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Harvard Law Review Editor on exam delay request: Our Weakness is Our Strength

Harvard Law Review Editor on exam delay request: Our Weakness is Our Strength

“our nation is starving for a genuine discussion about mental health.”

As we reported, a coalition of student groups at Harvard Law School demanded exam delays due to student trauma over the Ferguson and Eric Garner grand jury refusals to indict.

There was withering criticism, including here. HLS refused to budge, but did agree to counseling, meetings, and other steps.

William Desmond, a third year HLS student who also is a Law Review Editor, defends the demand for an exam delay in The National Law Journal, Delaying Exams Is Not a Request from ‘Coddled Millennials’ (h/t Drew M.). Here’s an excerpt:

… In essence, law students are being told to grow up and learn how to focus amidst stress and anxiety—like “real” lawyers must do.

Speaking as one of those law students, I can say that this response is misguided: Our request for exam extensions is not being made from a position of weakness, but rather from one of strength and critical awareness.

Although over the last few weeks many law students have experienced moments of total despair, minutes of inconsolable tears and hours of utter confusion, many of these same students have also spent days in action—days of protesting, of organizing meetings, of drafting emails and letters, and of starting conversations long overdue. We have been synthesizing decades of police interactions, dissecting problems centuries old, and exposing the hypocrisy of silence.

I have seen the psychological trauma brought on by disillusionment with our justice system send some law students into a period of depression…. The hesitancy to recognize the validity of these psychic effects demonstrates that, in addition to conversations on race, gender and class, our nation is starving for a genuine discussion about mental health….

Where some commentators see weakness or sensitivity, perhaps they should instead see strength—the strength to know when our cups of endurance have run over and when the time for patience has ended. Perhaps they should instead see courage—the courage to look our peers in the eyes and uncomfortably ask them to bear these burdens of racism and classism that we have together inherited from generations past. We have taken many exams before, but never have we done this. We are scared, but no longer will we be spectators to injustice.

Our focus and critical thinking are at an all-time peak while the importance of our textbooks is at a low. It is not that law students are incapable of handling their exams. It is that we are unwilling to remove ourselves, even for a few days, from this national conversation….

We recognize that this is a moment for change. If not us, then who? For most of us, we know that if we get lower grades this semester, this cost will have been worth the importance and privilege of joining a national movement to fundamentally reform this country’s approach to law enforcement and criminal justice. But just because we are willing to pay this price does not mean we should have to….

Each year as classes of law students enter and exit our nation’s legal institutions we are told the same thing: You are the future of the law. Well, the future is now.

In my post, It’s their law school and they’ll cry if they want to, I noted that the late Harvard Law Professor Clark Byse reportedly was the model for Professor Kingsfield in The Paper Chase. I should have noted this memory of Prof. Byse from Prof. Orin Kerr:

I visited Professor Byse in his office and asked if he was willing to be interviewed as part of my seminar research. He didn’t know me from Adam, but I explained to him that I was interested in his views of different teaching styles as a student and how his views as a student had influenced his style as a young professsor.

I’ll never forget his response. “As a young professor?!?!”, he proclaimed. “That was 1939!!!! Do you think I can remember all the way back to 1939?!?! Up yours, Buster!!!” After about a second of surprise I burst into laughter. Here was this legendary professor, still obviously quite with it, poking fun at his own age and proclaiming “up yours” to a student he had never seen before. I sensed that it was a test, and I was right: Upon seeing my open laughter, Professor Byse immediately softened and a big smile broke across his face. He asked, “Are you free for lunch sometime? I’d be happy to talk about it.”

About a week later, he and I met for lunch … Byse was somewhat saddened that his rigorous Socratic approach had gone out of style; he thought that being absolutely demanding in class was the best possible way to sharpen the minds of students and teach them how to “think like a lawyer.” He saw it as something like Marine Corps boot camp: very tough, but very tough for a very good reason. He thought it unfortunate that the modern approach was “kinder and gentler,” as he feared that rigor had been sacrificed along the way.

The students demanding exam delays probably would have fallen apart at “Ups yours, Buster!!!” Or filed a complaint.

And they would have missed out.

