• 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
    Image via Wikipedia

    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.

    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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  • Screwed by the ASU Tuition Classification System

    One of the benefits of ASU Law School is that non-resident students have the option to be classified as a resident for tuition purposes after one year if they intend to stay in Arizona after graduation.  For one student, who will remain nameless, the system failed him.

    Image by TW Collins via Flickr

    To be considered a resident in the eyes of ASU, the student has to prove “by clear and convincing evidence” that they had been continuously physically present in the state for 12 months and intend to stay in Arizona indefinitely.  ASU assumes you’re only there to get an education.  A student can prove their intent to stay in Arizona with documents such as a tax return, driver’s license, car registration, bank account, insurance, voter registration, and proof of ownership of property in the state.

    My friend got into other law schools that are better than ASU, but he picked ASU because of Arizona’s strong legal market and the school’s high career placement for its graduates.  He complied with the rule regarding residency and submitted his application to have his residency status changed.  Surprisingly, his application was denied.  The committee claimed one of the reasons for the denial was that his financial support came from all student sources.  This is completely inaccurate.  He had a full tuition scholarship, but he paid for his living expense out of his savings.  Basically he was denied in-state tuition because he was smart and was fiscally responsible.

    He appealed the decision.  When a student appeals a residency decision, they have to appear before a 3-person panel and state their case.  The panel asks questions and then deliberates right in front of the student before rendering a decision.  Allegedly, my friend’s appeal was hijacked by one of the panel members from University Libraries.  According to my friend, she shared her assumptions about law students with her fellow panel members, such as law school applicants go to the best school they get into and that law school graduates can get jobs anywhere.  Apparently she wasn’t aware that passing the bar exam only allows you to practice law in one state, unless there is reciprocity.  The panel allegedly considered these assumptions about law students rather than the facts that my friend presented.

    Now, my friend is wicked smart and a great guy in general.  He has a summer associate position lined up, and if all goes well, he could be offered a job for after graduation.  His statements to the panel regarding future employment were not unrealistic.

    The worst thing the panel mentioned in their deliberation was his alleged lack of community connections.  Anyone who understands law school knows that students don’t have much time for a social life.    Furthermore, the panel said that he could have established intent if he had mentioned that he was a member of a church!  ASU is a public school and the panel never asked if he was member of a church.  The panel disregarded his connections with Teach for America, Junior Law, and Community Legal Services because he could have been involved in these organizations regardless of where he lived.  Isn’t the same true for a church?

    So, despite my friend following the rules, he got screwed over by the system and there’s nothing he can do but pay the more expensive non-resident tuition, reapply for residency, and hope if it’s denied, that he has a panel that decides his case on the facts and not their assumptions.

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  • This past week, Elie Mystal of Above the Law wrote a biting and brilliant article about Dean Berman‘s announcement that he intended to make the law school at Arizona State University less reliant on state funding.  Berman’s plan went from intriguing to horrifying when he said that he planned to do this by increasing the size of the law school student body and increasing tuition.


    Mystal was on the right path when he said Berman’s plan would result in more unemployed lawyers with mountains of debt.  What he doesn’t realize is that ASU is already passed the capacity of its current facilities.  Where are they going to put another 30 people?  Furthermore, job prospects for law graduates in Arizona currently suck in this economy.  Is it ethical to flood the market with lawyers who can’t get jobs?

    ASU Sign (1)
    Image by John M. Quick via Flickr

    I can understand Berman’s desire to be less reliant to state funding.  I’m sure some of his plans were derailed when the state budget for education was slashed.  I understand and generally respect the concept that people should pay top dollar for quality products.  However, asking students at a public university to carry this burden is asking too much.  And pissing off future alums by robbing them blind won’t help the school’s fundraising efforts.

    In the National Law Journal, Berman said, “We’re expanding the scope of legal education.”  Is he referring to the cubic buttload of clinics, journals, and programs that have been added to the school since he became the dean?  Being a student at ASU Law, it seems like a new program is added every 30 seconds.  It seems like every time someone mentions the idea of starting something new at the school, Berman approves it.  I’ve been wondering where the school was getting the money to pay for all this.  I don’t know where it was coming from but now we know who will be footing the bill in the future – the students!  If the students are paying for everything, the school shouldn’t be expanding.  It should be focusing on doing a few things well – like preparing students to be actual lawyers with real lawyering skills.

    Now, I take my fair share of flack for dissing my school while I’m still a student.  I’m not saying everything about it is bad – there are some awesome people at the school.  But from an administrative perspective, the school doesn’t seem to care about its students.  The most glaring proof of this are the decisions that are made to impress and entice potential students, but have limited usefulness to current students.  Have you seen the new website?  How about the new fancy desks that aren’t big enough to comfortably accommodate a laptop?  Or the classroom configurations that are a pain in the ass to navigate?  How many students were consulted before these decisions were made?  One current professor said probably zero.  There’s a lot of flash and sparkle without much utility.

    You know what bothers me the most about Berman’s plan?  At a recent town hall meeting, Berman said, “”I never would have come if I knew they were going to privatize the law school.”  I know he said this because, (1) I was there, and (2) I immediately tweeted that quote out to the universe.  (Isn’t technology a bitch?)  If the dean of my law school is a walking contradiction, I’m pissed about how this institution is treating its students and severely concerned for its future.

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