I’m going to be trying something different with this column and I’m hoping you’ll come to loathe it as much as I already do. It goes like this: I read all the comments posted on Emerald Opinion pieces, pick one, and take the time to respond.

Many have been surprised by the degree of incivility displayed by Congress or at political rallies or by random people who happen to be caught on an iPhone saying something stupid or racist or racist and stupid with a hint of misogyny. With all our strides toward progress, we still seem to be surprised by people acting like jerks to one another.

You know who isn’t surprised? People who read the comments.

When it comes to comments, we hear things like: just ignore them, don’t engage and don’t take it personally. I have a problem with not engaging because the entire point of this column is to engage. This is an opinion section! I’m sharing my opinion because I think these topics matter; I’m not necessarily sharing them because I believe I am absolutely right. I simply think the discussion has merit. Doesn’t avoiding the comments defeat the purpose?

Don’t get me wrong, some of the people who comment are schmucks (or at least behave like schmucks in the cyber sphere). Many of them direct personal attacks because they can’t distinguish the writer from the piece. Many are just ignorant (think: lots of caps and exclamation points). But some commenters further the discussion and I think that should be given its due.

It is only fair that I start this shift by addressing a comment left on one of my own articles. Though I was tempted to dive right into political rants or healthcare, I think it’s best to start with an article I recently wrote about the University of Oregon School of Law.

In response to my article, a user identified as Liz Foote Treacy wrote the following comments:

I don’t mean to sound cruel, but are you serious?”

Your response doesn’t sound cruel (at least not to me) and I think your response was (mostly) fair. I was hostile in the piece and obviously flippant. So, for where you are right that my tone could have been kinder or my paragraphs clearer, thank you for taking the time to comment. As for the rest…

The majority of people don’t pass the bar in any state the first time around.”

If I accept this as true – it’s not but I can ignore this in order to address your point – I think it raises another question: do other states respond to low bar passage by lowering the passage rate? Part of what bothered me about the push – especially by the law school itself – to lower bar standards was that the required score hadn’t been changed in more than thirty years. For thirty years, we accepted it in Oregon and now it is suddenly unacceptable. I think it’s important to ask: what changed?

“79% is a pretty outstanding number in reality. 64% isn’t bad either.”

No, actually, it’s not. In looking at the raw data available for 2017, UO is 82nd in the country for bar passage. That is objectively not “outstanding” – especially when considering this is as applied to the new, lower standard.

“And by the way, that’s a “D” in public school as well.”

Trying really hard to ignore how petty that sounds. Obviously, I realize it’s a D in public school as well. Though, as I implied in the article, 64% could be as high as a B at UO law due to their curve. That was kind of the point.

“In terms of your classes and their availability, welcome to the University of Oregon, where students have been suffering from this “cluster” class system for years- turning their four year degrees into five, six…”

UO is 82nd in the country for bar passage. That is objectively not “outstanding.”

This is the part where I completely agree I made it seem as if my personal distaste for the cancelled class was the reason for the article. For that, I apologize. But here’s the thing, I’m not mad they cancelled the class. I’m livid they are willing to pour time and money into advocating for a lower bar standard but are unwilling to offer more bar classes or hold the actual bar classes they claim to offer because of administrative reasons. Doesn’t that seem like cognitive dissonance?

Also, if you’re currently caught in the “cluster” you described, I’m sorry. That sucks.

“Oregon does have one of the toughest bar exams so making some amendments isn’t going to make Oregon lawyers “the dumbest in the country.” Far from it.”

Two things: 1) not anymore and 2) the quotation used in the comment isn’t actually from my article. It’s the title of an article I quoted and not language I would have chosen of my own accord.

“Maybe think about law school at Willamette or a smaller university where you will get the kind of personal attention you received in home schooling. You’re putting your very personal needs ahead of the end game for most of your classmates here.”

I hate to end with a negative but here is where the comment is just wrong. It does a couple of things I’m not impressed by and I think it’s vital to break down statements such as these: 1) advice on where I should go to law school since UO seems to not be working out (according to her read) and 2) assuming I’m placing my “very personal needs” ahead of my classmates.

For the first, I’m doing quite well at UO. I even find the time to write this column and participate in all sorts of community activities. (I also run ultra marathons in my spare time.) The reason statements like this are so offensive is because they are an attempt to undermine the entire point of the article. I have complaints about UO so I must be the problem. It’s weak-minded and needs to be addressed when it arises. Failing to agree with someone doesn’t mean the points are invalid – it might mean there’s a valid discussion to be had.

For the second, nope. This is a frustration shared by many classmates (and faculty members) and not some “very personal” issue. Additionally, and maybe I didn’t make this clear enough, I care substantially more about the profession of law than about my classmates or myself passing the bar. ‬

Do I think lowering the standard is the worst thing ever? No, not in the least. Do I think first time bar passage is indicative of whether or not you’ll be a good lawyer? No, not in the least.

What I do believe – passionately – is that when someone struggles and we have the ability to help, we should help. Students pay somewhere in the ballpark of $150,000 to attend law school. Most emerge with enormous debt (and less hair). If we know those students are struggling to pass the bar and the bar is the only way to gain entry to this profession, I think we have an obligation to help in every way we possibly can. I don’t have control over the classes offered or the teachers available or the administration of the exam; I have a column and I’m using it to the best of my abilities. For better or worse.

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