Friday, August 31, 2007

Different Institutional Norms At the Same Institution

Reasons for not blogging this week:

1. Attending way too many extra lectures that I will not be enrolled in at the end of the course shopping period.

2. Insomnia, making me too tired to blog at night or during the day, especially since I'm trying to do reading for courses and independent work.

3. Nervous nellies about this meeting I have on Friday. Far too much time expended thinking about it too. Such is the case with we Type A stressbuckets.

In other news, now that I've shot my blogging goodwill this week, I have discovered something else by attending so many lectures in so many different departments.

Law schools, as you know, are bound by the AALS to have specific days of instruction, and minutes of instruction per unit, in order to stay accredited. This makes law school scheduling baffling and anal-retentive. Starting at 1:50 or 11:15 does not make much sense to other departments, except that for a 3 or 4 unit course, start-and-end times really matter. And the lower ranked schools go so far as to take attendance, just like in high school--because the AALS requires that students attend class, but at the higher ranked schools students ditch all of the time. They ditch for OCIP, they oversleep, for large lecture can't-miss-me courses they weigh the benefits of lecture vs. reading Emmanuel's or Gilbert's. On the day of the final, your average Evidence course will have 20% more students than you would normally see. It's sad, but true.

Other departments just don't have this instiutional culture. Graduate classes are usually small seminars. Of course you go to class. Of course you have to read and prepare. But they also are more lax about the paper length requirements, and at my school, operate on something called "Liberal College Time."

Apparently this means 10 minutes after the hour. It's almost a standard policy at Liberal College, and one I was not aware of until I attended my first Sociology graduate course. Like any other law student, I usually come a few minutes early, set up the laptop, check the email, and get ready for some learnin'. I end up waiting 20 minutes in the other departments for class to begin. Conversely, J.D.-Ph.D. students who begin their joint programs at the other departments are astounded that their Contracts courses begin on time. It's apparently a very established policy, this 10 minute rule. And when the students do come in, they look at me funny for having a laptop. Whereas everyone in the law school has backpacks big enough to fit large casebooks, lunch, and your laptop (thus, most of them are from outfitter stores, and the size of hiking packs), other graduate students are just so cute with their Mead spiral notebooks, legal pads (dude, what department do you think you're in?), marbled composition books, and heaven help me--steno pads. I even saw a guy take notes in a Moleskine journal, all cool like.

It's a different world outside the law school walls. I forget that there are other students sometimes. I forget what it's like to carry a cute little tote or write on small sheets paper. How cute.