Brush with the Law

by ANTHONY GANCARSKI

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

 

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
Weekend Edition
August 28-30, 2015
Andrew Levine
Viva Trump?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Long Time Coming, Long Time Gone
Mike Whitney
Looting Made Easy: the $2 Trillion Buyback Binge
Alan Nasser
The Myth of the Middle Class: Have Most Americans Always Been Poor?
Rob Urie
Wall Street and the Cycle of Crises
Randy Blazak
Donald Trump is the New Face of White Supremacy
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
Behind the Congressional Disagreements Over the Iran Nuclear Deal
Lawrence Ware – Marcus T. McCullough
I Won’t Say Amen: Three Black Christian Clichés That Must Go
Evan Jones
Zionism in Britain: a Neglected Chronicle
John Wight
Learning About the Migration Crisis From Ancient Rome
Andre Vltchek
Lebanon – What if it Fell?
Robert Fantina
Hillary Clinton, Palestine and the Long View
Ben Burgis
Gore Vidal Was Right: What Best of Enemies Leaves Out
Suzanne Gordon
How Vets May Suffer From McCain’s Latest Captivity
Robert Sandels - Nelson P. Valdés
The Cuban Adjustment Act: the Other Immigration Mess
Uri Avnery
The Molten Three: Israel’s Aborted Strike on Iran
John Stanton
Israel’s JINSA Earns Return on Investment: 190 Americans Admirals and Generals Oppose Iran Deal
Bill Yousman
The Fire This Time: Ta-Nehisi Coates’s “Between the World and Me”
Michael Welton
The Conversable World: Finding a Compass in Post-9/11 Times
Brian Cloughley
Don’t be Black in America
Charles Pierson
How the US and the WTO Crushed India’s Subsidies for Solar Energy
Kent Paterson
In Search of the Great New Mexico Chile Pepper in a Post-NAFTA Era
Binoy Kampmark
Live Death on Air: The Killings at WDBJ
Gui Rochat
The Guise of American Democracy
Emma Scully
Vultures Over Puerto Rico: the Financial Implications of Dependency
Chuck Churchill
Is “White Skin Privilege” the Key to Understanding Racism?
Kathleen Wallace
The Id(iots) Emerge
Andrew Stewart
Zionist Hip-Hop: a Critical Look at Matisyahu
Gregg Shotwell
The Fate of the UAW: Study, Aim, Fire
Halyna Mokrushyna
Decentralization Reform in Ukraine
Scott Parkin
Katrina Plus Ten: Climate Justice in Action
Norman Pollack
World Capitalism, a Basket Case: A Layman’s View
Sarah Lazare
Listening to Iraq
John Laforge
NSP/Xcel Energy Falsified Welding Test Documents on Rad Waste Casks
Wendell G Bradley
Drilling for Wattenberg Oil is Not Profitable
Joy First
Wisconsin Walk for Peace and Justice: Nine Arrested at Volk Field
Mel Gurtov
China’s Insecurity
Mateo Pimentel
An Operator’s Guide to Trump’s Racism
Yves Engler
Harper Conservatives and Abuse of Power
Michael Dickinson
Police Guns of Brixton: Another Unarmed Black Shot by London Cops
Ron Jacobs
Daydream Sunset: a Playlist
Charles R. Larson
The Beginning of the Poppy Wars: Amitav Ghosh’s “Flood of Fire”
David Yearsley
A Rising Star Over a Dark Forest
August 27, 2015
Sam Husseini
Foreign Policy, Sanders-Style: Backing Saudi Intervention
Brad Evans – Henry A. Giroux
Self-Plagiarism and the Politics of Character Assassination: the Case of Zygmunt Bauman