out the door, members of the class of 2011 received one last kick in the proverbial nuts. Here’s a report on Professor Sara Stadler’s graduation speech, from Law.com (gavel bang: ABA Journal):

At the law school’s May 9 graduation, she dumped optimistic commencement speech cliches for a lesson in tough love, telling the Class of 2011 to stop fretting over the dearth of big money jobs.

“Get over it,” said Stadler. “The one thing standing in the way of your happiness is a sense of entitlement.”

Easy for her to say. She has a job. She has a job that will not be downsized or outsourced so long as Emory can recruit a fresh class of lemmings who substitute hope for sound financial planning. That “sense of entitlement” pays her salary.

But, that’s just the “drop down to one knee and catch your breath” grazing of the nuts from Professor Stadler. The “full-on, doubled-over in excruciating pain” karate chop to the nuts comes here:

Many grads don’t have jobs, or didn’t get the job they wanted, she said, adding, “You might not be able to land that job.”

“I’m sure Emory has failed you in some way,” Stadler added, saying she wished she could change that. But the terrible job market, she said, offers opportunity for happiness.

“You might have to move to Nebraska. … You might have to join a small firm where they don’t make the big bucks,” she said. “You might also have to learn to be a giver, not a taker. Givers tend to be happy people. Takers are never satisfied. I want you to be satisfied with your professional lives. To look back later and say … look at the people I helped … to simplify the parts of their lives that intersected with the law. Because that’s what everyone wants. That’s what they need. And that’s what the law needs, too.”

Professor Sara Stadler

Givers versus takers? Is she suggesting that Emory Law students haven’t given enough? Does she know how much it costs to go to Emory Law? How much more does she want the students to give?

Or, perhaps more to the point, what the f**k have Emory Law students been “taking” that has led them to this current state of unhappiness? I see an entire law school taking money and time from students without being to provide them the jobs they want. Remember the self-serving statements from Dean Partlett: “Historically, many of our students pursue careers in large law firms.” So the Emory administration KNOWS that most of the kids there are there to get into Biglaw. The administration is taking the money, but the kids are not getting the jobs the administration knows the students are trying to get.

Damn straight Emory “failed” those kids in some way. It’s intellectually dishonest for Professor Stadler to pretend that she doesn’t know EXACTLY what way those kids were failed. She got her salary, the kids didn’t get their jobs. If they wanted to practice in Nebraska, they would have paid Nebraska prices for law school.

Oh, but according to the good professor, expecting a return on your six-figure investment is a “sense of entitlement.” Great. I propose that Professor Stadler start paying New York prices for her Georgia home — after all, givers tend to be happy people!

But like I said, I feel so sorry for Emory Law students. It’s always terrible to graduate from a law school that is ranked lower when you leave than when you started. It’s terrible to graduate in 2011. And it’s terrible when the administration takes the very same hopes that they used to convince you to pay them money and turns them around on you, to blame you in front of your parents and the larger community.

Luckily, I think you know how to respond to this treatment. A tipster at Emory Law tells us:

Things Emory is not entitled to: any alumni gift from anybody in the class of 2011.

How I will win through giving: Give advice to everybody about why they should not go to Emory Law.

Seriously, instead of calling up these people in two years and asking them for even more money, Emory Law should just get over it.

UPDATE (5/27/11): Please click here to read defenses of Professor Stadler by Emory students and alumni.

Emory Law Professor to Grads: Don’t Complain [Law.com]
In Commencement Speech, Law Prof Tells Grads Coveting Big-Money Jobs to ‘Get over It’ [ABA Journal]

Earlier: Open Thread: 2012 U.S. News Law School Rankings (16 – 30)
Start Your Whining: Schools Make Excuses for Their Poor U.S. News Rankings
Looks Like The U.S. News Law School Rankings Cost Someone A Job

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