Monday, May 11, 2009
Academic Support has crossovers into many other areas of legal education; one of the most fascinating to me is the crossover between ASP and balance in legal education. The issues that impact ASP are often the same issues that arise because of the lack of balance in legal education; stress, depression, substance abuse. Bullying is a problem in law school that exacerbates all of these things. In this economy, we can expect to see the sharp elbows and evil comments increase. This is an issue we need to keep an eye out for with our students because so many feel stigmatized by being a student who needs (or wants) additional support and assistance. When there are sparse resources (or the perception of sparse resources), students can turn on each other as a way of getting ahead. I would love to say these tactics don't work, but sometimes they do work. When an otherwise qualified student doesn't bother to apply for a position because they have been told they are too stupid, based on their use of ASP resources, bullying has worked. What is our role, as ASPer's, in helping our students see that this behavior only brings down the very profession they worked so hard to be a part of? The first step is modeling appropriate behavior. ASP is one of the most welcoming, warm, wonderful communities I have had the privilege to be a part of, but that does not mean that they stress does not get the best of us sometimes. I know I have been guilty of the saying things I want to put back into my mouth, especially when I am in a high-stress, high pressure environment where bullying is the norm. The challenge is to rise above this, and remember that are students are always watching what we do and what we say. They look to us to show them how to be professionals. And they are looking to us to show them how to behave when we are under stress.
When you see bullying between students, take action. This behavior will perpetuate itself in the professional setting if it is not stopped. Remember, sometimes this behavior works, and the bully gets what they want from harassing, belittling, or "freezing out" the classmates. It is our responsibility to show that this is not acceptable in our profession, even if it results in short-term gains. Sometimes students need to be reminded that their reputation in law school will carry to their professional careers. It brings us all down when a law student or a lawyer embodies the greedy, mean-spirited lawyer of so many jokes and cartoons.
I know many of us don't feel like we have the power to stop something that is pervasive in law school community. But if we can stop it in one small corner, it will make a difference. (RCF)