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.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

We received a really long e-mail a few days ago from the Dean of Students Office regarding a "Dean of Students Office Reorganization." I have the inclination to parody this e-mail, but I didn't think it would make any sense to non-Harvard readers unless you have some sense of what the actual e-mail says. So, I will quote parts of the e-mail, and then ramble on about them, hoping to induce laughter. And hoping I can do this nicely enough that I'll feel nice about using this as the subject for my first law school newspaper column of the year, but I'm not sure about that yet. I mean no offense with this post, because I think it's nice that they tell us what's going on, and I've heard only good things about the Dean of Students, but the e-mail was interesting, and maybe a little, well, long. Anyway:

Member of the Classes of 2005 and 2006 and SJD students:

As you prepare to return to the Law School, I wanted to let you know about a reorganization that has been taking place in our office this summer. ... After considering the evolving needs in the Dean of Students Office, I decided to close the Office of Student Life Counseling. This was an extremely difficult decision because it involved four dedicated staff members who worked hard to provide service to our students over the years.

I went to the Office of Student Life Counseling once, during 1L year. I don't know if I ever wrote about it. What happened was that it was the beginning of the 1L job search process, and people were starting to look for stuff. I didn't really know what I wanted to do, but my thought was that I was pretty sure I'd work at a firm after 2L year, so I wanted to do something else after 1L year, just so I'd get to experience two different and distinct worlds. So I went to the Office of Career Services and asked them if there was a directory of law students who were doing non-law stuff. And they looked at me like I was nuts. They thought at first that I meant public interest stuff, so they sent me to the Office of Public Interest Advising. They were very nice there, but I was thinking stuff more like lawyers working in TV, or writing books, or working in journalism, or stuff like that. So not really public interest, just non-law stuff that the law degree may be helping with but wouldn't necessarily be a pre-requisite for. And they didn't really have a list or anything like that. But they said I should visit the Office of Student Life Counseling. "But I'm not sad," I said. "I just don't know if I want to practice law this summer." "Yes," the Career Services woman said, or at least implied, because this is what sticks in my mind even though I'm sure she didn't use these words, "but probably most of the people who end up not practicing law are pretty sad at law school, so they probably went to the Office of Student Life Counseling, and so they would know some of the names of these people and what they're doing now, and could probably help you." So, a little bit confused about the reasoning here, I made an appointment with one of the counselors and went to his office. He was very nice, but seemed convinced that if I didn't want to work at a law firm 1L summer, it must mean I'm sad, or at least unhappy at law school. But I told him I liked law school. And he asked if I really felt engaged in law school. And I sort of fumbled through an answer about how I like law school, and I find it enjoyable, but I don't necessarily feel like this is my life's work I'm training for, or that I need to live and die with every right and wrong answer I give in class or on an exam. And he took that to mean I'm "observing" law school without really being a part of it. Which I don't really know if I buy, but I can see why if you need to do more than just be a student to really "be a student," then maybe it can explain why so many people at law school act insane. Anyway, he had a few names of people for me to contact, but mostly seemed confused about how I could not know if I want to be a lawyer and also not be miserable. But even though I never went back for further psychological exploration, I still felt good knowing there was an office for this -- better equipped to help people sort through law school issues than Career Services, but not really like going for "mental help," because that would make you feel like you were a little crazy. It seemed like a really cool service to have, that people would be more likely to use than University Health Services, but that would actually, potentially, theoretically help people. Since they were psychologists and not career counselors. Nothing against career counselors, but, well, I haven't found them too thrilling. Nevertheless:

The work of the office is being absorbed by the mental health staff at University Health Services (which will have additional mental health staffing at the Law School) as well as the Law School's Office of Career Services, Office of Public Interest Advising, and Dean of Students Office.

Oh well. So much for that.

... I am creating two senior positions in the office: Assistant Director for Student Services and Assistant Director for Student Activities. These two staff members will be responsible for a broad range of services and also will work with me to counsel students or to refer students to UHS [University Health Services] or other offices as needed.

"I will also be creating a third senior position: Assistant Director for the creation of assistant directorships. This person will be responsible for a broad range of services. If you need help with any of them, please let her know and she will be happy to either work with you on such a service or direct you an assistant director who deals more closely with the broad range within which your service falls and not the broad range that she has particular expertise in. She may also refer you to some other place entirely, perhaps even with directions as far as how to get there. Maybe."

