I’ve been gone from the blawgosphere for what seems like an eternity — I looked at the little calendar thing on the right for January, and for the first time since I started law:/dev/null there were more days without entries posted than with them
As you can probably guess, I had totally overcommitted myself this semester. But I’ve started paring back and hope to get back into the swing of things here starting now ::fingers crossed::
Here’s a quick update on my life, which encompasses most of the dozen-ish entries I had queued up but never got around to posting:
The academic vibe this semester is totally different from last semester. Thus far I’ve got no real interest in any of my classes… plus I’m behind in pretty much all of them
Trial Practice is boring because all the stuff we’re going over — openings / closings / directs / crosses / objections — has already been beaten into my brain from trial team practice (see Part II below). Business Associations would probably be a fun class, if not for the fact I’m about 4 lectures behind in the reading.
Same deal with Scientific Evidence; I’ve got high hopes for enjoying it as the semester progresses, but between falling behind in the reading and class being at 8:30am, I’ve been very “blah” every day. As for Criminal Procedure, I finally managed to get caught up last week just to fall behind again by the next class.
I’ve basically been keeping my head down in all of my classes praying I don’t get called on God willing I’ll be able to get everything caught up tomorrow and Tuesday…
II. EXTRACURRICULAR STUFF I’M IN
Trial team has essentially consumed my life. Back in early January during our first practice I was worried I’d be blown out by my teammates in our draft closing arguments, so I did a lot of prep on mine… and ended up giving the best one
That netted me the team captain spot for the 2Ls with the designation as “swing” counsel. Since TYLA teams are either 2 or 3 people, in our case we’ve got 1 person solely doing prosecution, 1 solely doing defense, and the “swing” (me) doing both
So there have been multi-hour practices 4-5 days a week for a month now. On the off days I’m tweaking things and updating my trial binder and thinking about possible curveballs that could be tossed at us by the competition. Add in the fact I’d never actually questioned a witness before — abjectly failing on the first couple attempts as a result — and you get what’s been an awful loooong month.
For several days I’d get to the law school at 8am and not leave until 10pm, a scenario I assiduously avoided during 1L year and now can’t escape
On the SBA end, Treasury work has been a mess too. All NCCU Law school students pay a fee to the main campus student union, which goes into a programming fund to which different organizations can submit requests for event funding. At some point years and years ago, the administrators on main campus decided it would be more efficient to just give the SBA that $$$ paid by law school students and letting us distribute it (since our folks almost never use main campus facilities) instead of having the law school groups submit a boatload of requests to main campus.
Turns out this was all a totally unofficial arrangement. With catastrophic budget cuts looming, the folks on NCCU’s main campus decided a few weeks ago they’re not going to give the SBA that money — months after the fiscal year started and we had adopted a budget including it. So I got to spend a good chunk of late January working with the SBA Exec Board and law school administrators to fill a ~$90K budget hole with only a few months left in our terms.
Fortunately we wrote a very austere budget back in September so we were able to pull it off, but at the cost of having to cancel our Spring appropriations process and trim back a bunch of other expenditures.
The whole situation’s roots in budget cuts has also persuaded me to run for SBA President in March. The impending cuts being handed down by the state legislature are truly mind-boggling in their enormity. Consider, for example, that for every $1 in state funding that’s eliminated from North Carolina’s university system, tuition has to be raised by $3 to make up the difference. The NCGA is currently talking about cutting $400,000,000.00+ from the UNC system. That means we’re facing $1.2B+ (yes, “billion” with a “b”) in tuition increases just to stay where we are — increases of roughly $5,600 per student.
Those kind of increases lead to mass dropouts like we had back in the early part of this millennium — including your humble author — and it makes for horrible public policy. Our SBA this year had to focus on rebuilding its internal credibility with the Student Body and faculty, and now it’s time for us to focus our sights elsewhere. I think (hope?) my experiences can make me a solid advocate for this university and law school in the year ahead.
I’ll keep you posted on how it all goes
III. EXTRACURRICULAR STUFF I’M NOT IN
Speaking of student advocates, UNCASG has been in the news quite a bit lately — and it seems for all the wrong reasons.
