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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

NYC, and the little notes at the end of the exam

I'm back in the Hassee now after a great trip to NYC for the New Voices in Legal Theory workshop, generously sponsored by Cardozo and organized by Ekow Yankah. I had the chance to meet for the first time a cluster of really interesting and sharp people (David Tabachnick, Vic Todros, Danny Priel, and Leo Zaibert) and to reconnect with a gaggle of other scoundrels and savages (e.g., Rob Kar (congrats on the recent tenure vote!), Adam Kolber, John Mikhail, Ekow, Eric Miller, Vera Bergelson, Ken Ehrenberg, and Kevin Kordana).  Many thanks to Ekow and Cardozo for putting this together. After the jump, I offer a few recommendations/cautions based on the weekend's extracurricular activities.

But before I get to that, I've got a pile of exams still looking at me jealously. As I've been grading, two things have given me grist for a blog post. First, has anyone come across some priceless or at least worthwhile phrases that have stuck out while earning this semester's salary? I came across the "Cans of Construction" several times, which assuredly takes pole position. I'll clearly have to be better at enunciating next year.

Second, how do prawfs react to the inevitable notes at the end of the exam that say: "Dear Professor, I really loved your class and hope you have a great summer. Thank you for challenging us!"  Should we take them as sincere or ... psy-ops? Apropos Jack's investigative journalism escapade with the YLJ's quasi-anon policy--and the concern that certain info biases the decisionmakers--I think these notes mess with my head in a similar way, making it difficult to give these exams the low grades they sometimes warrant. But since I didn't announce a policy of "no bribery through flattery" earlier, I can't bring myself to penalize it now--regardless of their potential insincerity. Any coping strategies? (Besides: Get over it!)

What to seek: chocolate chunk cookies at Levain Bakery (74th near Amsterdam); fava hummus and falafel at the Hummus Place (Amsterdam near 74th); salmon burgers at Blue Water Grill; anything at Le Pain Quotidien (many locations); the WaZa Waffle at Norma's (the exalted brunch emporium at the Parker Meridien; home of the 1000$ lobster/caviar frittata); and the fries at Vynl (9th Ave in Hell's Kitchen); drinks at the Grotto on the Lower East Side.

What to avoid: the play November on Broadway--despite Nathan Lane's exuberant performance, it's a bit of a let-down from David Mamet; not much more than a sharper-than-average 90 minute sit-com; the creative but no less odd tasting butternut squash wontons at Vinyl.

Posted by Administrators on May 20, 2008 at 12:37 PM in Life of Law Schools | Permalink


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I can't imagine leaving a note like that in an exam, which goes to show my limitations. If only I'd known, I could have at least considered debasing myself.

It's not that I'm opposed to note. As an undergrad, I took a particularly bad course followed by what I saw as a remarkably unfair exam (the sort of exam one can't do well on, which allows the professor absolute discretion). It was the professor's last course, so rather than complete the exam, I wrote a note, telling him I hoped he'd enjoy his retirement as much as the rest of us would.

Posted by: anon | May 21, 2008 1:58:17 PM

so, any profs ever get insults or sleights at the end of an exam, perhaps tongue in cheek even?

i never thought about kissing up but i did consider telling one prof i thought he was an idiot after writing a really good answer. i lacked the fortitude to follow through.

Posted by: so | May 21, 2008 7:15:54 AM

In patent law, we have a mythical person - the PHOSITA (Person Having Ordinary Skill in the Art)...apparently one student missed the day when I defined the acronym, because the mythical person on his exam was the Faux-Cita. One of my favorite exam nuggets.

Posted by: Patent Law Prof | May 20, 2008 4:42:58 PM

I just had a student tell me in an exam that there was not an exculpation provision in the company's "Articles of Confederation."

Posted by: Another Law Prof | May 20, 2008 4:37:08 PM

Definitely psy-ops, as Dave! suggests. There are lots of ways to thank a professor other than in an exam that counts for your entire grade. Besides, if the student really wants to thank you, presumably they would want to do it in a non-anonymous environment.

Posted by: Law Prof | May 20, 2008 3:35:22 PM

Priceless nugget: somebody referred to the assets of a partnership being "liquified." Got a sympathy point for making me laugh out loud, though I spent more time than I should have thinking about the post-dissolution smoothie that must have resulted.

Posted by: Jeff Lipshaw | May 20, 2008 1:39:06 PM

Psy-ops. Definitely. I've written notes to Profs when I've really enjoyed a class. Always *after* exams and *after* my grade has been posted. People that do that on an exam are brown-nosers...

Posted by: Dave! | May 20, 2008 1:35:04 PM

Good question, Dan. When I first started teaching, I used to get these "little notes" all the time. Now I very rarely do. Not sure why. In any event, I find that by the time I get to the little note at the end I've already graded most of the exam, and the die is cast. (Obviously, this wouldn't be true if I graded each question separately, which I don't.) I suspect that some are sincere and some are not. I have to confess that, for me, the little notes do make it harder to administer the coup de grace.

Posted by: Stuart Green | May 20, 2008 1:28:34 PM

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