[ ] is returning to our office in the role of Assistant Director for Student Services. [She] started in this office in 1992 and has worked in the Dean of Students Office as an Administrative Coordinator. She went west for a while, saw the light, and came back to us.

This was the part of the e-mail where I said to myself, "Oh, wow, they're going to tell me the background of everyone in the office, aren't they. Wow."

... We are in the middle of the search for the Assistant Director of Student Activities. We have a number of terrific candidates but I want to include students in the interview process.

As candidates, or as interviewers?? Because if students are going to be candidates, the Dean of Students has about 800 law firms to compete with for their attention, and should probably get on that interview schedule so students can bid for the position.

... [Someone else] will be a good starting point for many of your questions.

About a broad range of issues, right? :)

... [Someone else] is often dragged into projects in our office that fall well outside her job description.

Obviously that was meant to be a compliment, and it really is a compliment -- but I'm not sure it inspires faith to know that people are working on stuff well outside what they're trained to be doing.

[Someone else] continues in her role as the Administrator for the Board of Student Advisors. [She] has been at the Law School for 19 years and has previously worked in Admissions, Career Services, the Registrar's Office, and Financial Aid.

"She enjoys long walks on the beach, beautiful sunsets, and the television program 'Yes, Dear.' Prior to coming to the law school, she attended a Montessori Preschool in Spokane, Washington where she excelled in fingerpainting, blocks, and pre-reading, but struggled with sharing and nap time. Her favorite ice cream flavor is Black Raspberry."

[Someone else] continues as a part time receptionist in our office but is now located, with [that person just mentioned] in [some other building] to ensure coverage for [some organization].

Too much information perhaps.

In speaking with many of you, I was struck by the uncertainty many of you had about where to go to get a question answered or a problem solved. [Someone] and a soon-to-be-hired staff member in the front office will be first in line to assist you with anything you need...

"Yes, hi. I need some assistance. Can I speak to the soon-to-be-hired staff member? Sure, I'll hold." :)

...from a complicated issue (e.g. your student health insurance denies a claim) to a simple one (e.g. your locker is jammed)

"to a bizarre and upsetting one (e.g. you just found a finger in the cafeteria food; your dog has developed an unhealthy attraction to your roommate; you contracted chlamydia from an Assistant Director in the Dean of Students office; you like Civil Procedure a little too much)"

We'll make the call for you or get you the information if you prefer to handle it yourself. The model is a combination concierge service...

Will you do my laundry too??

...reference desk and triage station. The goal is to minimize the difficulties of navigating a large institution while maximizing the benefits of being at a University with such amazing resources.

Okay, I feel bad making fun of this e-mail, because this seems like a pretty student-friendly initiative. They want to help us. Intentions are great. I'm skeptical I will notice a difference between whatever we had before and whatever we'll have now -- because, honestly, how many issues does an individual student really ever have that involves the Dean of Students Office? Maybe a question about starting a student organization, but, really, I don't know that I've had a single occasion in 2 years of school where I really needed help in something student-administrative-related (across a broad range of issues, I mean) to the point where I would have gone to the Dean of Students Office for help. Maybe there's stuff they could do for me and I just don't realize it... but for class stuff there's the Registrar, for medical stuff there's Health Services, for housing stuff there's Housing... so what's left? That's not rhetorical. I just don't know that I know what they can do for me, and that may be a bigger obstacle to me using them for stuff than their old system not being as good as this new "triage" system.

I apologize for the length of this email. A consolidated email seemed preferable to a series of emails throughout the summer.

Well, I guess that's true.

"But before I end this e-mail, let me introduce you to the guy who restocks the vending machines... due to popular demand, we will be replacing the Heath Bar with another row of Snickers... unfortunately this means that someone at the Heath Bar plant will have to be let go after 23 years of service... His name is Joe McKenzie, and before he worked at Heath, he delivered milk for the Southeastern Bottling Company, in addition to his many charitable efforts in the community, and his willingness to be brought in on many specific, but unrelated, projects that I will not describe, but surely his experience with these could be of service to you... feel free to contact him through our office by notifying one of the three people that haven't been hired yet."

"If you have any questions, please contact our soon-to-be-hired Assistant Director of Answering Questions. I look forward to sending you many, many more e-mails on a very regular basis."