Cornell Law School (CC image courtesy of Eustress)
ITHACA — As the fall semester approaches, Cornell Law School’s new Dean, Eduardo Peñalver, has a lot to think about. In addition to declining application numbers and a slow recovery in the job market for recent law graduates, CLS may also face an additional challenge: A significant decrease in fun among the student body.
According to projections by the National Association for Data on Schools (NADS) released on Tuesday, the level of fun that students at CLS will experience in the coming year could decrease by as much as 25-30%. This, according to NADS analyst Dave Schutemeyer, is the likely result of the recent departure of the class of 2014: “For the last three years, Cornell Law’s fun level has been consistently higher than the school’s 10-year average. With that in mind, we believe the loss of the class of 2014 will mean a serious drop in fun in the coming year.”
Along with its official forecast, NADS also released a variety of data in support of its prediction. As the figures show, the level of fun experienced by members of the CLS community has been at historic highs for the last several years. Meanwhile, there has been large groups of “chill” students that have helped counteract the effect of “gunners.” Gunners, previous NADS research has suggested, tend to decrease the overall level of fun law students have at CLS and elsewhere.
The NADS, however, believes this trend won’t last. “The problem is,” says Schutemeyer, “that most of the fun-loving people at CLS were concentrated in the class of 2014. Groups like ‘the Wolf Pack,’ and the folks at Blair house and Chateau des Bros were really throwing down.” This year, however, those groups will have moved on to being real attorneys. “This could have a serious impact on fishbowl night and a detrimental effect on the overall fun level.”
The NADS’ concerns relating to the future of fun at Cornell Law are also shared by current students. According to Christy Lee, a rising 3L, “[Cornell Law] lost a lot of solid talent this year. I mean, who do you think organized pub golf, the UVA softball trip, and the squash tourney? It wasn’t our class.” When asked for an explanation as to what made the class of 2014 different, Lee’s answer was telling: “The 3Ls this year were the last generation at Cornell to ‘roll Palms.’ They didn’t F&#% around.” The Palms, according to sources in Ithaca, was a pub that closed in the spring of 2012. Law students that frequented the establishment engaged in many fun activities, including dancing on tables and chugging PBR.
Now, after the close of the Palms and the departure of the last class to experience it, analysts at NADS are predicting a less chill student body next year and significantly more gunners—up to 25%.
What does the forecast mean for the administration? A CLS staffer, who agreed to speak on condition of anonymity, said the administration is trying to be proactive: “Dean Peñalver is pivoting his strategy for the next year to focus on a more well-rounded educational environment. Last year, the 1Ls and 2Ls were crushing books and interviews, which is great. But this year we need them to step up and start crushing some beers….We’re also considering making the UVA softball trip mandatory for graduation.”
Yet, even with the administration shook up over the forecast, some CLS veterans aren’t worried. Dillon Renick, recent graduate and CLS’s Most Fun Person (MFP) for the 2012-2013 season, thinks the rising 3L’s have a lot of potential. “I saw them out on the field last year. They did some great work: wine tours, coordinated spring breaks, and dance parties. They certainly have some things to work on, like their croquet game and tan lines, but I think it’s going to be a good year for them.”
Daniel Cotton, recent graduate and MFP 2013-2014, agreed: “Last year, I was shocked that we didn’t make the top fun list for law schools. We absolutely killed it. (I mean, we had a lake house!) But now I think the rising 2Ls and 3Ls are ready to step up. I saw some of them playing corn hole in the CLS courtyard during finals, so I know they’ve been training. It might not be the like the last two seasons, but it will at least be dece[ent].”
In any case, it appears the rising 3Ls aren’t going down without a fight. After interviewing several dozen students in the new 3L class, the consensus is a four-prong strategy for 2014-2015: (1) study abroad, (2) less reading, (3) epic, matching slope day T-Shirts and (4) beer. There’s also talk of a possible fifth prong involving bi-weekly trips to a local hibachi restaurant.
However, even the most optimistic students know it will be a challenge: “We know that it’s going to be difficult,” says 2L Marshall Yiap, “We’re just not on the same level as last year’s class. I mean, even their law review crew got weird on the regular.”