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Comments

So my take away from this students writing is that instead of concentrating on their studies they have been doing everything but what they are supposed to be doing. They are more interested in being “social engineers” than lawyers.

Life and Nature work off of logical consequences, something that a law student should already be familiar with by the time they get to law school. If you stick your hand in a fire you get burned, if you chose to do something other than concentrate on your studies then your bomb your tests. Simple logical consequences.

What this spoiled little entitlement brat is wanting is protection from those logical consequences. Well if you want to escape negative logical consequences then the best way to do that is by employing personal responsibility. If you chose to do something other than concentrate on your studies then that is your choice and no one but you can take responsibility for that.

So yes basically you do need to grow up.

    DINORightMarie in reply to Gremlin1974. | December 15, 2014 at 7:57 pm

    Great response!!

    I say, “Quit, then!” It would be great for some of us who want to fight, who want to study, could get into these slots.

    And, I would relish Prof. Byse’s Socratic method. That would be hard, yet rewarding beyond measure.

    Today’s weaklings may have boffo SAT scores, but they have no chests.

    Not A Member of Any Organized Political in reply to Gremlin1974. | December 15, 2014 at 8:17 pm

    TOUCHE!

    You hit the nail right on the head Gremlin!

    RE: “instead of concentrating on their studies they have been doing everything but what they are supposed to be doing. They are more interested in being “social engineers” than lawyers….”

Emotional weakness is an issue, but it is not the problem. The problem is a lack of critical awareness, that is perpetuated by a weak and degenerate popular culture.

In Ferguson, a murdered was committed, presumably justified by self-defense. In Garner’s case, it was not murder, justified or otherwise. It was an accidental death triggered by a restraining force but caused by the Garner’s physical condition and unwarranted resistance.

    Bruce Hayden in reply to n.n. | December 15, 2014 at 7:49 pm

    No – a murder was not, apparently, committed in Ferguson. Homicide yes. Murder no. It wasn’t a murder because the homicide was legally justified (most likely as self-defense, but could possibly have been pursuant to a LEO’s arrest powers). Even if the homicide had not been legally justified, it might still not have been murder, but rather some form of manslaughter, likely depending on Wilson’s state of mind at the time.

    Walker Evans in reply to n.n. | December 15, 2014 at 11:08 pm

    Having read some of the Grand Jury report – it takes a while to wade through that much verbiage – it is already clear that no murder was committed in Ferguson. A young man was killed during the commission of multiple felonies, yes, but it was clearly not murder. If you still doubt this, read the report.

    What is truly disturbing about little Billy Desmond’s article is that he and presumably all of the other law students involved here are less able to understand the clear legal principles involved in the Grand Jury decision than the average intelligent person with no formal legal training. They apparently spent many weeks getting their skivvies in knots, paying no attention at all the the accumulating evidence, and are now too physically and emotionally drained to face their exams? And Billy is trying to turn this sniveling silliness into a show of strength? Pathetic.

IMO these spoiled little brats need to crawl under their desks, cover their heads and stay there until a unicorn arrives to save them from the horrors of reality!

Geez. What are these precious snowflakes going to do when they lose a case?

    cazinger in reply to Hockey Bum. | December 15, 2014 at 7:23 pm

    More importantly, what are they going to do when they have a client who has some important deadlines pending and something like this makes news again? The lawyer’s duty to their client cannot be put on hold simply because the lawyer finds the news of the day personally upsetting.

Here’s the crux of the issue; they made a choice.

AFTER they made their choice (choices, actually) they wanted their law school to ameliorate the consequences as a special pleading.

“Hey, we were doing the work of our Collectivist gawd. We were taking care of bidness that none of you idiots were sharp or decent enough to deal with all these years. So you have to pat our heads, and make us feel real good while cutting us all kinds of slack. We are hipsters…hear us roar! Or we’ll whimper…”

What a total crock of sh*t. Desmond is breathtakingly foolish. As a product of our system of so-called ‘higher education’, his little hissy fit is very telling. And scary, frankly.

“He saw it as something like Marine Corps boot camp: very tough, but very tough for a very good reason.”

Yeeeeupo. That’s exactly what I told several of my very young (compared to me) section mates in my first year as they kvetched over what they considered a tough professor.

