The Legal Beat
Whittier Law Students Protest, Demand More Information About School Closure
Posted on Monday April 24, 2017
Last week, not long after students were informed that Whittier Law School would be closing its doors, they did one of they only things they could short of suing: they gathered to protest the decision made by the Whittier College board of trustees to foreclose upon their legal education. Holding signs with messages like “99 problems & this board is one,” “Droppin’ ‘F’ bombs… ‘fiduciary duty,'” and “Justice 4 Whittier Law School,” students demonstrated outside of the main office on the college’s undergraduate campus on Friday.
While third-year students at Whittier will be able to graduate this spring, first- and second-year students find themselves in limbo. Although they were promised they would be able to complete their degrees, they’ve received few details on how that will happen. They don’t know how many courses the law school will continue to offer, if any, and they don’t know how many faculty members will be kept on staff to teach.
Whittier College spokeswoman Ana Lilia Barraza said, without providing any further details, that “[t]he board’s top priority is to make sure they provide the best way to support our students in completing their legal education.” Without any additional information, Whittier law students are right to be angry. After all, some have racked up more than $200,000 in nondischargeable debt while attending the school. With burdensome debt obligations like that, these students are entitled to answers.
The Whittier Daily News shares a few of students’ concerns in its coverage:
“I fear that I’ve made myself thousands of dollars in debt, worked tirelessly to have a degree with what kind of value,” said third-year student Melissa Suffield, vice president of the college’s student bar association.
Other said they felt disrespected by the college’s decision making-process.
“They made a decision over the phone that would affect more than 400 students’ careers and futures,” said Kristina Edrington, a third-year student and president of the college’s student bar association. “Their indifference to us as a student body is unacceptable.”
Much attention has been paid to the qualifications of Whittier Law’s entering classes and the troubles Whittier Law’s graduates have had when it comes to passing the bar exam on their first attempt, but shockingly little digital ink has been spilled when it comes to the fact that these law students are human beings. The legal profession and those who write about it may be obsessed with hard statistics like LSAT scores, GPAs, and bar passage percentages, but the law students who will be adversely affected by what they believe was a hastily made decision are more than their test scores. They are people — people who went to law school to help others and to serve their communities — and their dreams are being ripped from their hands without an adequate explanation having been given, and without a full rundown of the facts having been made available to them.
Why did the board of trustees announce such a huge decision without being able to outline a plan for the future? These students deserve to know what their futures hold, and they deserve those answers now. This is not right, and this is not fair. Help them understand why they didn’t deserve at least the chance to try to succeed. Until that happens, absolutely no one should be surprised by Whittier Law students’ outrage.
Dozens of angry Whittier Law School students protest after college announces closure [Whittier Daily News]
Staci Zaretsky is an editor at Above the Law. She’d love to hear from you, so feel free to email her with any tips, questions, or comments. You can follow her on Twitter or connect with her on LinkedIn.