Bricks on the Brain

UM Law

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Pomp for the Points = Spreading the Wealth?

With just about all of the Fall now grades in, many 1Ls are likely wondering what special accolades are in store for those who did exceptionally well. Dinners with the Deans? Special reserved parking? Gold plated gavels?

The answer, in a nutshell: If you did well, don't expect much. If you didn't, there's nothing to be jealous about........yet.

Here are the lengths that the UM adminstration goes to when congratulating its outstanding scholars, based on informal survey:

* Dean's List - Not sure where GPA cutoff is. Your prize will be a certificate in the mail, hot off the laser printer, with Dean's signature stamped. That's right, stamped. Last time I saw him, his hand worked fine.

* 4.0 - Yes, it has been done. Nothing more than Dean's List. Certificate is still stamped.

* Book a Class - Certificate in the mail, hot off the laser printer. Again, stamped signature.

Consensus on the certificates: cheap, tacky, not suitable for framing.

However, if you continue to do well then over the summer you might be given more certificates, only this time the stamped signature will be that of the Secretary of the US Treasury. The Dean's Merit Scholarship money flows generously in an effort to both reward those students who did well, and keep them from transferring out. I imagine that these funds are finite.

So the question raised is this: could the Deans get more bang for the buck if they made more signifcant non-monetary gestures to students who excel? The idea is that if you've sufficiently pumped up the egos of top students, you need not offer them as much scholarship (bribe) money to congratulate them and keep them from transferring. You could thus either spend less, or give scholarships to a greater number of students.

My answer to the question is YES. Having certificates professionally printed is not very expensive. Signing them personally is free (note I don't put much opportunity cost on the Dean's time...). Would a cheap dinner in the lounge be too much to ask? A week of reserved parking? Football or basketball tickets? A personal meeting in the Dean's office for a pat on the back and a handshake?

Isn't this basic negotiation and settlement strategy? Give a little, take a little?

Saturday, January 08, 2005

UM Law Complaint Blog Found - "Anonymous" Unwelcome

A fellow student brought this blog: to my attention. So far there are only two comments. My suggestion is that posters use a consistent alias, and not use blogspot's "Anonymous". Otherwise, the blog will be useless.

I have become highly skeptical of UM's anonymous student reviews and opinions of professors. The library maintains records of all the student reviews for each professors, and some students actually peruse these before scheduling their classes. The sources of my skepticism can perhaps be overcome by the blog, but only if students give more information than they currently do under the UM system of student reviews.

One problem the blog might overcome is reviews that do not identify other professors that the student liked or disliked. Obviously the reviews must be anonymous, but it is useful to know if the reviewer and the reader agree or disagree about other professors. If the reviewer and I agree on five other professors, I will be more likely to give weight to her opinion on the sixth. If however she hates every professor I liked, then her opinions aren't going to be valuable to me. If posters to the blog use consistent aliases, or include a line naming other professors they liked/disliked, this problem can be overcome.

The other major flaw with UM's student reviews is that they are filled out before the students have received their exam grades in the class, or even taken the final. Student opinions have the potential for a complete 180 once grades are released, so the reviews tell only half the story. Reviews on the blog need not suffer this deficiency, and posters might even reveal their grade in the class and overall GPA so as to allow readers to get a better feel for the reviewer.

Theoretically the UM administration could create a short list of suspects by simply cross referencing the comments an alias has made against the historical records of student schedules, but I doubt they would do this, even for the most profane and defamatory reviews.

In any case, I'll probably just rely on the review method that has served me well thus far: word of mouth.