I explained that, like a good drill instructor, the professor was teaching them on about five different levels at the same time. I also told them that he was the nicest Federal judge they would ever meet (since by that time I’d had a little time in court).

He actually reduced on young “man” to tears, while actually being very gentle, I thought.

This same “meanie” gave us…purely out of the goodness of his own nature…a practice law school exam, which he did the work of grading, just so we’d all be more at rest about how one looked.

I took that same professor every chance I got thereafter, mostly because he knew his subjects and LIKED teaching, which many professors in college and law schools really DO NOT LIKE.

But a lot of students hated him, and made no bones about it.

I really didn’t examine the facts or evidence behind any of these issues because that was not what this was about. I spent my class time and study time at rallies for social justice in the hopes of getting laid and scoring some totally awesome weed.

Now I see that finals are near. I am so screwed. My parents spent a fortune getting me through the University and into law school. I took out student loans that are going to take years to pay off. There is no way I am going to be able to pass any kind of exam.

What to do……

our nation is starving for a genuine discussion about mental health

Pure shameless opportunism.

Yeah, they’re sick in a way, but theirs is not a health condition.

It’s the putrid content of their characters…

William Desmond, must really suck to be you.

“many law students have experienced moments of total despair, minutes of inconsolable tears”
“I have seen the psychological trauma brought on by disillusionment with our justice system send some law students into a period of depression….”
“our nation is starving for a genuine discussion about mental health….”

You’re a pussy and always will be.

Not A Member of Any Organized Political | December 15, 2014 at 8:16 pm

RE: “Delaying Exams Is Not a Request from ‘Coddled Millennials’…..

But it is, it is!

You sure are Blanche!!!!!!!

Comments on his article are pretty good, he’s getting reamed.

Ma Help, I want meatloaf NOW

Dec 15, 2014

If you don‘t get your extension…time to get Mommy involved.
————–

Mr. Lawyer

Dec 15, 2014

Stick to real estate closings….you can‘t handle the truth!!!
—————–

Figures

Dec 15, 2014

The “everybody gets a trophy” generation goes to law school.
—————-

Ah. Now we know: they ditched school.

…the strength to know when our cups of endurance have run over…

Cups of endurance.

Is that a legal term?

These young law students are held to be amongst America’s best and brightest, leaders of their generation?

Yeah. Enjoy your careers as fry cooks in North Korea and janitors in Iran, kids. The world just loves wussies.

A very educational piece. Ivy league law students attempt to push back against the well-founded observation that they are spoiled brats, and demonstrate they’re not only spoiled but psychological basket cases.

It explains a lot. Their main objection, then, to these recent grand jury decisions was that there was too much attention paid to the facts and the law, and not enough to their fragile emotional states. They’ve damaged themselves by sitting around in their dorm rooms telling each other ghost stories. That would explain why these race-obsessed psychotics think that this nation is “overdue” for the one thing we have ad nauseam; a “national conversation” about race. It’s just that the results never cure their delusions. So now they want to reform the legal system until it’s entirely divorced from any pursuit of justice but instead becomes a form of therapy.

It’s insane. But then William Desmond is offering the insanity defense against the charge that he’s trying to get out of exams because he’s merely coddled.

I think it’s high time the value of a Harvard degree, indeed any elite university degree, was thoroughly debased. And William Desmond is just the guy for the job, apparently. How did this guy get into Harvard? How did he remain in Harvard? The only answer is garbage in, garbage out. Apparently Harvard is beyond embarrassment. This is the product of two plus years of a Harvard legal education? The guy can’t write or think. Hopefully this will put a stake in the heart of the notion that a “top tier” degree signifies any meaningful achievement.

    igrmng777 in reply to Arminius. | December 16, 2014 at 10:40 am

    Great writing, yours, I mean. What I see that so called ivy league became communist boot camps. Complete denial of law, denial of analisys, denial of any opinion that contrad icts ultra left ideology. What kind of lawyers they I’ll be? Lawyer without comprehension of at least two opinions is an activist or community organizer. 🙂

JimMtnViewCaUSA | December 15, 2014 at 10:26 pm

“our nation is starving for a genuine discussion about mental health.”