My successor and his administration pushed me out of the group and ran as far away from my way of doing things as quickly as his legs could carry him. I can’t really complain because that’s how politics goes and I certainly did the same thing when I took over. The difference between then and now, though, is that I discarded things that didn’t work and found ways that did.
On the other hand, the new kids on the block have basically taken a timewarp back to 2006-07
First there was a controversy over the President threatening Executive Officers who support local SG candidates who “disagree with the ‘ASG vision'”. This kind of institutional arrogance is precisely what alienated campuses from UNCASG in the past and led to the withdrawals in the year before I was elected. How anyone thought it was a good idea is beyond my limited mental faculties to comprehend; in my world, if you’re going to have to fire someone… you just don’t hire them in the first place.
The UNCCH Carolina Review decided to make hay from the issue with a piece of their own of course. You might recall the folks at the Carolina Review are the self-proclaimed conservatives cited by the Pope Center in the Center’s hit piece on my tuition views last March.1
I can’t blame the Carolina Review for trying to boost their readership with a timely article on a manufactured controversy, but pegging it as a conservative issue struck me as amusing — once upon a time conservatives opposed non-local people getting involved in local affairs. Instead the Review encourages it, as long as the involvement coincides with their own political views.
The whole situation is a mess, and one that should have been avoided. When I originally wrote UNCASG’s Ethics Act 2.5 years ago, I included this provision:
§1-2.5. Electioneering Prohibited.
(a) No Executive Officer receiving compensation funded by student fees shall knowingly engage in election-related advocacy or other campaign activities on behalf of any candidate for elective office at a constituent member of the Association.
(b) No Executive Officer shall allow his or her name and/or official title to be used to further the candidacy of any candidate for elective office at a constituent member of the Association.
(c) This section shall not be construed to prevent an Executive Officer from filing for elective office at a constituent member of the Association and from campaigning on his or her own behalf.
The section was removed in committee, at the urging of students from… UNCCH.2
The folks at the Carolina Review have also been circulating a petition to have a referendum on UNCCH’s participation in ASG put on their Student Government ballot in an effort to have the University remove itself. As the guy who created N.C. State’s student fee referenda from scratch back when I was Student Senate President, I’m actually in total support of having this particular referendum… but (unsurprisingly) they haven’t yet collected enough signatures to get it on the ballot. If they did, it would deprive them of an issue to carp about
“But TDot,” you say, “all of the stuff you’re talking about is small potatoes. None of this matters when a group is doing meaningful work and making a difference.” And you’d be right — but that’s not what’s actually going on.
Instead of focusing on the impending tuition battle I mentioned in Part I above, the leadership of UNCASG has focused instead on getting the President a vote on the university system’s Board of Governors — an utterly useless power on a Board where almost all votes are unanimous, and doubly useless when reaching out to the 215,000+ students the ASG President represents can carry more power than any vote. The last ASG meeting produced a total lack of consensus on a legislative agenda, leading to a factually-inaccurate DTH editorial touting a student vote as a good thing to try and fix the total dysfunction currently gripping the group.
The DTH (unsurprisingly) is wrong. Unfortunately the ASG leadership is wrong too.
Then there are the upcoming campus elections which will produce the next salvo of anti-ASG fireworks when new SBPs take office in a few months. Among the amusing candidacies is Rick Ingram, the odds-on favorite to become Student Body President at UNCCH. You might remember Ingram as the Kerry-esque flip-flopper who voted in favor of the UNCASG budget before he decided it would be more beneficial politically to oppose it. He’s been aggressively courting students for their votes — apparently so much so that the campus’s Board of Elections has already fined him for violating campaign rules and is now debating having him disqualified.3
Ingram also proclaimed on his website that “The simple truth is this — the days of fighting against tuition increases are over.”… an odd proclamation from a student and aspiring student leader in light of $1.2B+ in upcoming tuition hikes, and one which (1) the media (unsurprisingly) never covered and (2) promptly disappeared from his website when it became a political liability. Ingram’s victory would speak volumes about the UNCCH electorate, but more ominously it would ensure UNCASG wastes all of next year fighting pointless internal battles instead of serving students.
