Pompous Circumstance

On Monday, I graduated (well, sort of, in just one of the fun twists, we don't really graduate until June 1, when the faculty votes the degrees -- Monday was, however the commencement ceremony) from The Yale Law School. For some reason, it's always "The Yale Law School" and not "Yale Law School," as if the place needs to be differentiated from some knock-off institution like the Yale School of Law or Yale Law, Jr. And while I have to admit that the ceremony was better than I'd expected (my impression of law school runs at about a 12 on a 1-to-10 scale of cynicism), large portions of it really bothered me.

For example, it strikes me that the last thing that a courtyard full of over-inflated egos needs is one final round of breathless testicular massaging. For example, proclaiming that Yale's Class of 2005 is "the premiere group of legal graduates in the world today," or that we have "special power, because when we act or speak, people will respond and listen," is a little over the top. I mean, the fact is that we -- like graduates from every other law school -- are either going to be picking up judges' dry cleaning next year or slaving away on a 50-state survey of the law of champerty for our law firms. Will we be able to inaugurate fresh new theories of constitutional interpretation instead of engaging in the usual indentured servitude that awaits law school grads? I doubt it.

Of course, the funny thing is that all this bluster is belied by some of the other commentary at commencement, namely the cheap and unnecessary potshots at Harvard and ahem Princeton. On Monday, we learned that Yale Law predates Harvard Law and the ill-fated Princeton Law, which was forced to close six years after it opened. And in case we missed that last point, it was brought up twice during the ceremony. Not to mention the fact that all of these little ego-stroking chestnuts were mouthed by a Dean who conducted his undergraduate studies at HARVARD and graduated from HARVARD Law School. Insecurity much? After all, if The Yale Law School is the end-all and be-all of the legal academy, it seems to me that we could find a Dean who graduated from, er, Yale.

Now, don't get me wrong, Yale has a lot going for it and almost certainly deserves its status as "#1." But it ought to wear that mantle with a little more class. If the school is as good as the Dean says, then the students don't need to be told how good Yale is; we'll know. If the students are as good as we are told, we won't need to broadcast that we went to Yale to get people to listen to us. Plus, graduation would have been a lot better if the bluster had taken a day off.


Blogger Tri-Cup said...

While you make some very good points, perhaps you have not considered the possibility that THE Yale Law School is taking its cues from what is surely fast becoming an academic standard. Recall that when you watch Monday Night Football on ABC, and each team's starting players introduce themselves, any player who used to go to school/practice at Ohio emphatically announces "Fat Guy #5, THE Ohio State University." I think that it's pretty understandable as to why Yale would to emulate these fine members of academia – they’re on TV, after all.

Thursday, May 26, 2005  
Blogger SWF seeks NVG said...

I would also like to point out that my esteemed graduate institution also seems to be following in this hallowed tradition. While not being quite as old as The Yale Law School, it does insist on calling itself The Johns Hopkins University. Also note that it is JohnS, not John. Still haven't figured that one out...

Thursday, June 02, 2005  

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