Friday, September 23, 2005

Sextonism Watch: The University of North Carolina School of Law

A student at a New York area law school writes:

Despite my affection for Chapel Hill, I'm nominating the UNC School of Law's website for this week's award.  Consider its claims: "Carolina Law's student body is among the most highly credentialed and intellectually diverse in America" and "Carolina Law's alumni network, as you might imagine, is one of the strongest to be found anywhere."

First, it's entirely unclear how anyone measures the intellectual diversity *of a student body* (as opposed to faculty).  Undergraduate major?  Fair enough, but I question if UNC has access to this data or has taken the time to run the analysis. The "most highly credentialed" claim is, on its face, wrong. Finally, while the alumni network is strong within North Carolina, one has difficulty finding UNC-trained lawyers in the major markets in the Northeast and West.

The Sextonism project is clearly valuable: When I was applying to law schools I would often be taken by this sort of language, assuming that no reputable law school would so wrongly inflate itself. Perhaps by ferreting out misrepresentations some schools will quit it.

Let's hope so!  I'll note that UNC's hyperbole is, of course, phrased in such a way that it admits of interpretations for which there may be support.  To say the student body is "among" some class of student bodies in terms of credentials and diversity is silent on the size of the class it is "among"--perhaps it is meant to include three or four dozen law schools?  To say the alumni network is one of the " be found anywhere" might mean not that it is widely dispersed, but that it is unusual in its devotion to the school and its graduates.  (To be sure, the site follows up the claim about "strength" with this:  "Our graduates dominate the legal institutions of this state and occupy positions of leadership around the country and across the globe.") 

Of course, one suspects the ambiguity in the statements was not unwlecome, and that the New York student's reading of them is one of the natural ones.

Ludicrous Hyperbole Watch | Permalink

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