With all of this drama going on, for some unknown reason I made the mistake of heading to the NC General Assembly to catch up with some old colleagues and ask a few legislators of their thoughts on the situation. To say UNCASG has lost nearly all the credibility we built for it over two years would be putting it mildly If I had any doubt that things were really as bad as they seemed, I actually got calls from several campuses asking me to come back and run for the organization’s Senior Vice President position.4 It’s disheartening that I’m actually considering it…
IV. PERSONAL LIFE
The saying “when it rains, it pours” was a pretty good epitaph for January 2011.
I was sick for the first week. My sister was committed to a mental institution the second week. QT’s dad unexpectedly died of a heart attack the week after. That very same day in trial team practice I found out a friend of mine was killed in a car accident.
At some point around that portion of the month I discovered both of my parents are either currently having or recently had affairs (I was sufficiently disappointed in both of them that I didn’t bother to inquire further) and the situation with my sister has them contemplating divorce. My dad was laid off from his job. My sister got released from the mental hospital and within the week was off her meds and smoking weed like she had nothing better to do with her time. At which point my parents discovered she had been stealing my mom’s jewelry to sell in an effort to finance her drug habit. Etc etc etc ad nauseum.
I’m pretty sure there was other crazy sh*t going on last month too but I did my best to forget as much of it as possible I’m trying to be a supportive friend to QT and her brother as best I can, trying to avoid the quagmire that is my family and their attendant refusal to make the tough decisions necessary to actually improve their lives, and otherwise trying to avoid having my generally sunshine-y disposition rained out on a near-daily basis like it did last month.
V. PROFESSIONAL STUFF
Things are at least marginally better on the professional side. I’ve started my tutoring sessions with the 1Ls in Criminal Law, and so far I’ve got the highest-attended tutorial and office hours out of the 15 different 1L classes (3 each in CrimLaw, CivPro, Torts, Property, and Ks). It’s too early to tell if that trend’s going to continue, but the feedback has been very positive and it really boosts my spirits
My internship with I-Cubed was also going really well. The people are great, the company culture is cool, the issues are interesting, and I was turning in sterling work product (even earning the praise of an attorney at another tech company). I was also getting addicted to the four-figure paychecks…
…but I walked away
Between trial team consuming my time, my personal life being a crucible, and trying to keep up with academics, I just wasn’t able to give the company the 20 hours a week they needed. So I met with the CEO last week (my boss) and basically quit for now. I’m still part of the company and available for non-time-sensitive ad hoc projects as needed, but I’ve otherwise wound down to -0- hours a week until summer when the company will re-assess if I’m still useful to them.
It was the first time I’ve left a job since 2002, when I quit the State Bar to go take a leadership spot in the Wake County Clerk’s Office. There’s a part of me that’s terrified I made the wrong choice, especially with all the doom and gloom about the economy and law school employment stats and etc. But honestly I’d rather put everything out on the table and take my chances down the road than either (1) being miserable every day as I’m stretched too far in too many directions, or (2) start failing at things, turning in below-par work, and ending up getting fired anyway
It was an awesome opportunity and I’m thankful for it, and I’ve got faith everything will work out exactly how it’s supposed to work out
VI. BLAWG LIFE
Spam combat on the backend of this blog has been continuing apace. My edition of the (badly-delayed) Law School Roundup will be coming up this week so I can punt the ball back over to Katie Luper
And oddly enough we had a real explosion in Google searches last month, so even though I had almost no entries in January we still had fairly decent traffic
I’ve also got a piece on tap for Beyond Hearsay that should be going live some time over the next couple weeks, and one for The True Verdict that I’m working on in my spare time — hopefully you’ll like them both
That’s it for this entry y’all! I’m sorry for being gone as long as I was, but I’m gonna make a serious effort to get back in the game.
Until next time, have a great week!
- Views they fabricated from whole cloth despite five years’ worth of publicly-available commentary to the contrary. [↩]
- Conservative UNCCH students at that, who saw an opportunity to back one of their own SBP candidates with ASG EOs. [↩]
- Ingram’s response to the potentially-disqualifying allegations is quite entertaining. Anyone who’s taken the “Detection of Deception” CLE should be able to spot several items where he’s being dishonest with the Board; see if you can find them [↩]
- I wrote term limits into the ASG Constitution so I’m ineligible to serve as President ever again. [↩]