Tuesday, May 19, 2015

On Elephants

Mark Graber

Dear Dean ____:

I am writing to request that your reconsider your decision not to provide me with an elephant.

An elephant will impose limited costs on the law school faculty.  We can put the animal in Professor ___’s office.  No one will notice or notice the difference.

An elephant can be used to demonstrate our commitment to experiential learning and integration of different subject matters.  We can teach most of the law of torts by having students feed the elephant.  We can teach most of the law of contracts by having students make agreements about cleaning up after feeding the elephant.  Taking care of the elephant will introduce students to crucial elements of professional responsibility and other weighty matters (you knew that was coming).

An elephant can be used to demonstrate our commitment to real world legal experience.  Students who perform moot courts in front of the elephant will soon learn that they have as much chance of influencing the elephant on hot constitutional issues as they do of influencing Justices Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. 

An elephant can increase applications and enrollment.  Programs are hot, but no one advertises “Constitutional Law with an Elephant.”  Unlike originalism, history and the like, many law school applicants are actually interested in elephants.  Many will apply and matriculate simply because they are curious as to what is our constitutional law program with an elephant.  They will be thrilled when they discover that “Constitutional Law with an Elephant” requires no extra reading, although we will have to figure out how to work elephants into our final examination (dormant commerce clause is usually good for these sorts of things).

Most important, an elephant may improve our ranking in U.S. World News and Report (USNWR).  Most commentators on the USNWR law school rankings agree that the elephant-to-student/faculty ratio is just as good a measure of a law school as many measures that USWNR presently uses.  Given USNWR is already the elephant in the room (blame Elizabeth Beaumont of Minnesota for this one), including an elephant measure seems appropriate once there is actual variance among law schools.  Given we will be the only school with an elephant, I would expect to jump at least ten places, justifying a ten percent rise in tuition.  Of course, should that happen, our rivals will no doubt seek elephants of their own.  Nevertheless, given the centrality of branding to the mission of universities and law schools, we will forever be known as the first law school with an elephant.



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