No, we’re not. And we’re pretty aware of your lack thereof.

As they run around proving to each other their bona fides to the cause, one may wonder how much they actually care about anything besides themselves.

Most lawyers don’t have the luxury of representing a single client. That means they must prioritize their time so that they give due attention to multiple clients simultaneously, with priority given to the most urgent matters.

If you have a trial this week you don’t waste your time focusing on matters that won’t be due for several weeks or clients you don’t even have.

Part of legal training is the ability to study multiple subjects and maintain focus where it is most needed at any given moment. That’s why law students don’t take a single subject each semester.

I took a full course load in law school while working full time and occasionally squeezing in family and social life. But then I didn’t go to a fancy Ivy League school.

    Ragspierre in reply to myiq2xu. | December 15, 2014 at 10:54 pm

    You’n me, both, pard. We were both violating ABA rules, you know…

    Students in full-time plans are not supposed to work over a given (part-time) number of hours.

    The accreditation police never caught me…

pettifogger0712 | December 15, 2014 at 11:15 pm

Are these guys for real? I graduated UCT LLB Class of 1996 and if anyone had had the temerity to aski the Dean to postpone final exams due to [insert the then-“in” trendy cause] he would have given them very short shrift and kicked then out of his office! How on earth will they react when they lose a case or an application or notice of motion doesn’t go their way? Having a reputation of folding in the face of even the slightest bit of adversity is guaranteed to scuttle your legal career in next to no time (!)

So his transcripts will include an asterisk, showing this guy received special handling for his fragile condition? Will he qualify as a minority hire, and firms will be required to hire a certain percentage of “special cupcakes”?

And his diploma will have a longer title to impress clients.
“Social Justice Warrior / juris doctor”

Kids in their 20’s are prone to delusions/manipulations of being specially called to a higher purpose, that may be driven by ego more than patriotism. The young Marxist Minstrels of the 60’s made good music, bombed some buildings, spit on some soldiers … and now run our educational system.

The root of Desmond’s mental health concerns perhaps lies in the abandonment of our social structures … religion, family, education in our civil construct, blessings of liberty, etc. Strength comes by exercised discipline, not escapist visions of grandeur, like this guy seems to be experiencing.

…We have been synthesizing decades of police interactions, dissecting problems centuries old, and exposing the hypocrisy of silence.

…courage to look our peers in the eyes and uncomfortably ask them to bear these burdens of racism and classism that we have together inherited from generations past.

…we are told : You are the future of the law. Well, the future is now.

No, now is your time to study, then be an apprentice. The future is after you pass your elders’ exams and get 20 years experience, without selling out to the dark side.

This has already been mentioned, but it bears repeating, these “kids” should have known better! Good for HLS. Perhaps there will be some kind of comparison course introduced based on the recent events: Micheal Brown, Eric Garner, and Tamir Rice.

Deja-vu all over again?

Cornel ’69 – The Willard Straight takeover:

“The Review, the Review is on fire. We don’t need no water… Let the motherf_er burn!” a black student rapped as he torched stolen copies of the conservative Cornell Review in a garbage can.”…

“The militants who looted and burned the Cornell Review in 1997 drew from their predecessors in ’69 both revolutionary inspiration and an expectation that the university would do nothing to curb their actions.”
“…”
“In scrambling to resolve the crisis, the Cornell administration agreed to pardon all the black students involved. The faculty that had originally voted that their gross violations of law and order must be punished soon reversed itself, cowed by death threats and pressure from left-wing professors and liberal students. At the end of the crisis, president Perkins would resign, and prominent scholars like Walter Berns, Allan Bloom, Allan Sindler, and Thomas Sowell would depart Cornell in disgust.”
http://yingma.org/1999/11/01/cornell-69-liberalism-and-the-crisis-of-the-american-university/

Social justice is replacing real justice. These pansies exemplify it.

Couldn’t they protest AFTER their exams? Come to think of it, that picture didn’t show a lot of “persons of color” (that being somehow different from “colored persons”) lying on the ground.

    Gremlin1974 in reply to Dimsdale. | December 16, 2014 at 5:11 pm

    The thing that I find most interesting is that they are protesting the fact that the system, one they are supposedly learning about, worked as it should have.

