Brush with the Law


Gonzaga University’s Law School, in Spokane, Washington, fell to the bottom [4th] tier in US News and World Report’s annual ranking of law schools, released this month. Despite the local SPOKESMAN-REVIEW featuring quotes from students and administrators saying the expected — “Gonzaga is the top private law school in the Northwest” — the institution nonetheless dropped from 138 to 177 in the annual rankings. That’s what happens when less than two-thirds of your students pass the Bar.

And, of course, I saw it coming. But a little too late. After I moved across the country to accept a scholarship from Gonzaga on the strength of its social conscience and self-presentation as a “law school on the rise”. That said, I probably should’ve been put off by the GU Law School website’s obsessively detailed description of the new facility. Depicted as “the building of the 21st century”, the structure was “completed with the precision of a well-planned military campaign.

And who says American architecture doesn’t shock and awe? Certainly not GU Law’s Webmaster, who holds forth at excruciating length about the building’s virtues. The walkway leading to the building, for example, is “lined with flowering trees”. “You enter the building” — picture yourself doing it! — “through a monumental arched entrance framed in granite.” The granite features “a geometric design” that “alternates between rough and smooth stone.”

According to the site, the law school is full of “sweeping” views. A “sweeping series of open staircases” connects the floors of the building. The third-floor student lounge boasts a terrace with a “sweeping view of the Spokane River”. All of this, according to unnamed students and faculty, at once “welcomes visitors”. “The building exudes a certain ‘wow’ factor.”

As does Gonzaga’s new law school ranking. Wow, prospective law students are undoubtedly saying to themselves, this school isn’t worth my time. 177th out of 185 schools in the nation? For a school charging over $21k per annum for tuition, it’s criminal to have a student-teacher ratio of 25:1. To put that number in perspective, Yale’s ratio is less than 8:1. Even among fourth-tier schools, GU’s ratio is the worst in the nation.

How is that possible, when the school boasts a structure as lavish as one of Saddam Hussein’s “presidential palaces”? Daniel Morrissey, Dean of Gonzaga’s Law School, claims “financial constraints imposed on us by the University’s Central Administration” have stopped the law school from hiring additional faculty, expanding the law library, and so on.

Looked at in that context, the question is begged: why did the Law School buy such an ambitious building if their funding was so tenuous? Who ultimately is responsible for the Law School’s decline in national prestige? Can Morrissey reasonably blame his higher-ups at the University? If so, why stop there? Why not blame the American Catholic Church itself? After all, if the Church weren’t so scandal-ridden, then there might be money for Gonzaga to meet US News’s criteria.

How compromised is the future of Gonzaga’s law school? Stung by reports that Gonzaga graduates — in contrast to its gaudy promotional literature — are having a hard time finding work, Morrissey is encouraging students to seek employment outside the Northwest. What better testament than that is there to the mismanagement of Gonzaga’s law school? The legal profession is rooted in locality; typically, attorneys study in the state where they hope to practice law, so that they can develop contacts and learn the idiosyncrasies of their state [or region’s] laws.

To convince students that the Gonzaga law experience is worth over $60k for tuition alone, then to tell them that their degrees may lack the tangible value promised, is nothing short of fraud. Such bait-and-switch tactics are not the hallmarks of an institution interested in justice, equity, and [as the marquee sign in front of the University itself flashes] “educating people the world needs the most.” Rather, they are mechanisms used to service an untenable institutional debt load, to sell students on the benefits of a Gonzaga Law Education, and then to tell them once committed that not all benefits can be delivered.

Dean Morrissey claims that “it won’t be hard for Gonzaga to bounce back into the third tier”. But just months ago, at Gonzaga Law’s Fall Orientation, the carefully-managed buzz was that Gonzaga was certain to become a second-tier school by the time the most recent class graduated. The US News ranking should be a terminal embarrassment for Morrissey, who recently got his job only to find that he’s poised to take the fall for what amounts to malfeasance by the school he heads.

