Showing posts with label Harvard Law School. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Harvard Law School. Show all posts

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Senator Elizabeth Warren can survive Cherokee-Gate if she focuses on student-loan crisis

To my surprise, Senator Elizabeth Warren officially announced she is running for President, her head "bloodied but unbowed" by the scandal about her ethnic heritage, which I will call Cherokee-Gate.

Warren is a U.S. Senator from Massachusetts, which is remarkably tolerant of screw ups. Senator Ted Kennedy's political career survived Chappaquiddick (although Mary Jo Kopechne did not). Congressman Barney Frank continued serving in Congress after he admitted hiring a male prostitute as a personal aide. Representative Gerry Studds was elected to Congress six more times after he was censored by the House of Representatives for having a sexual relationship with a 17-year old page (the vote was 420 to 3). In fact, Studds' constituents on Martha's Vineyard gave him a standing ovation after his sex scandal broke.

So Liz came take comfort from the fact that Massachusetts probably doesn't give a damn whether she advanced her career by calling herself an American Indian. The Bay State likes to send moral reprobates to Washington DC.

But playing footsie with one's race to get ahead in the Ivy League won't play well in the Rust Belt, where the children of unemployed steel workers lack the temerity to call themselves Chippewas in order to get a college scholarship.

Thus, if Warren's presidential bid is to have legs, she needs to develop a substantive campaign platform to distract potential voters--and she needs to do it fast. How about focusing on the student-loan crisis?

Senator Kamala Harris stole a march on Warren when she came out for free college, so Liz has got to think of something sexier regarding the student-loan fiasco.  Here are some suggestions, which I hope she will embrace:

1) Legislation barring the federal government from garnishing Social Security checks of elderly student-loan defaulters, a proposal that Senator Warren and Senator Claire McCaskill proposed a few years ago.  That's a no-brainer, in my view.

2) Amending federal law to stop the IRS from treating forgiven student-loans as taxable income. Who could argue against that?

3) Capping accrued interest, penalties and refinancing fees on student loans to no more than 50 percent of the original amount borrowed. Currently, we see college borrowers whose student-loan balances have ballooned to three or four times the original loan amount. Surely that' a reasonable proposal.

4) Revising the Bankruptcy Code to allow distressed student-loan debtors to discharge their student loans in bankruptcy like any other unsecured consumer debt. Or if that lift is too heavy, at least let borrowers discharge their private student loans in bankruptcy.

5) Allowing parents to discharge their Parent Plus loans in bankruptcy if they run into financial trouble and can't pay off the loans they took out for their children's college education.

I admit I hold a grudge against Senator Warren for her Cherokee scam. After all, I grew up in Anadarko, Oklahoma; and it never occurred to me to call myself a a Nadarko Indian. Just like Liz, I've got a law degree; and Liz's eyes are bluer than mine.  If I'd played my cards right, I too might have become a Harvard law professor.  I might have been Harvard Law School's first cisgendered person of color!

But all will be forgiven as far as I'm concerned if Senator Warren will only endorse some of the proposals I've listed. And if she would do that, I think she might do very well in the Iowa caucuses.

Monday, August 8, 2016

University of Wisconsin at Stout removes historic paintings that might make some students "feel bad": We don't need no stinkin' art!

Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.
George Orwell

In the latest incident of  higher education silliness, the University of Wisconsin at Stout removed two historical paintings from the common areas of Harvey Hall to more obscure locations.  The paintings seem inoffensive enough. One depicts French fur traders and Native Americans canoeing the Red Cedar River, and the other shows a French palisade fort.

Robert M. Meyer
Chancellor of UW Stout
Ph.D. in Industrial Engineering
But UW Stout's Chancellor, Robert M. Meyer, wanted the paintings moved. "There's a segment of Native American students, that when they look at the art, to them it symbolizes an era of their history where land and possessions were taken away from them, and they feel bad when they look at them," Meyer explained.

