Payback.

by

This is a story of payback.

And Professor Lani Guiner–a highly decorated  harvard  scholar and lawyer–gave us the opportunity when she spoke at Hofstra last week.

At 12 o’clock,  Lani Guinier began to speak. The room was populated by about half of Hofstra Law’s facutly, including Dean Norman Silber and Dean Michelle Wu.

Professor Guinier’s lecture was on how we as a nation can change the winds of power so that institutional racism, sexism, etc. can be eradicated. It was interesting, yet what really caught my ear was when she spoke of the LSATS. Through Professor Guinier’s own research, she concluded that LSATS are a very poor indicator of how well a student will perform in Law School. In other words, LSATS are another example of a flawed institution that perpetuates the stagnation of change. Guinier’s criticism of the LSATS  rang eerily true when one looks at how Hofstra Law operates.

Professor Guinier stopped speaking. It was question time. I went to the microphone and let loose a cannon of criticism directed straight at Dean Demleitner.

First, some background information.  Only 78.8 % of the class of 2009 passed the bar, compared with the New York State average of 87.6 %. Dean Demleitner was worried, so much in fact that she wrote a panicked e-mail to the newly recruited class of 2012, with the clear intention of preventing them from transferring out:

As members of the class of 2012, you are part of an academic and cultural revolution at Hofstra Law School. Your class joined the School under revised admissions criteria of higher GPAs and LSAT scores (analysis shows a strong correlation between bar exam success and higher LSAT scores).

Yes, Dean Demleitner told the class of 2012 that they are better than the classes of 2011 and 2010. Apart from the internal chuckle I enjoyed  from the preposterous use of “cultural revolution”, I was incensed. This insulting e-mail was another piece fitting into a disturbing pattern–one of Hofstra Law School’s  willingness to exploit its students at any cost just so that it can raise its ranking. It began with our acceptance into Hofstra.

I received an acceptance letter from Hofstra Law School; the words written lauded me as a great student.  I was purportedly so great that I was offered a “Merit Scholarship” for $20,000. To make me blush with pride, the letter even invited me to come to special dinners exclusively for merit scholarship holders.  All I had to do was maintain a 3.25 GPA. Being that I had a 3.5 during my undergraduate years, it seemed a manageable task. During the first year, I became suspicious. Almost everyone else had a merit scholarship as well. Much was clarified later on.

This was not a merit scholarship; it was a bait and switch. Hofstra lured in high-statistic students with the honey of money fully cognizant that many of those same students would be filling their coffers once the first year expired. It was a statistical certainty; the curve grading policy ensures it. For example, if a class of 100 all scores a final grade of over 80%, a concrete percentage of them will still receive grades of Cs and C-s. That’s not a grade based on merit. They used us to up their ranking. Once it was up, they pulled the proverbial rug out from under us. In 2008, the conversations I had with  Associate Director of Enrollment Management, Seth Kritzman, and Dean Miriam Albert dispelled any of my doubts on what Hofstra did: fraudulent misrepresentation.

First, I spoke to Mr. Kritzman. He responded that this was the first time Hofstra had done anything like this. In the context of that conversation, it meant that Hofstra had never handed out so many merit scholarships before. With this information in hand, I set up a meeting with Dean Albert.

The moment I unveiled what I thought, Albert said my claim was completely baseless. I asked to see statistics, and Albert responded: “Absolutely not”. Of course, this information, if made public, would not look good for Hofstra. It could pierce a defense to liability. Fast forward to February 0f 2010, in front of the microphone and with a captive audience.

I said to Professor Guinier: “It is interesting you talk about the LSATS at Hofstra because Hofstra is heavily focused on the LSATS. In fact, Dean Demleitner sent out an e-mail to the 1L class, after the poor bar passage results, urging them to stay at Hofstra because they had higher LSAT and GPAs. You should tell Dean Demleitner to change Hofstra’s ways. Prof. Guinier responded, saying, amongst other things, that “I will have your back if you look to change the LSAT policy”. And I still may try. After all, contract claims have a 6 year statute of limitations.

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14 Responses to “Payback.”

  1. Rey Lopez-Calderon Says:

    The Devil’s Advocate:

    Most law schools grade on a curve. The LSAT is super-flawed, but to keep in the rankings game, wouldn’t be hard to ignore it? Hofstra is not super well known; so why not offer more cash to get people there (of course, I recognize they probably shouldn’t call it a merit scholarship).

    I agree that the test doesn’t mean much. I had friends with lower LSATs who got straight A’s. I, on the other hand, did well but not in the coveted top 5% despite a high LSAT. Also, I did law school at DePaul which doesn’t have anywhere near the LSAT scores (159-162) that the University of Chicago (my alma mater) has (169-173), yet DePaul had a 92% bar passage rate and U of C had a 97% rate when I was graduated. Finally I have a friend who had a bad day when he took the LSAT but is ridiculously smart with top grades from Northwestern undergrad and a stunning leadership resume. He got into McGill in Canada but was rejected by DePaul here—this is surely because DePaul is also trying beef up its LSAT scores to compete with U of C and Northwestern.

    • bjohns15 Says:

      Rey,

      I had a word limit on this article, so there are salient facts left out. I have no problem with Hofstra doling out lots of money. My problem with them is the manner in which they went about it. For example, another school offered me a merit scholarship, and had the requirement that to maintain it, one must stay in the top 15% of the class. That was straightforward; it fully discloses the nature of the scholarship. Hofstra, on the other hand, wrote that all one must do is maintain a 3.25 without any disclosure as to what needed to be done to maintain it.

