On-Mean Grading and Dinner

I had my first interviews today and they went well. I’ve got a couple more tomorrow. Otherwise, I hit Arrillaga gym for mainly shoulder weights. This evening I went on a 46 minute run including the Dish hill loop. I felt good and went 22 minutes for the Dish gate to gate.

It’s been awhile since I have had any issues worth spouting out, but here are a couple:

  1. The on mean grading system: Let me preface this by saying that fortunately, grades at Stanford Law School are not that important. They still matter to some degree, but I understand everyone gets a job in the end. That said, there is an important principle involved here. Law schools are supposed to be beacons of justice and fairness – it turns out on-mean grading is anything but just and fair and is instead rather arbitrary and capricious. Maybe I was gullible, but I thought that there was some computer software that took the grades and automatically adjusted them to the mean respective of each other. NOT!! Instead, the professor lays out the exams somewhere and tries to manually create a mean. For a big class, this is almost impossible to accurately produce on the first try. Once the professor submits the grades a computer tabulates all the submitted scores and determines if they fall on the mean (3.4 for Stanford). If it doesn’t, the submission is returned to the professor at which time he/she must adjust the scores. To my great surprise, this usually entails reducing (or less frequently, increasing) a couple scores and then re-submitting. The result is that a few grades get reduced a couple tenths for no justified reason, just to make the mean! The other perverse outcome of the on-mean grading system has to do with the off-mean courses that are available. The incentive is for students to apply for these “off mean” courses, usually by lottery or consent, regardless of what the course is about just because it is “off mean.” The result is a colossal waitlist for virtually all of these courses, leaving many people that have genuine interest in the course somewhere on the waitlist. Fortunately, as people’s schedules shake out, spots open up in many of these courses, but it is definitely a negative reflection of the on-mean system. Whoever came up with the idea of using this measure of grading in law schools across the country needs to be fired.
  2. “Invitation only” firm dinners: The interview system is shaky as is. I mean, how much can you really find out about a person in 20 minutes? Most of the time, you just talk shop for 20 minutes and then move on. I sincerely hope the substance follows the interview. With resume, writing sample, transcript, and references, I imagine someone at the firm reads this material or they meet in committees resulting in an informed decision on which students to callback (invite for a second interview at the firm’s office). This process seems reasonable enough. This is what I thought happened and that’s it – I was gullible again. It turns out some firms give callbacks on the spot and “invitation only” dinners to some interviewees. In this case, the only basis of this decision is a resume and 20 minutes of talking. There is no scrutiny of anything else. It’s pretty difficult to distinguish applicants simply on resume, everybody is accomplished here. Moreover, I suspect very little time is spent reviewing each resume before interview. Since they probably have a quota to fill for dinners, people at the beginning or end of the list could be screwed. I say invite everyone. I don’t know, the whole thing feels a bit elitist and backhanded. I’m going to have to get used to it I guess. Also, I am looking at this from the perspective of the interviewee, which is perhaps skewing my perception. That bottom line still remains: if I were invited to a dinner, I’d be happy to go…

By the way, I had a delicious dinner tonight :)!


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