Mercer Law Facebook Fight
A little background:
In 2006, Mercer Law School was ranked 87 by US News and students generally felt that the University was on the right path. However, over the past three years, Mercer has fallen from 87 to a three way tie for 100 in 2008, and was most recently off the top 100 list entirely. As a result, students and faculty have been angry, frustrated, and actively seeking drastic changes at the school. The only problem is that everyone has disagreed about the way that these changes should be accomplished and the fight is spilling over into the public.
The highlights provided by an anonymous tipster:
The first indication of trouble at Mercer was a 2008 rant against the school posted across several law student forums. The posts resulted in an online skirmish that included SEVERAL HUNDRED posts from Mercer students, faculty, alumni, and amused onlookers. The general gist was that a student was upset at the direction the school was taking and his perceived waste of money and the impending plunge into tier-3 toilettedom. The students split into groups defending or attacking the school. Those students who attacked the school were attacked online and often had their online identities publicly exposed. The Mercer Law administration eventually got involved and somehow most of the posts have disappeared. However, you can find some residual posts at:
Then, Mercer Law did drop off of the top 100 list in 2009. Students immediately circulated a petition calling for sweeping changes. The petition was signed by more than half the student body and was also embroiled in controversy since the text of the signed petition was substantially changed before it was delivered to the University President. Again, debate raged on through school-wide emails and public forums. One month later, the dean resigned. In a Macon Telegraph article about her resignation, University officials noted, “Some students have been active the last few months with things like petitions, but I can assure you this has nothing to do with that.”
When students returned to school for the fall semester of 2010, the situation continued to worsen. Every minor disagreement between school policy and student desire has turned into a major debate. When the University changed it law school logo, students were quick to attack the seventies style logo and the process for creating it by creating a new petition and formed a SBA committee to address the issue.
Incident Earlier in the Semester Involving 3L Charlie Grimsley and a Professor Who Refused to Turn In Grades Until February:
Then, in an already desperate job market and facing a lowered perception of their schools, students were denied their current GPAs and Rankings because one professor refused to turn in his grades until late in February—a class with a term paper due in early November. The following exchange occurred between third year student Charlie Grimsley and the Dean of Academic Affairs:
I am writing regarding the grading deadline. Today is 10 days after the January 15th grading deadline for professors to turn in fall grades. One professor has still not turned in his grades. In fact, this professor habitually violates the grading deadline (I don’t think he has turned grades in on time a single time since I have been a student here). This professor’s actions are disrespectful to students, to the registrar’s office, and to the other professors who regularly turn grades in on time. This habitual violation of the grading deadline makes the registrar’s job harder and makes it difficult for students who are applying for jobs, clerkships, and LL.M. programs.
I want to be clear, this is not a situation where a professor occasionally misses the grading deadline and has a good excuse for doing so. This is a situation where the same professor always misses the grading deadline and usually by more than a week. Rizza Palmares, Dan Hines, and I had a meeting with Dean Mary Donovan about this issue on Friday, January 22, 2010. My questions to Dean Donovan were this: (1) has anyone ever spoken with this professor regarding his lack of regard for the grading deadline; and (2) to whom should SBA officers direct complaints of this nature? Dean Donovan did not directly answer either question, but, instead, suggested that a group of students try talking with this professor. Frankly, this is not the students’ job—this is the administration’s job. Dean Donovan pointed out that other law schools have professors that habitually violate grading deadlines. We are not students at other, cheaper, higher-ranked, law schools; we are students at Mercer Law School and most of us pay $34,000 a year to attend this institution.
Personally, I do not think it is too much to ask for the administration/deans office to address a situation where a professor always violates the grading deadline placing students at a disadvantage for jobs and clerkships. At the very least, I think the students deserve a better
explanation. Now here we are, a week from February and the registrar is still waiting on this professor’s grades. Finals were finished over a month ago. Do you think this behavior is acceptable? Has anyone in the dean’s office addressed this professor’s lack of regard for the grading deadline? To whom should SBA officers direct complaints of this nature? The students at this law school deserve a higher level of respect than that the dean’s office and this one professor have displayed in this matter. The main question isn't, is this a problem. This has repeatedly happened and we are past that point, the main question is what is the administration going to do about it on behalf of the customer/student?
Dear Mr. Grimsley,
Thank you for sharing your concerns about the late grades. The Dean's office is aware that one set of grades has not yet been turned in. As we do every semester, the Dean's office continuously reminded faculty about the grading deadline and monitored which faculty were meeting the deadline. When faculty did not meet the deadline, the Dean's office communicated with them to remind them about the reasons for the grade deadline and the negative repercussions for the students caused by missing the deadline. As in past semesters, the Dean's office has communicated those concerns on several occassions since the deadline has passed to the faculty member who has not yet turned in his grades. Hopefully, the grades will be turned in shortly.
The final reply before a formal censure bill was passed by the students:
Thank you for your response.
I mean no disrespect, but I must ask: Do you, or the other deans, feel that your response is adequate? This professor is always late; do you think a simple reminder is sufficient? At this point shouldn’t someone be standing by his office door until he gets the grades done? What is the purpose of having a grading deadline if the dean’s office does not hold professors to it?
What if a student missed a deadline? Would the dean’s office simply remind him/her that they were late and delay everything else until they got a response? If the dean’s office does not have the authority to address this problem then who does? To whom should the students complain? Are you telling me that we are all (students, registrar, administration, etc…) at the mercy of one professor who can turn grades in whenever he feels like it?
Do you think an 11 day delay is acceptable? How would you feel if the university held your paycheck for 11 days? How would things work if each and every student missed the tuition deadline by 11 days? This problem needs to be addressed in an adequate way. A simple reminder is insufficient at this point. This professor is a habitual violator and everyone knows it, steps need to be taken to rectify this problem.
Professor Tony Baldwin posted his grades the following week. Good job Mr. Grimsley and shame on you, Professor Baldwin for not posting your grades sooner!
Current problems and the Spill Over onto Facebook:
Two weeks ago, Mercer’s new Dean Search Committee unveiled their first candidate for Dean, Gary Simson from Case Western. General chaos ensued after an article was found that said “Gary Simson has agreed to resign" from Case Western after “students posted some of the lowest bar passage rates in the state."
Most recently, the same student, Charlie Grimsley, who wrote the petition against the Dean, sent the emails about grades being late, and who uncovered the article about the prospective new Dean posted on his facebook wall, “A decline in rank, plummeting bar passage rates, and alumni giving up on the school, this sounds eerily familiar.” Obviously frustrated with the constant attacks from the student, Mercer Professor Christopher Wells quickly replied, “Wonder why Mercer Law's applications are up 70% and alumni has risen so dramatically this year? I don't think the answer is bad-mouthing.”
Valentine Leppert, a 3L and currently ranked #1 in the class, responded, “I wonder how you are the head of a ranking committee that has been in existence for nearly a year but has not done anything. I wonder how you could oversee the admissions process and allow theincoming LSAT scores to drop when the school was already ranked 100th. I wonder why you have been an associate professor for roughly twenty years. I wonder how you can drive a Porsche while none of the students have decent jobs."
Note that David Hricik and Theodore Blumoff who join in on the Facebook fight are both Mercer professors.
What a disaster! Good luck to Mercer Law Students and keep on fighting!