Commencement

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…

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I get that the legal profession has a drinking problem, if you will, but today we have an example of how a law school should not go about keeping young, would-be lawyers off the bottle.

Imagine you are a 1L. You just finished your first set of finals of your first year of law school, and so you decide to party a little bit. So you knock back a few beers on campus before heading out to whatever bar you are going to. It’s a time to celebrate, it’s a time to let your hair down. Maybe you get a little bit more drunk than you intended, maybe you have a beer (gasp) outside, but whatever — finals are done!

Did I say anything “unacceptable” above?

If you think that there’s no harm in the foregoing scenario, then boy do I have a law school for you to avoid. Apparently the administration at one law school was so freaked out by drinking on campus after first semester finals that the assistant dean of students felt compelled to send around an entire email reminding students of the school’s alcohol policy (reprinted in full below). We’re just getting this email now — it appears students wanted to be away for the summer before slamming their administration — but its existence is still shocking.

Somebody should ask Franklin Roosevelt if it makes sense to have draconian anti-alcohol policies during a recessionary environment…

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Johnathan Perkins

Today is Commencement at UVA Law School. Congratulations to all of the UVA students who will soon become UVA alumni. You’ve worked hard for your law degrees, and you deserve commendation.

(Hopefully you have jobs lined up. Or at least other talents that can help you make a living — and pay back your student loans.)

Is Johnathan Perkins, the 3L who famously (or infamously) admitted making up a story about how he was racially profiled and harassed by university police, going to receive a J.D. degree from UVA Law — today, or in the future?

Let’s discuss. We have some evidence….

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Is it really that hard to make a commencement speech? I wrote one in high school. It was basically about seizing the day. My friend made one in college. Same theme, only in Latin. You can also make commencement speeches about giving back to your community, the importance of education, or how your generation is the most awesome generation ever to be generated. It’s not hard, people.

And yet people consistently screw it up. Today we have two different ways that people can screw up a commencement speech — one example from an old person, one example from a young person. One example from a very good law school, one example from a school that isn’t ranked that highly.

Apparently, anybody can screw up a commencement address if they try hard enough….

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Are tickets to law school commencement like organs? Or babies?

They’re not as necessary as organs, and they’re not as adorable as babies. But are graduation tickets, like organs and babies, so sacred that we should not allow them to be distributed through the free market?

(Some folks, like certain Chicago School law-and-economics types, think that we should be allowed to sell organs and/or babies. For better or worse, however, the rest of society hasn’t gone along with them.)

Let’s take a look at the commencement controversy brewing at one noteworthy law school….

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Oh, I kid the grammar nazis because I’m really bad at it and making jokes is easier than contemplating my own shortcomings. But even I can acknowledge that some typos are distracting. Give me another sentence and I’ll show you — or maybe I have already (that’s an honest question: I’ve got no damn clue just at the moment).

Luckily, I write on the internet, and I have a legion of free copy editors who are happy to help me correct mistakes in real time. If I worked in a more permanent medium… well, let’s just say that I hope that never happens.

Let’s just pray that I’m never in charge of writing copy for people’s graduation ceremonies. Those memories are supposed to last a lifetime and you just wouldn’t want administrative carelessness to ruin anything. You simply don’t want mistakes like this invitation to a law school commencement…

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We told you yesterday that Michigan Law has decided to invite Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) to speak to its 3L class for senior day. We told you that many Michigan Law students have objected to the choice of Senator Portman, because of his strong anti-gay rhetoric on the issue of gay marriage.

We told you that Michigan Law Dean Evan Caminker — the hottest law school dean in America, by the way — didn’t respond to our request for comment. We wondered, though, if he would dig in his heels against the LGBT community at his school, or if he would try to be sensitive to the concerns of minorities at his school who would like to enjoy basic civil rights.

Well, Dean Caminker decided to dig in, and in so doing kind of totally missed the point…

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What’s more strange about that headline? That Michigan Law would invite a guy who stands against the civil rights of certain members of the Michigan Law community, or that Michigan Law would invite a representative from Ohio to speak to its outgoing students?

I’m going with the latter. Rob Portman graduated from the University of Michigan Law School in 1984, but he has gone on to become the junior senator from Ohio. Ohio! In related news, Bo Schembechler was born in Ohio and went to college at Miami of Ohio, but I don’t think he was ever the keynote speaker during an Ohio athletics Hall of Fame ceremony.

Sadly, the fact that Michigan invited a guy who has taken a strong stance against the civil rights of gay people probably isn’t that out of the ordinary. Sure, at some point these anti-gay-marriage people will look as tolerant as pre-conversion George Wallace in front of a desegregated schoolhouse. But right now these enemies of love get to walk among us as regular people.

Guys at my high school used to have ignorant and flawed views about gay people all the time. It was no big deal.

But some students at Michigan Law are trying to make it a big deal. And that’s pretty exciting….

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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…

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Grumpy old editor here. In my day, commencement was a simple affair. You showed up massively hung over and baked in the hot sun for a few hours. Eventually someone begrudgingly called your name, and you received your diploma.

It was a simpler time. A time when you didn’t have to worry about whether or not the very venue of your graduation was unconstitutional. You didn’t have to worry about protesting your commencement speaker.

Ah, those were the days. But now it’s a different world. In Arizona, they are up in arms over racial profiling.

At Cardozo, new Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance will be giving the commencement address. You’d think that wouldn’t be a controversial choice, but oh you’d be wrong…

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