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ASU Law Must Think We’re Morons

When I was a 1L, the school told us that the copy center at the law school had class outlines for sale.  There were dozens of outlines created by previous students available.  For some classes they are a necessity, and for others, it’s just nice to have another person’s outline to compare to your own and to have another person’s take on the material.

Photo by Ryan Cassella, used with permission from WNPR

Mysteriously, these outlines have disappeared from the copy center this semester, except for two “professor-approved” outlines.  Apparently, Dean Berman didn’t like that an outline for his Civil Procedure class was available.  It was over 100 pages long, and according to an email he sent to his students, it was almost verbatim what he said during his lectures.  The rumor is he didn’t want this outline to be available because he thought students should create their own outlines.  There was also another rumor that a different professor didn’t want students to have an outline for her class that clearly explained concepts because she liked it when students suffered.

I think this is probably Berman’s mental logic: “I benefited from making my own outlines from scratch without outside help, so no one else should be able to have external help from others’ notes.”  It doesn’t matter what Berman likes or doesn’t like.  It’s about the students being able to learn the material.  If having another information source is helpful, especially if they’re willing to pay the school extra to have it, then so be it!  Just because the school doesn’t like it or encourage it in general, it doesn’t make it wrong.

Here’s the moronic part – outlines are widely available and easily passed from student to student.  Student clubs have their own outline banks that they freely share with their members.  Any student whose judgment is so bad as to assume a 50-page outline will substitute for an 800-page textbook and a semester’s worth of lectures, shouldn’t be in law school in the first place.  Such assumptions only reflect the lack of confidence Dean Berman has in his students’ intellect and judgment.  The only thing the school did was cut off a revenue stream.  Given how much the school has had to raise tuition and class size, this seems like a really stupid thing to do.

And to top all of this off, the school didn’t think to inform the student body about this change.  The outlines simply disappeared at the end of last semester.  This lack of transparency makes me question what else the school might be hiding from students, its consumers and future donors.

Let me be clear, this is not a post demanding that the outlines be reinstated because I believe it’s an entitlement afforded to all law students.  I simply mean to enumerate one more example of a poorly chosen policy and the law school’s consistent inability to effectively instate such overhauls.  Not to mention the school’s now predictable attitude toward communicating with its students, that of don’t ask don’t tell.

And since I’m on my soapbox, I don’t think Berman should be teaching class.  He has enough to do with raising money for the school.  According to this year’s students, he frequently cancelled class due to his other job duties and made them up with marathon classes.  I hear he’s actually a good teacher, but I don’t think he should be an instructor and an administrator.  If I was one of his students, I would have been pissed.

Special thanks to my anonymous co-writer this week.

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  1. Ruth Carter says:

    The ASU Law School student body received the following email from Berman today.

    As we head into exam season, I know that many students like to prepare outlines for courses. I strongly encourage each of you to develop your own, as that is obviously the best way for you to synthesize the material from your course. Or, some students like to start from some pre-existing outline (commercially available or otherwise) to help with an overall framework, and then they fill in the content from their own class experiences.

    Over the past several years, unknown to anyone on the faculty, the copy center at the law school began to keep a repository of student course outlines which it then distributed to students. The problem with this repository is that it seems to imply that the outlines retained there have somehow been vetted by the school and are “official” outlines the school has chosen. This is not the case, and so we have discontinued the copy center’s repository. I am aware that many outlines freely circulate among students, and it is certainly the prerogative of students to share outlines as they wish. I just don’t think the law school should be seen as choosing one outline over others unless a specific faculty member has decided to do so. Otherwise, we run the risk that an inaccurate or unhelpful outline will be used by many students under the mistaken assumption that they are using a law school-approved product.

    I am always happy to meet with students during my office hours to discuss strategies for outlining or exam preparation more generally. I wish you all the best!

    Do I think that the faculty didn’t know the law school was selling outlines? No. I knew about it at orientation.

    Transparency means telling people what’s going on as it’s happening or shortly thereafter, not months after the fact.

    1. Ruth Carter says:

      24 hours after Berman sent that email, he sent this one:

      I have received some questions about this announcement, so I want to clarify that students are obviously free to share outlines with each other as they see fit. Indeed, our IT staff is working to see if we can create an easy online forum for students to post or download outlines; I hope to have more news on that soon.

      So, let me get this straight – the school stopped selling outlines because it didn’t want to take the risk that unhelpful outlines will be circulating among the students yet now it’s looking into facilitating the the trading of outlines, that may or may not help students.

      It looks like the school is contradicting itself.
      Does this make sense to anyone else??

      1. Ruth Carter says:

        Berman sent this email to all the ASU law students today:

        As previously announced, we have discontinued the practice of having the copy center make course outlines available. Instead, we have created an online outline bank, which will allow students to upload and download outlines as they see fit. Students can go to and then click on “Course Outline Bank.” After logging in, you can select a course and then a professor, and any outlines that are available will be listed. You can then upload your own outline or download one of the ones that are there. We have pre-loaded the most popular of the ones that were in the copy center. Please note that this is simply an open forum for students to share outlines among themselves. The law school does not endorse any outline posted on the site.

        In addition, I have instructed the Law Library to purchase copies of commercial outlines to the large-section 1L and upper-level courses and keep them on reserve. They should be arriving soon.

        I don’t know if this is a peace offering, perhaps Berman’s way to admitting that he was wrong, or if he has some type of ulterior motive, but I’m pleased he did this.