Law School Offers Pass/Fail But Only If You Tell Them A Good Enough Story About How COVID Hurt You


‘While I grant that it was only my uncle who died and precedent at this standard of review requires a ‘parent or grandparent,’ I believe a balance of the equities requires…’

With classes disrupted by the novel coronavirus outbreak and professors achieving varying levels of success with online teaching, most schools not named “Chicago” have decided to write off this semester and just offer a pass/fail solution. It’s elicited some grumbling that more or less boils down to “in my day, we didn’t let the Clinton impeachment trial impact our grades, why should a global pandemic!” Not to relitigate this issue, but employers are just going to have to use more than one semester of Contracts to make career-altering decisions. They should be widening their pool of interviewees anyway — White & Case was already on top of this.

Arizona State has put out its own solution to the pass/fail conundrum, offering post-grading applications to convert grades to pass/fail and it’s a doozy:

Now, some people are complaining about this policy as a half-assed, worst-of-all-possible-worlds solution. But those people lack vision. Don’t you see what ASU has done here? They’ve converted the law school grading process itself into an exam!

The process begins with a legal writing and advocacy exercise. Apply the rules to the facts and draft a compelling brief — that’s practice-ready education right there. It’s not clear from the policy if this will just be motion practice or if there’s an oral advocacy component, but hopefully the school has a plan to subject petitioners to a hot bench armed with incisive, Dating Game-style questions like, “If I were a student and you were a deadly global pandemic, what would you do to me?”

There are standards of review! The policy itself is a statutory interpretation issue-spotter. Imagine the student who suffered only a minor downgrade from her cumulative GPA, but who had three straight semesters of higher and higher grades making this semester a significant drop from the trend line. They can still make their case applying the heightened scrutiny. Go ahead and cite the legislative intent of protecting academic progress. If you’ve got a FedSoc dean reviewing your application, be sure to put in something about how they didn’t even have grades when the Framers became lawyers!

The school is asking students to potentially divulge their medical history to get an accommodation. There’s no way that’s problematic! Welcome to the privacy law issue-spotter. Medical history, family trauma, impact on lingering mental health issues… definitely stuff the school wants to wade into.

Kudos to ASU. While a blanket Pass/Fail policy would avoid all complaints about the disrupted learning process — because no future employer will ever look at a transcript and go, “Yo, what happened in the Spring of 2020?” — ASU decided to go a different direction.

When life gives you lemons, ASU makes performative lessons about why people hate lawyers.

Earlier: Top Law School Sparks Controversy For Maintaining Grading Curve During COVID-19
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