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.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

The Harvard Law School Catalog is vague about a lot of things ("By accepting membership in the University, an individual joins a community ideally characterized by free expression, free inquiry, intellectual honesty, respect for the dignity of others, and openness to constructive change," "Harvard University promotes the health and well being of its students and employees through its Health Services and other agencies," and "Students should strive to take a range of courses in order to create a balanced program," just as examples), but about at least one it is very specific:

"Third-year students must register for the Written Work Requirement by October 15, 2004. Fines for late registration are $25 (October 18 to November 24), $50 (December 1 through February 4, 2005), and $100 after February 4, 2005."

This is awfully straightforward. I mean, people could argue about whether these fines are because it costs the Registrar more to process written work registrations after a certain date (perhaps their resources are taxed figuring out new algorithms for course selection, making the add/drop procedure less computerized, or interviewing proctors for the rigorous hiring process that I'm sure makes OCI seem like a piece of cake), or whether they're simply punitive. Or people could argue about whether the fines ought to be assessed at the time the written work form is turned in, or whether it makes more sense to just add it to the next term bill. But the words are unambiguous. Yet, a careful investigation (i.e., I heard this from a friend) has revealed that the fines are never actually assessed. This seems unfair to those of us who bothered to get our forms in on time. Why threaten a fine -- especially a fine that's fairly minimal anyway -- if it's never going to charged? Why compromise the integrity of the course catalog, if everyone knows it's all just a sham?

If I can't trust that a fine that's clearly explained will actually be charged, how can I trust anything the catalog says? How can I trust that "Whoever is a principal organizer or participant in the crime of hazing, as defined herein, shall be punished by a fine of not more than three thousand dollars or by imprisonment in a house of correction for not more than one year, or both such fine and imprisonment"? How can I trust that "Harvard Affiliated Housing portfolio offers approximately 2,500 apartments within a one-mile radius of Harvard Yard, and these units vary in style from townhouse apartments to apartments in high-rise buildings"? How can I trust that "The Appellate Courts and Advocacy course combines a substantive review of key appellate litigation doctrines concerning appellate jurisdiction, standards of review, and other topics, with an intensive advocacy component, ranging from motion and brief writing to oral argument"? My world has been turned upside-down.

Why have meaningless deadlines at all? I understand some deadlines, like the add-drop deadline. Without it, I'd take 30 classes, wait until I got my grades, and then drop all the courses I didn't get As in. This makes sense. I understand the financial aid form deadline, because otherwise Harvard will run out of money in its $16 billion endowment. I understand why the cafeteria closes for lunch at 2:00. And then re-opens at 5:30 with the exact same food. Well, I thought I understood that. Maybe I don't. But, in any case, I don't really understand why there's a 3L paper deadline that isn't really a deadline, because the only penalty is a small fine, and the fine doesn't even get assessed. This is why people hate lawyers. Lawyers make up rules that don't make sense. I guess they're called laws. We have to write a 3L paper by the time we graduate. If we don't write it, we don't graduate. Isn't this the only deadline we need?

It's amazing what I learned reading the catalog that I did not know before. I didn't know we had a patient advocate: "The Harvard University Health Services (HUHS) staff provides the student with health care and services that are responsive to his/her needs, but no service functions perfectly all the time. If a student is confused, upset, has a concern or a compliment, they should not go away unheard.... The Patient Advocate is available to provide assistance for patients who encounter difficulties or problems within the Health Services." This is amazing. But why does health services get all of this attention, and the rest of the law school doesn't? Do we have a "course registration advocate" for when the registrar doesn't give us our first choice class, an "on-campus interviewing advocate" when we don't get to interview with the firms we wanted, a "student learning advocate" when a professor sucks, or a "wow, this is the same turkey as they had last week advocate" when the food is lousy?

Here's something no one ever mentioned: "Class work is essential to the educational program at the Law School. Regular attendance at classes and participation in class work are expected of all students." They probably ought to enforce this, but I've seen no indication anyone does.

"There is an extracurricular organization for almost every interest or inclination at the Law School." Lucky that "almost" is in there. I can't find HLS Wiccans, HLS Eat Too Much, or HLS Sit Around And Do Nothing All Day anywhere in the catalog.

"Course materials distributed to students in class or via the Harvard Printing and Publications Services... are normally covered by the cost of tuition. However, courses with large volumes of copied and distributed materials... may be billed to the students at the rates below. ... $50: Over 3,000 pages" I'm glad I'm not in that class. Wow.