Bar Exams, Email Scandals, Law School Deans, Law Schools

Stanford Dean Should Count To 10 Before Sending More Emails

Stanford grads chilling around campus while studying for the bar exam received the grim news that the school was cutting off their access to the gym and pool. Not a huge shock since these folks are technically no longer students. Is this worth making a big deal out of? Meh. I mean, they’ve just indebted themselves to the tune of $130K+, so it’s not entirely unreasonable for the school to let them take a swim for an extra month. Especially for the subset of students still paying to live on-campus as opposed to just living in the area. On the other hand, school’s over. You have to expect to leave the nest some time, kids.

In any event, nothing engenders more sympathy for a cause than an over-the-top, petty response from a bureaucrat drunk on her own meager power. As they say, fights in academia are so vicious precisely because the stakes are so small.

And the dean and students trade barbs over a string of emails….

Associate Dean for Student Affairs Cathy Glaze received an informal petition signed by 52 students who want the school to give them back their stairmasters and hot tubs. Glaze could have responded to this in a number of ways. She chose “barely concealed contempt.”

So, I saw the petition when I opened my email this morning and I’ve got to say that I was rather surprised and disheartened by it. Let me tell you why.

First, it is not really petition.

· Whom are you petitioning?

There is no addressee to this petition. Knowing the right person to ask is essential to an effective petition.

· The petition doesn’t make a request.

It indicates that you don’t want to pay $5 but it doesn’t even ask for free access.

The lesson, of course, is that it’s never too early to start playing lawyerball. “No addressee,” are you f**king kidding me? It isn’t a pleading, it’s just a bunch of students memorializing their opinion.

We’ve heard from current Stanford law students who were surprised by Glaze’s email because she is generally “super-nice and helpful.” Apparently not on this day. Everyone has a bad day — just ask Ruth Payne — though we also hear this isn’t the first time Dean Glaze has penned an email rant. Earlier this year, she castigated students “whom I can name but won’t” over perceived Honor Code violations in an eight-paragraph manifesto. Some people just don’t translate well over email.

Second, it alienates your allies.

· One of the signatories/initiators of the petition asked me on Monday about whether the class should draft a petition and I told her no. Yet, here is a “petition.”

Take a chill pill, Dean Glaze. How is it any skin off your ass to have documentary evidence that students are concerned about this issue? Especially if, as she contends, she is diligently working behind the scenes to secure the very gym and pool access the students want?

I and many other staff here have worked hard over the last three years to help make your law school experience the best that it can be and to find solutions to problems or when crises arise; yet, the initiator and all of you who signed on completely ignore that. Do you really think that we stop caring as soon as you walk across the stage with your diploma? Do you think we stopped caring already?

Stanford may not be a religious school, but Dean Glaze has installed her own cross. Perhaps that’s what all that construction by the library has been about.

We are working on a subsidy to reduce the cost of gym/pool access substantially and we will be able to roll that information out by the end of this week, maybe sooner. Please don’t harbor any illusion that this so-called petition helped that happen. It did not.

Finally, I would like to thank the one member of the class of 2014 who asked me about this issue and took me at my word that we were doing something. I was pleased to see that his name was not on the petition.

There’s nothing polite I can say about those lines.

But Dean Glaze did come through on her promise to get students back into the gym. In a subsequent email:

As I mentioned, a number of us have been working for several weeks to bring down the cost for you of gym and pool access while you study for the bar exam. With the generous support of the Law School’s Alumni Relations Office, the cost for Law School graduates will be only $2 a day (instead of $5 a day). Passes will be available for purchase on June 16.

I also want to let you know that we have provided Parking & Transportation with a list of names so that you will be able to extend your parking passes on campus through July 31.

Take care,

Cathy

Note that she doesn’t bury the lede: what’s most important is that she already told all you stupid kids that she was already working on it, not that the deed got done.

A number of Stanford students understandably took issue with Dean Glaze’s tone in the original email:

Dear Cathy,

This is a very, very aggressive email.

The issue of gym access aside, I’m surprised and disheartened by your willingness to publicly attack students, your inability to take a deep breath before sending emails publicly attacking students, and your general lack of professionalism when dealing with students via email this year. It’s frankly unbelievable that an Associate Dean at Stanford Law School wrote this email and continues to choose to engage with students in this utterly unprofessional manner.

I’m sorry that this “petition” lacks the requisite trappings of legitimacy. Our request is simple: gym access for the class of 2014 through July 31. There are several rationales expressed in the Google Doc; please forgive our lack of coherence (we’re in the midst of studying for finals, graduating, and preparing for the bar exam).

This simple request and our gratitude to SLS staff are not mutually exclusive — heck, last time I checked, frustration and gratitude weren’t even mutually exclusive. But hey, it’s awfully easy to knock down straw men.

Rookie mistake. Everything is mutually exclusive because you’re a lawyer in an adversarial system, don’t ya know?

A second student took the time to carefully rip apart Glaze’s claims:

1. If you can identify the proper addressee of this or a similar petition, please let us know. It is agreed the addressee is not anyone at the law school.

2. It is not clear how an expression of interest in a policy change, signed by a large number of students, should be viewed as alienating an administration working in pursuit of the same policy change on behalf of students. You indicate that we have raised the same arguments as you would, suggesting you think those arguments are valid. I would hope that student support for this policy change will add weight to the administration’s efforts, rather than the opposite.

3. I am glad to hear the administration is working to address the gym access issue. I’m not sure why you felt it had to be a secret for a week.

4. It is very sad to be greeted with such a defensive response. This was not a personal attack, and it was completely unconnected to any other efforts the administration has or has not made to improve student life at the law school. There are plenty of issues that frustrate students, but I’ve never heard anyone blame you when the school is unable or unwilling to address them. Blame Munger? Yes. The “law school”? Yes. The University? Always. Cathy Glaze? Nope.

5. On a side note, I am completely fed up with paternalistic responses along the lines of “this would never be acceptable in X legal setting” or “if you were really a lawyer, you would have done Y.” Please everyone stop doing that. It’s an ad hominem attack masquerading as constructive advice. It’s also irrelevant as advice, because we are in fact in law school (for a few more days anyway), and it has always been unmistakably clear that the rules here are not the same as those in a law firm, or in a courtroom, or with a client. The fact that we’re following law school expectations, such as they are, does not mean we are incapable of adapting to other settings. More generally, god forbid we approach everything in our lives like lawyers! That’s why people hate lawyers.

I’m not sure that’s the only reason people hate lawyers, but it seems like it’s a good reason why people might not like law school deans.

Dean Glaze’s entire unedited email, along with the various responses, available on the next page….

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