By David Gruber (3L)
The debate about tuition and debt has been had, and—from the perspective of the righteous—lost. Tuition for a three year degree is approaching the six figure mark, and shows no signs of slowing down. Meanwhile financial aid continues to shrink in favour of falsely termed “interest-free” loans, just as more students are depending on more of it. And all this is taking place during a historically bad time in the job market.
The movement to pillage students is the product of a bogus pseudo-intellectual theory that, despite having been duly disproved, continues to govern the institution. To review: in the bad old days of the 1990s a maniacal premier called Mike Harris deregulated professional school tuition. Fees spiked and dean Ron Daniels wrote an impassioned op-ed where he argued huge increases were needed to prevent expensive American private universities from poaching our faculty. Apparently immune to the effects of either irony or shame, he then abruptly abandoned the law school for an expensive American private university.
Daniels’ influence remains, carried on through the formalized stupidity of the “law and economics” way of thinking. The new guard conceives of schools as profit-generating business and students as customers to be ripped off.
Fine. These Monty Burns types can’t be reasoned with anyway. But the moment we conceded defeat, the powers that be began to find creative new ways to gouge us. The Law Society’s response to the significant unemployment problem in this jurisdiction has been to slap on thousands (thousands!) of dollars of new fees on to all new applicants, jobless and jobbed alike. Without telling anyone, the regulator also decided to stop providing bar exam materials except in electronic format. They then proceeded to boast that the fee for said materials had not changed. The Law Society just finished taking an unusually hard-line stance on enforcement of its civility rules. In the shadow of the Joseph Groia case, our regulator is—through its own conduct—demonstrating the difference between civility and simple decency.
Up to now it made a sort of sense. Professors have an interest in high tuition, in so far as it correlates to high salaries. The Law Society represents the interests of the bar (whose fees have barely budged), and emphatically not those of aspiring members.
The one unsolved mystery in all of this is what the hell is wrong with our groveling, obsequious classmates. Earlier this month the ambitious busybodies in student government asked fellow students with paying jobs (or as they used to be called, jobs) to donate money to support those students who will be working for free over the summer.
As it happens, it’s actually illegal in this province to pay workers less than the designated minimum wage. You might think that a group of lawyer and lawyers-to-be would consider this in their approach, but you’d be wrong.
Under the new regime there is but one solution to every possible problem. Salaries too low? Raise tuition. Articling alternative law practice program underfunded? Bill the students. Students’ employment rights being violated? Ask their classmates to make up the difference.
I’m told at a time it was considered a point of great pride to have completed a law degree. As such, graduates would have their likenesses hung in the halls of the faculty to celebrate their achievement. But what we’re enduring is not so much an achievement as a prolonged transaction. One diploma for a hundred grand plus interest. There’s no more need to have your picture taken to celebrate the occasion than there would be to don a sash that reads “I Just Bought a Prius!”
To be honest, I wasn’t about to endure the inconvenience of posing for a photo even when I thought it was free. But apparently they want fifty bucks. What have they been doing with the money we already gave them? Paying instructors? Six of my seven teachers this year are unpaid adjuncts. Investing in infrastructure? We’re working out of borrowed space and the library is in storage. It’s enough already. When those whose salaries you’ve already mortgaged your future to support ask for one last dollar, err on the side of dignity and tell them to fuck off.