Bricks on the Brain

UM Law

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Outlines/Honor Code Pt. 2

Today I spent a few minutes with the Honor Code, and concluded that it is probably not a violation for most student organizations (as proxy for their members) to maintain exclusive outline banks.

The Code does not speak to the practice, neither directly nor indirectly. However, there is one section that I find applies to a broader policy discussion on the practice:

Section 1.01 Purposes and Objectives
b. Protecting each student's right to study in an environment free from unfair and dishonest competion;
If a student organization maintains an outline bank exclusive to its members, does this create an unfair environment for non-member students? Probably not, because most student organizations allow anyone to join at any time.

But Law Reviews might be on shaky ground. The law school administration takes an active role in fostering these elite groups, and membership is limited by both academic achievement and limited windows of time. Thus, it would seem that a non-member student has a good argument that his lack of access to a Law Review outline bank is unfair:

1. He may not be allowed to join, and
2. The law school has effectively segregated the best students (grade-wise), and these superior students are, by act of a sanctioned student organization, denying other students access to their "superior" shared information/work-product. In effect, the "rich are getting richer." (As an aside, when I told two collegues that the Law Review maintained an exclusive outline bank, both non-members immediately voiced the "rich get richer" complaint)

The law review would counter that every 1L had a fair chance to join by performing well in their classes (but what about 2L transfer students?).

But taking a step back, and considering what the Code is really all about, its tough to conclude that the Law Review or its members are committing a violation. If they are, it is de minimis. If I were on the Honor Council I would not find that a violation had occurred.

That said, it doesn't change my opinion that the practice of student organizations maintaining exclusive outline banks is a negative for UM Law. Student organizations should be stewards of banks, but in a collegial spirit for the entire student body, not their exclusive memberships. I find my views amplified by a fact mentioned in my previous post, i.e. that most organizations are organized around religious, racial, political, and even sexually-oriented premises. Clanish behavior is not a good thing on a law school campus.

My views do not extend to individuals controlling their own outlines outside the context of student organizations. Personally, I have always shared my resources with everyone. But if you have an outline you only want to share with a select few, then that's your own choice subject to your own moral/ethical guidelines. My views and these posts are centered on the practice as it relates to student organizations sanctioned by the administration/SBA.

I would vote in favor of an amendment to the rules governing student organizations disallowing the practice of maintaining exclusive outline banks.


  • At 6:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hmmm. Isn't the exclusivity of the list a necessary feature to avoid having freeriders using the outlines? Don't those who produce the outlines have the right to restrict access to their work? Do you deny all property right restrictions to intellectual work?


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