What a stupid thing to do! Both paintings were commissioned by the Works Progress Administration in 1936. Painted by Wisconsin artist Cal Peters,these works form part of our national heritage of public art that was created during the Great Depression. As I child, I recall seeing WPA murals in the post office of my home town in Oklahoma--depictions of Plains Indians painted by a Native American artist. When I grew older, I realized how privileged I was to have a daily opportunity to see great and historic art every time I visited my local post office.

Are our universities really going to remove historic art because it might make a few people feel bad? I felt bad when I viewed Picasso's Guernica in Madrid, and I felt really bad after visiting the Rothko Chapel in Houston, where I gazed upon a a room full of  Mark Rothko's dark canvasses.  But I would never demand that  a particular piece of art be banished from a public place simply because it makes me uncomfortable.

Perhaps Chancellor Meyer's bizarre move can be explained by the fact that he does not have a liberal arts background. Meyer received his bachelor's degree in industrial education and his Ph.D. in industrial engineering. He may know nothing about the WPA art program; in fact, he may know nothing about art.

But Meyer's politically correct perspective on art and history is shared by people who really should know better.  All over the United States, college administrators are changing the names of buildings and removing campus statuary to expunge the record of historical figures whose views are now politically inconvenient.

In fact, our college presidents have become the modern-day incarnation of Winston Smith, the lead character in George Orwell's 1984. Smith worked in the Records Department of the Ministry of Truth, where he continuously rewrote the historical record of events to fit the ideology of  Big Brother.

But of course, this politically correct scrubbing of historical figures and events is selective. Jefferson Davis'  statue is consigned to obscurity at the University of Texas because he was president of the Confederacy. But Harvard Law School will never change the name of Langdell Library, in spite of the fact that the building was named for Dean Christopher Columbus Langdell, a nineteenth century anti-Catholic bigot who refused to admit any law-school applicant who had received an undergraduate degree from a Catholic college.

Little by little, and day by day, the intellectual atmosphere of American colleges and universities is descending into a culture of paranoia, cowardice and deception reminiscent of Stalinist Russia. Universities are no longer the guardians of our common culture and shared values. Instead, they are merely the shrill enforcers of the shifting prejudices of postmodern nihilism.

And yet our American university presidents still arrogantly believe that they offer educational experiences that are so valuable that young people should borrow thousands of dollars to get a college education.  What a crock!

This painting makes some people feel bad.


Rich Kremer. UW-Stout Moves Controversial 80-year-old Murals. Wisconsin Public Radio, August 5, 2016. Accessible at

Saturday, November 9, 2013

The Demise of Legal Education as a Noble Pursuit

You teach yourselves the law, but I train your minds. You come in here with a skull full of mush; you leave thinking like a lawyer.
                Professor Kingsfield, The Paper Chase
I have a bachelor's degree in liberal arts and a doctorate in education policy from Harvard, but my only worthwhile educational experience was my three years at the University of Texas School of Law.

I loved law school. I admired my professors, who taught their classes in business attire and were always well prepared. I respected law school's rigor, the fact that students were graded on a curve and only five percent received As. And I came to love the order, the logic, and the majesty of the law. UT Law School changed my life.

"You come in here with a skull full of mush . . ."
Professor Kingsfield, The Paper Chase
Now, thirty years on, I am saddened by the decline of legal education in the United States. Applications for admission have plunged nationwide, putting pressure on the schools to lower admissions standards.  The market for lawyers is saturated, due in part to the proliferation of third- and fourth-tier law schools, which turn out far more lawyers than our society needs.

And law school has gotten incredibly expensive. In-state tuition at UT Law School is now $36,000 a year! It was only $1,000 a year when I attended.   Students are having to borrow incredible amounts of money to study law, and many don't earn enough after they graduate to pay back their loans.

In fact, some law school graduates are suing their alma maters for fraud and misrepresentation, claiming the law schools falsified their graduates' employment rates to entice people to enroll.

As best I can determine, most of these suits are unsuccessful.  The Sixth Circuit recently issued an opinion that affirmed the dismissal of a lawsuit brought against Thomas M. Cooley Law School by its graduates. The law school was not liable for fraudulent misrepresentation or fraudulent concealment, the Sixth Circuit ruled.