I’m left wondering what kind of law they imagine they will practice and what kind of lawyers they imagine they will be. Everyone can’t be an internal human rights law advocate, you know. Unless of course the entire graduating class has a fast path to the next Democratic regime where they can sit in think tanks and NGOs and pass through the revolving door to midlevel executive branch staff jobs. Or MSNBC. Which maybe they do.

ReallyVeryObnoxious | December 16, 2014 at 9:53 am

Any school or professor that surrenders to student tantrums about difficultly ought to lose accreditation.

Of course, I’m of the opinion that over production of lawyers negatively impacts society. I suspect such is the case now, and I’m extremely skeptical of elite Law Schools.

Purported discussion of mental illness is dishonest.

Genuine discussion on mental illness. If an elite law education is anything special, the people taking it either do not have serious mental illness, or they’ve manned up and gotten their problems enough under control to function.

Desmond is either lying, or apparently largely ignorant of both human evil and mental illness. If someone is so ignorant of human tragedies, by the third year of law school no less, that recent events are able to prompt a traumatic realization, they are perhaps so innocent that they could only ever cause harm by practicing law.

We really could use a frank national discussion on mental illness. If for nothing other than beating certain people about the head and shoulders with the fact that recreational drug use does not improve mental health.

“…and of starting conversations long overdue. We have been synthesizing decades of police interactions, dissecting problems centuries old, and exposing the hypocrisy of silence.”

Sounds like the typical Friday night BS-sessions we had 40+ years ago when I was a student. Beer was generally involved.

The threads and traces of postmodernism infecting academia undoes objective reality and tells its adherents that reality is that whatever we perceive and believe it to be, that each of us has our own reality. They take solace in believing science supports this idea, co-opting quantum physics where, on the quantum level, the mere act of observation changes the reality. (They skip over the part about how such quantum effects occur only at the quantum level).

This admixture of tired old philosophies intertwined with pseudoscientific support, all of it tainted by all the illogical biases of self, and the belief that social ends justify radical means, leads to a set of people who are fast losing touch with reality itself. They have mentally cocooned themselves within a fabulist reality made of progressive political idealism.

Ask Darwin what happens to species of primates without spines. Pajama Boy is no longer human. He is a jellyfish.

    Ragspierre in reply to Henry Hawkins. | December 16, 2014 at 11:52 am

    Goo-ness. THAT got deep.

    I agree. I’m pretty sure…

      Henry Hawkins in reply to Ragspierre. | December 16, 2014 at 12:37 pm

      Their organizing philosophy for understanding the world they live in is that there is no organizing philosophy, that is, each person has their own. Truth is relative; everything and nothing is true – simultaneously. That is unhinging.

      They pick and choose from among scientific findings, acquiring only those which support an already held position and ignoring those which contradict the pre-held position. Not understanding science, they pick wrong. Confirmation bias is primary among other logical fallacies. That is unhinging.

      So now you have an intellectually unhinged political bloc to which is added their moral relativity, specifically that the ends justify the means and their desired ends are considered faultless and sancrosanct because they are, well, theirs. Assured of constant issue righteousness, achieving such glorious ends as theirs’ justifies any offense committed seeking them. That is unhinging.

      Sorry. I quit heroin cold turkey today and I’m on my 27th cup of coffee.

        Ragspierre in reply to Henry Hawkins. | December 16, 2014 at 1:20 pm

        I feel you, bro.

        Somebody or other observed that the hallmark of the Twentieth Century was the resurgence of irrationality.

        And if he didn’t I just did…

          Henry Hawkins in reply to Ragspierre. | December 16, 2014 at 2:30 pm

          Such irrationality always rises in a free society in direct proportion to its negative consequences. If one sticks to liberal turf, there are few negative consequences, so it grows.

          41 cups. My hands are a blur.

          Henry Hawkins in reply to Ragspierre. | December 16, 2014 at 2:32 pm

          Intended to say irrationality rises in direct *inverse* proportion to negs.

These precious snowflakes are going to be surprised when they find out that the real world doesn’t give a flying frack about their emotional distress. What a bunch of weenies.

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