ANTHONY GANCARSKI attended Gonzaga Law School for just over a term. This column originally appeared in the Spokane Spokesman-Review. He welcomes email at Anthony.Gancarski@attbi.com



ANTHONY GANCARSKI is a regular CounterPunch columnist. He can be reached at Anthony.Gancarski@attbi.com

November 26, 2015
Rajesh Makwana
Ten Billion Reasons to Demand System Change
Joyce Nelson
Turkey Moved the Border!
Richard Baum
Hillary Clinton’s Meager Proposal to Help Holders of Student Debt
November 25, 2015
Jeff Taylor
Bob Dylan and Christian Zionism
Dana E. Abizaid
Provoking Russia
Oliver Tickell
Syria’s Cauldron of Fire: a Downed Russian Jet and the Battle of Two Pipelines
Patrick Cockburn
Trigger Happy: Will Turkey’s Downing of Russian Jet Backfire on NATO?
Robert Fisk
The Soothsayers of Eternal War
Russell Mokhiber
The Coming Boycott of Nike
Ted Rall
Like Father Like Son: George W. Bush Was Bad, His Father May Have Been Worse
Matt Peppe
Bad Policy, Bad Ethics: U.S. Military Bases Abroad
Martha Rosenberg
Pfizer Too Big (and Slippery) to Fail
Yorgos Mitralias
Bernie Sanders, Mr. Voutsis and the Truth Commission on Greek Public Debt
Jorge Vilches
Too Big for Fed: Have Central Banks Lost Control?
Sam Husseini
Why Trump is Wrong About Waterboarding — It’s Probably Not What You Think
Binoy Kampmark
The Perils of Certainty: Obama and the Assad Regime
Roger Annis
State of Emergency in Crimea
Soud Sharabani
ISIS in Lebanon: An Interview with Andre Vltchek
Thomas Knapp
NATO: This Deal is a Turkey
November 24, 2015
Dave Lindorff
An Invisible US Hand Leading to War? Turkey’s Downing of a Russian Jet was an Act of Madness
Mike Whitney
Turkey Downs Russian Fighter to Draw NATO and US Deeper into Syrian Quagmire
Walter Clemens
Who Created This Monster?
Patrick Graham
Bombing ISIS Will Not Work
Lida Maxwell
Who Gets to Demand Safety?
Eric Draitser
Refugees as Weapons in a Propaganda War
David Rosen
Trump’s Enemies List: a Trial Balloon for More Repression?
Eric Mann
Playing Politics While the Planet Sizzles
Chris Gilbert
“Why Socialism?” Revisited: Reflections Inspired by Einstein’s Article
Charles Davis
NSA Spies on Venezuela’s Oil Company
Michael Barker
Democracy vs. Political Policing
Barry Lando
Shocked by Trump? Churchill Wanted to “Collar Them All”
Cal Winslow
When Workers Fight: the National Union of Healthcare Workers Wins Battle with Kaiser
Norman Pollack
Where Does It End?: Left Political Correctness
David Macaray
Companies Continue to Profit by Playing Dumb
Binoy Kampmark
Animals in Conflict: Diesel, Dobrynya and Sentimental Security
Dave Welsh
Defiant Haiti: “We Won’t Let You Steal These Elections!”
November 23, 2015
Vijay Prashad
The Doctrine of 9/11 Anti-Immigration
John Wight
After Paris: Hypocrisy and Mendacity Writ Large
Joseph G. Ramsey
No Excuses, No Exceptions: the Moral Imperative to Offer Refuge
Patrick Cockburn
ISIS Thrives on the Disunity of Its Enemies
Andrew Moss
The Message of Montgomery: 60 Years Later
Jim Green
James Hansen’s Nuclear Fantasies
Robert Koehler
The Absence of History in the Aftermath of Paris
Dave Lindorff
The US Media and Propaganda
Dave Randle
France and Martial Law