The Legal Beat
T14 Law School’s Massive Exam Blunder Sends 1Ls Scrambling
Posted on Wednesday December 02, 2020
2020 has been a helluva year. Even though the world is seemingly upside down, law school has trudged on. Sure, classes are online at a whole host of elite law schools, but issues will not spot themselves and the education of America’s next generation of lawyers has continued apace.
Much like in previous years, this year’s law schools somehow struggle to give students their final exam. Yes, it seems like a basic element of administering a course, but, well, pretty much every year Above the Law hears stories of exam debacles. From law professors reusing exam questions (a confoundingly common problem), to using shocking and tragic hypotheticals, to forcing students to defend segregation — well, a lot can (and does!) go wrong all the time. But it wouldn’t be 2020 without an extra special awful twist.
Around 6:30 p.m. last night, 1Ls in Professor Winnie Taylor’s section of contracts at Cornell Law School received instructions for the final exam scheduled for 9 a.m. the following day from the registrar’s office. The only problem? In addition to the instructions, the administration also sent along a copy of the exam questions. D’oh!
A few hours later, the issue was “rectified” with the announcement that Professor Taylor would have to re-write the exam and the exam would be pushed to 3 p.m. to accommodate the change.
Professor Taylor, some of you may remember, was involved in a bit of a situation last year when she re-used previous exam questions, leading a tipster at Cornell to quip:
Poor Winnie Taylor having to pull an all nighter like the rest of us.. guess she could always use the help of her previous exams.
It’s also striking that Cornell hit upon this particular solution to its problem. It assumes that their students’ schedules are open, save for exams. Of course — particularly in 2020 — law students could easily have other obligations (childcare or sick family members) that have to be scrambled at the last minute to deal with this mistake. Especially since the entire section received the exam questions, the same questions easily could have been used in a take-home / 24 hour format that would have afforded the students more flexibility.
But, alas. That wasn’t meant to be, and it fact — it got worse.
Tipsters report that at least one other section had THE EXACT SAME ISSUE.
The error by Cornell was not learned from as 30 minutes after the remedy email went out, instructions for another section of contracts were given out and the attachment for that instruction email contained… you guessed it: the Final exam questions. So after the previous effort to try and recall the email the first time, the registrar again tried to rescind the second official leak of the finals. However, it was too late and the mockery of this year multiplied as now 120 out of 180 first year students have seen the exam questions they are supposed to take in 12 hours. So, the fun of 1L during a pandemic, chaotic election, and doing it all under the fun of the curve has become an absolute joke of an experience for a T14 “elite experience.”
Wow. It was… quite the mistake the first time. After that, you just have to laugh at the incompetence.
So, in the end, multiple exams were spoiled by the school’s administration and have to be delayed and re-written as a result. I mean, this is the most 2020 thing ever. Good luck to those impacted. Hopefully dinosaurs don’t attack mid-exam.
Kathryn Rubino is a Senior Editor at Above the Law, and host of The Jabot podcast. AtL tipsters are the best, so please connect with her. Feel free to email her with any tips, questions, or comments and follow her on Twitter (@Kathryn1).