      Furthermore, I believe that for my specific class, they went well over whatever the typical law school doles out in scholarships. In other words, they gave out a similar scholarship–20k–to most students. The game was rigged and since it was, there should have been disclosure.

      There are also many other things that the school’s administration has done to confirm their flagrant self-interest. Towards the end of my first year, it appeared that there was an opportunity to do externships for credit for a reasonable price of around $500 dollars. Many people committed to doing these externships. About a month before the summer was to begin, the school wrote an e-mail, informing us that the price would change from $500 to around $3000. I also spoke to the dean about this–she said that the original price was outdated and someone messed up(allegedly). She said that Judges called Hofstra to complain that students no longer were going to do externships. Whether it was a mistake or not, the school should have taken the hit for that summer. Instead, they acted selfishly and disappointed a lot of students and employers.

      If the scholarship were an isolated incidence, maybe I would not be so incenced. But it is an ongoing course of practice. There is a strong undercurrent of resentment amongst my class, and i do think there is a contract claim for failure to disclose, but I can’t be sure because of Hofstra’s unwillingness to release any sort of Data.

  2. 2012 Says:

    On the one hand, you say there is too much focus on the LSAT. On the other hand, you are saying a law school should give its merit scholarships for all three years based only on entering criteria such as LSAT. Shouldn’t merit scholarships in year 2 and 3 have more to do with law school performance than entering credentials?

    The people with a right to complain those who came in with a low LSAT and no merit scholarship, but, got, say, a 4.0 in their first year through hard work, etc. Then in the second year, they watch the merit scholarship people who skate along with a 3.25 get year 2 scholarships, while they get nuthin’. That sounds unfair to me. Your situation does not.

  3. bjohns15 Says:

    2012:

    I never stated that the law school should give its merit scholarships for all three years based only on entering criteria.

    First, I agree with you that those that perform exceptionally well in law school, and who did not enter Law School with a scholarship, are in an unfair situation. That bolsters the inaccuracy of LSats as an indicator.

    My main point of contention with the Hofstra Administration, however, is very specific: their misleading acquisition of new students. In other words, if they had disclosed the high level of difficulty of maintaining the scholarship, I, and many others, would have had a more informed choice on whether to go there. For example, I was offered acceptance to University at Buffalo Law School, which was only 12 K tuition a year. If I had known that that maintaining the scholarship at Hofstra was going to be an extremely difficult task, I would have chosen Buffalo.

  4. Anonymous Says:

    “If I had known that that maintaining the scholarship at Hofstra was going to be an extremely difficult task, I would have chosen Buffalo.” A GPA of 3.25? That has to be near the approximate class average. So being around the top half of the class is extremely difficult? I’d much rather take this scholarship than the one contingent on being top 15%.

    Just like Hofstra’s scholarship, how is remaining in the top 15% any better? That school could also offer scholarships to all entering students, but only 15% could keep them. How do you support this when it is exactly the same system that you assume Hofstra is partaking in. Perhaps, they have evidence of past statistics. But since this was the first time Hofstra had chosen to do “anything like this” they had no past evidence to go off of.

    Did you ever consider that Hofstra extended these scholarships—as most schools do—before students chose to attend? In that respect, Hofstra had no way of specifically knowing how many of its entering students would be on scholarship.

    What evidence do you have that everyone at Hofstra was on scholarship, beside your bold assertion. Did you ask all 300+ students. If your dean did not give you the “statistics,” then indeed you do not know who many students were receiving scholarships.

    So a merit scholarship is based solely on one’s LSAT? Would it be incorrect to assume that an applicant’s GPA played a role beyond the LSAT score?

    Perhaps these questions are answered with your other “salient facts.” Do you care to enlighten us with those facts, because otherwise, your arguments are “completely baseless.”

  5. Anonymous Says:

    obviously not.

  6. Anonymous Says:

    Josef Hosjia.

  7. bjohns15 Says:

    Ok, then. Thanks for reading.

    The 15 % is better because it is an offer that clearly defines what must be done to maintain the scholarship.

    You may be confusing a couple of things. Buffalo offered no scholarship; the tuition was around 12K a year.

    There are limits to my evidence at this point precisely because of the Law School’s unwillingness to disclose any facts. What I know is from my personal interactions at the law school.

    If you are in Law School, you would know that many students are loathe to speak of their grades, etc. I maintain that there is a distinct possibility that if the salient facts were disclosed re the merit scholarships, that Hofstra engaged in fraudulent misrepresentation.

    Thanks for stopping by.

  8. Mark M. Says:

    You need to e-mail this to every Hofstra student, put it on the Hofstra bulletin boards, and send it to Newsday and other papers.

    • bjohns15 Says:

      Are you a Hofstra Law Student, Mark?

      This article was published in the student school newspaper, so many, not all, have probably read it.

      I don’t think it would be enough of an interest to Newsday, and I don’t have the listserve for the student body. If you want, though, you can email the story to all the law students.

  9. Dan Coleman Says:

    And little Campbell University of Buies Creek, North Carolina(law school now located in Raleigh) has as high a pass rate as any. It consistently surpasses that of the other schools in the state, Duke, UNC-Chapel Hill, Wake Forest, N.C. Central, and a couple others. Go figure. It’s because they teach to the bar, not just a lot of theory and history.

    • bjohns15 Says:

      You are right. It’s because the “theory” component in Law School is a front for legit money-making. But don’t tell that to the ivorian tower Law professors, many of whom have never even passed the bar. It’s another sham in a long line of shams.

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