Nevertheless, the facts outlined in the Sixth Circuit decision are disturbing.  Thomas M. Cooley Law School enrolls more law students than any other law school in the United States, the court said. Tuition is $36,750 per year, about the same as the University of Texas School of Law, one of the nation's top-ranked law schools. According to U.S. News &World Report (as cited by the Sixth Circuit opinion), Cooley Law School has the lowest admission standards of any accredited law school in the country. In 2010, it admitted 83 percent of its applicants.

On the other hand, a federal court in New Jersey allowed a lawsuit against Widener University School of Law to go forward.  In that case, under-employed law-school alumni sued Widener under the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act and the Delaware Consumer Fraud Act. 

The alumni claimed that Widener had published misleading post-graduate employment data and salary information. As the court summarized the heart of their claim, "Plaintiffs argue 'they would not have paid over $30,000 a year in tuition had they know that merely 56% of Widener graduates were employed in jobs that require or use a Widener law degree,'" In the court's view, the plaintiffs had sufficiently plead a claim under the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act to proceed with their case.

Most of this litigation has been brought against lower-tier law schools that charge high tuition and have trouble placing their graduates in the legal job market.  But I wonder if there is also something wrong with elite law-school education.  Law schools are supposed to teach students to use language carefully--never to deceive the courts or anyone else for that matter. Yet we have seen President Obama--a Harvard law graduate and Editor of the Harvard Law Review--make representations again and again about the Affordable Care Act that simply aren't true.

All Americans should be concerned about the deterioration of legal education in this country.  Since the beginning of the Republic, our nation has drawn its leaders from among lawyers. It has been lawyers who have drafted our legislation, presided over our courts, and made many of the important policy decision that have shaped our national life.

We cannot preserve our nation's democratic ideals, our commitment to fairness and equality, without noble lawyers. And we won't get noble lawyers unless they receive noble legal education.


Harnish v. Widener University School of Law, 931 F. Supp. 2d 641 (D.N.J. 2013).

MacDonald v. Thomas M. Cooley Law School, 724 F.3d 654 (6th Cir. 2013).

Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Controversy Over Elizabeth Warren’s Native American Ancestry: Warren and Harvard Should be Embarrassed

I have long admired Elizabeth Warren. As a person who grew up in Oklahoma, I am impressed that Warren rose from humble beginnings in Norman, Oklahoma to become a Harvard Law Professor.  I also admire her work in bankruptcy law and consumer-protection law.
Thus, I was greatly disappointed to read that Warren listed herself as a minority as she was advancing her academic career based on the fact that she is 1/32nd Native American.
Elizabeth Warren
Source: Harvard Law School
OTnline Directory
Not all the facts of this hullabaloo are known, but we do know that Harvard Law School touted Warren as a Native American law professor in 1996.  And, according to a Boston Herald story, she listed herself as a minority in a law school directory from 1986 until 1995.
If Warren is embarrassed by this controversy, she should be.  And Harvard Law School should be even more embarrassed.  Currently, Harvard Law School claims to have one Native American faculty member but won’t say who it is.  If it is not Elizabeth Warren, then who  is it?  Do you think it might be Alan Dershowitz?
Why is this controversy significant for student-loan borrowers? Students have seen their tuition go up every year while they borrow more and more money to finance their educations. Meanwhile, universities--and particularly,the nation's elite universities--have obsessed on race. Harvard Law School apparently thinks it struck a blow for equity by counting Elizabeth Warren as a Native American because her great great great grandmother was a Cherokee. What would higher education look like in this country if Harvard and other elite universities focused on substantive issues of access and equity instead of fixating on race.


Chabot, H. (2012, April 27).Harvard trips on roots of Elizabeth Warrant’s family tree. Boston Herald.

Chabot, H. (2012, May 4). Harvard won’t say if Liz Warren is listed as minority. Boston Herald.