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Transparency

Letter to the ASU Law Dean Search Committee

After much anticipation, the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University announced the members of the committee in charge of selecting a new dean of the law school last week.  These 12 people have the somewhat daunting task of finding someone who is a good fit for the school and its future.

Music Auditorium ASU Tempe AZ 220398

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I was incredibly pissed off at ASU when I graduated because I felt that Berman disrespected the law student body, and I disagreed with many decisions the school made under his administration.  I made the decision that ASU had had enough of my money and that I would not be a donor as an alumnus unless changes occurred in the school.

I’m actually quite invested in who the committee selects.  I sent the following letter to the members of the committee this week.

 

Dear Dean Selection Committee:

Congratulations on being appointed to the selection committee for the new dean of the law school at ASU. When I started law school at ASU, I was excited about being a Sun Devil and the opportunities that ASU had to offer. However, by the time I graduated, I felt like a commodity that the school could use at it pleased and not the consumer that the school was supposed to serve. I felt like I was expected to pay my money and say “thank you,” without any recourse when I was unhappy with the school.

I decided that the law school had received enough of my money. I made the commitment not to financially support the school unless there were significant changes. I couldn’t even donate my graduation regalia back to the school because it would count towards the class gift. I know that I’m not the only member of my class who has made the commitment not to donate money to the school until things change.

I would like to be a supporter of the law school again. There are some traits and policies that I would have to see from the new dean in order to feel comfortable financially supporting the school.

  1. Spokesperson: The dean will be the face and the voice of the law school. It is imperative that the new dean be eloquent, thoughtful, and have the ability to adjust their message to occasion. The new dean should also understand that less is more at most speaking engagements.
  2. Transparency: It is well known that ASU, like other law schools, manipulates its statistics to give the impression that more students are employed after graduation by counting people who are not employed in the legal profession or only have temporary employment. Regardless of whether the U.S. News changes its reporting requirements, the school should have accurate data available on its website to give prospective students an accurate depiction of post-graduate employment opportunities.
  3. Tuition Expectations: The average student debt was $51,000 when I started law school. By the time I graduated, the average debt was $89,000. This is unacceptable. The tuition per semester increased by 33% between my first semester and my last semester of law school. Students need to have some stability related to what they are expected to pay in tuition by being able to lock in their tuition or having a guarantee that their tuition will only increase by a set amount.
  4. Practical Professional Training: Although the law school has taken steps to expose students to job possibilities that go beyond big law firms and judicial clerkships, the school needs to do more to expand students’ views on the versatility of their law degrees. Moreover, the law school should require more practical skills training that will be immediately useful when they begin practicing law.
  5. Respect for Students: The new dean must have the utmost respect for students who are putting their trust and money in the school to prepare them for their professional futures. During the final year of the Berman administration, he announced that tuition would be increasing by at least $1,500 per student, and he had the audacity to publicly state that the increase was not significant. That was a huge increase! The new dean must open to the student experience, solicit and utilize feedback from them when decisions will be made that will affect their classroom experience or their tuition. Out of respect for students, the new dean should insist that the law school’s budget should be available online so students can see what monies are coming and how they are being spent.

I hope you have a wonderful selection of candidates to choose from in your search for the new dean. Please select the person who is right for the job and not someone who is merely good enough. Do not feel pressured to select someone by January if you have not found the right candidate by then.

Sincerely,
Ruth Carter
Class of 2011

 

I hope the committee understands that I did not intend my letter to be mean or a criticism of any members of the committee who are part of the law school’s administration. I only wanted to share my wish list for the new dean so that I can like my school again.

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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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