The recent grand jury decisions to not indict two police officers in the deaths of two black men has gripped the public’s imagination. The decisions have led to protests and riots that have flooded social media channels, shut down freeways, shattered business windows and now postponed final exams at Columbia Law School.
In an email announcement last Saturday (Dec. 6) from interim dean Robert E. Scott, student were told that they would have the option to postpone their final exams. Apparently Columbia has “existing policies” for “trauma during exam periods” and the recent grand jury decisions fall into those policies. The dean explained further in his email.
“The grand juries’ determinations to return nonindictments in the Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases have shaken the faith of some in the integrity of the grand jury system and in the law more generally,” he wrote. “For some law students, particularly, though not only, students of color, this chain of events is all the more profound as it threatens to undermine a sense that the law is a fundamental pillar of society designed to protect fairness, due process and equality.”
The law school’s general policy is students can postpone exams for religious observances, a birth of a child, illness, bereavement, or exceptional and documented circumstances. The decision has riled some practicing attorneys and other law scholars. The detractor’s arguments are obvious. Law can be a profession filled with tragedy and injustices. Lawyers, of all people, should be the ones who can deal with it.
According to other opponents of the decision, it is not a decision based in reality of the law profession. There are no postponements of cases because of trauma. The students must be trained to function through difficulty. Stephen Gellers, a law professor at New York University said, “it shows a remarkable degree of empathy” and a level that should not be expected as a practicing attorney.
The vocal participating students say the trauma comes from studying to work in a profession that is obviously flawed. A school spokesperson declined to give an exact number of students who have asked for postponement. The email came after a petition was presented to the dean from students.
Source: The New York Times
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