Sunday, October 18, 2015

Play a Sad Violin for Villanova the Victim

The winner for best, finely-tuned tone of any news article I've read in the last week is clearly this piece by Chris Mondics of regarding the martyrdom of Villanova for the sin of telling the truth.
Honesty is the best policy, goes the childhood refrain.

But it can come with a price. Just ask Villanova University School of Law, which is finding that the truth still hurts years after it acknowledged a handful of administrators secretly manipulated admissions data of incoming first-year students.
Price isn't just an abstract metaphor here.  It's real, like cash money and shit.
And it has had to spend lavishly to stay in the ratings game...

Nearly 20 percent of Villanova law students now attend tuition-free, under a generous scholarship program that has been a big draw for top students [note: 75th percentile LSAT is a quite impressive 159]. It has blunted some of the effects of the scandal, but has cost the school millions of dollars.
[I]magine what the university might have done with the added resources had more top students been willing to attend based on Villanova's reputation alone.
Not only does the article orchestrate an entire string section's worth of sympathy for the defrauder, it manages to completely remove Villanova's post-2011 reality from the national law school marketplace, as well as claiming the prior fraudulently-earned gains are evidence of Villanova's post-hoc damage.

Imagine a world where top students enroll in Villanova based on the school's sterling reputation and pay sticker, indeed!  It would have happened, by gum, if only that sterling reputation hadn't been built in part on the dastardly fraud still damaging the school's prestigious reputation and costing it millions that it maybe never would have earned in the first place absent fraud.  Surely, in absence of fraud, the school still would have ranked as highly - maybe even higher! - and attracted top-caliber students wanting to pay full sticker price.  Reality is pretty fun when you can pick and choose what facts you want like it's a dreamland buffet.
Villanova, in short, did everything right. Yet it continues to pay a steep price in terms of reputation damage, even as other colleges that engaged in deceptive practices, notably by providing misleading post-graduation employment statistics, have paid no price at all.
While I wholly sympathize with victimized Villanova, Mondics loses me a bit here.  Law schools nationwide have been paying a steep price for their collective honesty, while chronic liars like MBA programs, computer programming schools, and large for-profit corporations are now profiting by their dishonesty.  There's plenty of violins, and all but the tip top law schools (where Villanova surely would be but-for fraud) deserve a somber, lonely song.

Play a sad song for Villanova, but forget ye not the Cooleys and Saint Thomases and John Marshalls. Being a law school in 2015 is like listening to the sobbing hymns at the funeral of an upstanding twenty-eight-year-old father of six who died while saving every last invalid from a burning nursing home. So much good snuffed out, so much cosmic cruelty, so much sadness and uncertainty.

The piece ends with thoughtfulness, and some sound words of advice:
But is [prior fraud] any reason to punish a school after the perpetrators have left? [uh, yes? -ed.]

Maybe it's time for law schools and prospective students to ignore the rankings and focus on the quality of the legal education day to day.
It's amazing. Trust me. I'm not only a certified law school propagandist. I'm also a lawyer.


  1. One wonders when Chris Mondics will publish a piece regarding Bernard Madoff's plethora of integrity.

  2. Other law school deans and deans of admissions: ask not for whom the violin plays; it plays for you (or it will soon).

  3. Why just one sole violin? Here's a whole orchestra for them:

  4. Rod Blagojevich has a JD