Yesterday we received an email with the following subject line: “the problem with tenure.” Now, I actually think that this tip illustrates the problem with law students and the classic awesomeness of tenure, but I’ll let you be the judge of that.

What we can at least agree on is that we have a story about a law professor executing a stern, verbal smackdown of a law student who tried to go over the professor’s head to complain.

Let this just be a reminder to everybody that they need to respect the chain of command….

Our tipster explains that the student had an issue with the professor and went to the Dean of Students to complain. The professor found out, and apparently sent the following letter to the complaining student:

I got an email yesterday from the dean that a student in this class complained that I have not been letting you out of class promptly at 10:20 and that I made off-handed, non-PC references to Parkinson’s and ADD. First, let me say that I will try to be more aware of both these matters.

But seriously — did you really have to go to the dean to complain? Not that after 30 years of teaching it has any negative influence on my job approval or the dean’s appreciation for what I do but don’t you think you are old enough to fight your own battles? Don’t you think I am receptive enough to be addressed directly? Are you going to go to momma and poppa if a partner at a law firm treats you wrongly? Seriously??

A few thoughts, in no particular order:

  • Boom goes the dynamite.
  • Whether or not the Parkinson’s and ADD jokes were fair, you have to give the professor credit for owning them. Also, I refuse to live in a world where I have to take ADD seriously, but maybe that’s just me.
  • The fact that the student needed to be reminded that his or her complaint would have NO influence on anything tells you all you need to know about millennials.
  • Yes, this person will in fact run to mommy and daddy if a big bad Biglaw partner is mean to him or her.

To expand on the final two points: grow up! Running to the Dean of Students about a joke isn’t a grown-up response. That isn’t standing up for yourself. That’s a child’s response; it’s something a tattletale does. It’s something covered in weakness and cowardice.

If you really think the joke was inappropriate, say something. Say something to his face. Stand up in the middle of class and say, “I don’t think you should be making fun of people with Parkinson’s.”

Could the professor get mad at you? Could he maybe look less favorably on you when it comes time to hand out final grades? Sure, it’s unlikely, but this professor could be so much of a prick that he’d dock somebody for having the audacity to publicly disagree with him.

So if you really found something the professor did or said inappropriate or offensive, have the courage of your convictions. Be willing to sacrifice something for your beliefs. You can almost hear this kid telling the Dean of Students, “I came to you because I didn’t want this to affect my grade.” Well, real people of conscience are willing to sacrifice a lot more than a silly grade in one law school class to do and say what they believe is right.

I know that a lot of law students out there are going think that the student handled this in the best way given the circumstances and the professor was out of line to send this email. But at some point, today’s law students are going to have to learn that their choices and decisions have consequences.


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