Jeremy's Weblog

I recently graduated from Harvard Law School. This is my weblog. It tries to be funny. E-mail me if you like it. For an index of what's lurking in the archives, sorted by category, click here.

Tuesday, March 25, 2003

A quick riff on the "public interest auction" that Harvard's got -- every year, they have a big auction, and the proceeds go towards giving students summer funding if we take summer jobs that don't pay anything, or don't pay much. I think it's like $3600 for the summer, so it's really quite a generous stipend -- although considering it's really just a small rebate on tuition more than it is actual free money, it's not really that generous. Plus the thought that they need the money from an auction to afford to give people this summer funding when they have an endowment as big as the war cost is a little silly. But anyway. They solicit donations from firms, businesses, alumni, faculty and students for the auction -- and get a few hundred items, actually. My volunteer task -- everyone who wants funding needs to "volunteer" to work 6 hours for one of the auction committees -- has been to copyedit some of the item descriptions, so I've had a chance to read them all. A couple of faculty members are auctioning off dinner at their houses -- but I imagine it would feel awfully weird to win, and then go have dinner with the professor, and know that you're only there because you bid the most money. I wouldn't want to force a faculty member (or anyone, really) to have dinner with me just because I bid for it. It just sounds disturbing to me -- spending money for access to people, even if the money goes to a good place. One professor is auctioning having him go up to your parents at graduation and tell them you were the best student he's ever had. That feels a little wrong to me. Even though I guess it's all in fun, sort of. But it's only a small step from that to auctioning off good grades. "We'll start the bidding at $1000 for an A-minus...." And obviously that's not going to happen... but still, once we get on the slope... it bothers me a little. Lots of students donated food -- baked goods, lasagna, etc. Everyone's descriptions made these things sound probably much better than they really are: "world's best meat loaf," "the law school's tastiest brownies," "the best strawberry shortcake you'll ever taste." I guess they're relying on the fact that in contracts class we learned that people can't be held liable for statements made that are obviously opinion and no one would take to be fact. I wonder how much these things end up selling for -- on the one hand, it would be insulting to donate a cake and have it sell for a quarter... but is it really worth very much money to have someone's homemade lasagna... maybe a dollar? What do you do with a whole cake, or a whole meat loaf anyway... it'll go bad before it's finished... and if you start giving pieces away then what's the point of having spent the money. I guess it's the good cause stuff again.... Some people donated babysitting time -- one person wrote "World's best babysitter. Kids love me!" That's not very modest. At least it's not "I love kids! Literally!" That was Michael Jackson's donation. Bid for him to love your kids. Gross, I know. Sorry. Lots of people donated rides to the airport. "Ride in a stylish 1984 Honda Civic. It's even got an AM radio! And you can pick the station!" Alumni donated books they'd written -- Senator Jeffords donated autographed copies. "To Bob. You spent way more than cover price for this book. Stupid. Best wishes, Jim Jeffords." Restaurants donated gift certificates. Law firms donated trips. BarBri donated discount coupons for its courses -- which is kind of self-serving.

Actually, that reminds me of something else. Yesterday, someone was telling me that most of the bar review courses are actually done on videotape. You take the course the summer after you graduate, before you take the bar, and it meets every day for 6 weeks, for 4 hours a day. And costs like $2500 (although if you're working for a firm, usually they pay). And apparently there's no teacher -- they just set up a TV in the room and you watch a video lecture and take notes. I'm not kidding. Hearing this -- and I'm just going on one person telling me, I haven't verified it anywhere -- boggles my mind. $2500 for a videotape series? And being forced to "go to class" to watch a video? Some of them are 8am-1pm every day -- why would I wake up early in the morning and trudge to a classroom for 5 hours to watch a video? For $2500???? If this is how it's done, there had better be a book instead. Books are faster than hearing a lecture, and easier to deal with than a videotape. Plus, you can study it when you want. And it wouldn't cost $2500! And if there isn't a quality book alternative to the videotape series, I think I ought to write one, charge $500 -- it's an 80% savings, not even including any value you might put on your time -- and make my fortune that way. Surely there's got to be a market for it. I can't fathom that people really stand for paying $2500 to take 6 weeks of a class-on-tape. I still can't believe my friend wasn't kidding when he told me about this.