Fenno had had it. It was bad enough that he was taking International Finance and Admin Law in his final semester at the Law School. It was much worse that he had to sit through the two classes with 1Ls. He was really about to go over the edge. The push factor? There were two, and they were only the tip of a very large iceberg floating in the cold, murky sea of curricular blunder.
In International Finance, 1L nightmare #1: “So if the rights are like a bundle of sticks, does the whole bundle get to cross international borders, or do some of the sticks have to get searched and delayed at customs?”
In Admin, nightmare #2: “Professor Rakoff, I’m trying to understand the due process issues in the hearing you were just describing. It seems to me that if the process is due, but it hasn’t happened yet, and so it’s late, then the party could get liquidated damages, provided they weren’t in the nature of a penalty. I remember that ‘cuz we learned it in Contracts last week. Prof. Elhauge Socra-teased it right out of me.” (“If only the kid had been clever enough to’ve been spelling that pun in his head when he said that. That coulda saved him a little cred,” Fenno remembered thinking at the time.)
Fenno dashed out of Pound 101 on Tuesday afternoon in a hell-bent fury and ran straight up to the fourth floor of Griswold. He was going to make sure this kind of thing didn’t happen to the classes of 2004 and 2005. In no mood to wait when Dean Rakoff’s secretary told him the dean was in a meeting with two other students, Fenno burst into Rakoff’s office.
“Fenno!” Dean Rakoff exclaimed, “Great to see you. I’m busy at the moment, but you’re free to sit in. You might find this discussion interesting.”
Fenno took measure of the two students seated on the chairs opposite Rakoff’s desk and plopped down on the couch, where he continued to smolder.
“Now, where were we?” Rakoff beamed pleasantly to the young man and young woman seated across from him.
“We were explaining to you how the grading system at HLS is discriminatory,” the young woman piped up.
“Yeah,” echoed the guy, “it’s discriminatory.”
“That’s right, you were,” Rakoff replied, all smiles and beard. “Well, I can completely understand your concern. But you see, grades are discriminating, though perhaps not discriminatory. That’s why they’re called grades. A is a different grade from B, which is a different grade from C, which, by the way, I must confess is my favorite. I suppose I discriminate in favor of C, if you must know.”
“We’ve heard about that,” the dude put in. “Discrimination is bad.”
“Yeah,” echoed the woman, “discrimination is bad.”
“Law school is hard!” a frustrated Fenno shouted a bit too loudly. So loudly, in fact, that the intended sarcasm was all but drowned out by the excessive volume. The three looked at him curiously and then returned to their face-off at the desk.
“Well let’s just call it a necessary evil,” Rakoff half-commiserated, “that grading demands.”
“That sucks,” said the young woman.
“Sucks,” the young man repeated.
“Look,” Rakoff responded, “grades are not intentionally discriminating. You know, we work very hard here to make sure grades are blind. With certain specific exceptions, professors never know whose exam they’re grading. In fact, I don’t even know who you are, Students 999-994-75 and 000-047-77.”
“I’m Aaron Lamb, and this is Lena Salaymeh, pig!” the dude politely informed the Dean.
“Pig,” Lena echoed.
“Well, Aaron and Lena, nice to meet you,” Rakoff nodded. “I’ll take your recommendations to heart. Meanwhile, you both get an ‘A’ for indignation. How’s that?”
“That’s great!” Lena chimed. “Do you have a phone I can use?” She shot out of her chair. “I should totally call my parents and tell them. They’re gonna be so happy!” Rakoff indicated a phone on a table in the far corner of the room. He turned to Aaron as Lena dialed exuberantly.
“Aaron, now that I’ve put a name to your face, I’d like to offer you a small piece of advice,” Rakoff half-whispered. “Last week you and Lena wrote a column for The RECORD?”
“Yeah, what about it?” Aaron grunted.
“Well, you mentioned using your grades as ‘fuel for a bonfire,’ I believe?”
“You’ve seen The Paperchase?” Rakoff inquired. Aaron nodded. “Well, then, my boy, you should know better. If you want to destroy your grade report, then you must drive to the Cape, sit on a rock, have a long, sappy-but-meaningful conversation with a woman who’s unlikely to commit to anything long-term with you, crumple your grades up, and throw them into the ocean.” Aaron nodded appreciatively. Lena was saying goodbye to her folks. “And another thing,” the Dean added, “Prof. Miller asked me to talk to you about your dating his daughter.”
Fenno was not about to sit through any more of this. He rose to go.
“Fenno, what’s wrong? Leaving so soon?” Rakoff admonished.
“It looks like you have some very important things to work through here,” Fenno answered. “I’ll come back some other time.”
Fenno walked down the stairs after making a legitimate appointment with Ms. Thompson. He moved in the direction of Pound Hall.
Fenno had decided to see Dean Richardson to help him manage his anger at the 1Ls-in-spring-electives situation. That outburst in Dean Rakoff’s office was altogether unacceptable, from a social adjustment point-of-view. As he walked into the Dean of Students office on the third floor, he heard Suzanne’s voice, but it sounded a bit off somehow. He peered into the room.
Seated across from her in an extraordinarily straight line were eleven students. He hadn’t seen many of them before, but one of them he recognized as Pieter Leenknegt. Dean Richardson was addressing them in Russian.
“_______?” she asked, evidently having just finished some sort of speech.
“I’m sorry, Dean Richardson,” Pieter murmured, “but we don’t speak Russian.”
“______,” Suzanne replied. “I know that,” she responded, reverting to English. “You don’t have to speak Russian. You also don’t have to speak German. Now just say ‘Thank you,’ and close the door behind you. Oh, by the way,” she added, as they were filing out, “the Reagan Library called me yesterday afternoon. They’re footing the bill to have all your visas checked. And the Rest of the World called too. They’d like a heads-up next time you purport to speak for them.”
Fenno knew this probably wasn’t a good time to have his conversation with her either. Before he could slink out unnoticed, Dean Richardson spotted him. “_____,” she demanded, “___ __ ______?”
“Nothing, really,” Fenno replied sheepishly. “I’ll just try back later.”