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Wednesday, March 09, 2005
  Curriculum Rediculum Redux :
The core idea from Ethan's post of yesterday:
[I]t might be better to do one thing well than three things very badly. And the guide to choosing should be the public obligation....Thus, a serious question seems to me to have to be, "what are the interests of the people of the state of Wisconsin in providing legal education, and how is that different (if at all) from what is provided at Marquette or by other law schools?"
I agree. Public obligation is kind of like our old friend the reasonable person standard, though. We could (and in fact, we will) spend the next month debating what it includes. Add it to the list of contested terms such as "niche" areas and "bread-and-butter" courses (from Monday's post).
Rascal Hatch (in yesterday's comments) takes issue with Ethan's starting point, though. As an out-of-stater, who paid top dollar to come here, why are his interests second to some undefined "public obligation" to Wisconsin?
If Wisconsin recruits and admits students from out of state, and then refuses to grant them residency during their education, you cannot with a straight face make the argument that the law school has a greater obligation to the state than to these students, who will be paying for their education for the next 30 years.
My response to Hatch: What is the risk? That out-of-state students will stop coming here as our school grows more Wisconsin-centered? I doubt it. And what about Ethan's point that focusing on one thing would make us better? Wouldn't all students be better off?
Also, I don't know the specifics, but I have the impression that a large part of the school's effort to recruit out-of-state students is geared at bringing in a diverse class of 1Ls each year. As a result, the law school does a much better job of reflecting the diversity of our state (and nation) than any other school or program on the Madison campus. We all benefit from that. And my impression is that (as part of that effort) the school gives financial and other assistance--paid for by the taxpayers WI--to a fair number of out-of-state students.
"What is the risk? That out-of-state students will stop coming here as our school grows more Wisconsin-centered? I doubt it."

I disagree with this. If word got out that UW had a Wisconsin focus, why would an out-of-state student come here? I wouldn't have when I was looking at school. I picked UW, in part, because the degree and knowledge were portable. Take that away and I doubt I'd apply.

Not having out-of-state students is a significant risk, both financially and intellectually. Not only would the law school have to find other sources of revenue to replace the dwindling rolls of us now-indebted-out-of-staters, but in-class discussions will lack geographic diversity (and therefore suffer).

I wouldn't be so quick to dismiss the impact of this risk.
Your comment brings out the the true point of contention. You said you came here because "the degree and knowledge were portable." And we start losing out-of-state students--you, Hatch, and others--when that portability goes away. True true true.

But let us go back to this idea that UW Law should choose to do one thing well instead of three things poorly. Can we define that one thing so as to (1) not lose students like you, for the reasons you state, and (2) shape the curriculum around a notion of a "public obligation" to Wisconsin? I am asking specifically--HOW COULD PUBLIC OBLIGATION BE DEFINED IN ORDER TO GET US THERE?

It's important because (if you want to talk money) the school does not have a very large private endowment, and (I assume) tuition paid by out-of-staters is a relatively small chunk compared to the big chunk consisting of in-state tuition plus state-budget money.
Wisconsin has an aging population (see http://www.doa.state.wi.us/docs_view2.asp?docid=2114) that should be balanced by younger workers. Since "Wisconsin’s fertility rate will be marginally below the
replacement level by 2030," it will need to rely on migration to avoid negative population growth. It might be in Wisconsin's best interest to attract out of state students who are likely to stick around after they graduate.

But that is really beside a larger question, which is why should law students be concerned with the interest of the state? The needs of Wisconsin residents are already well represented through the state budgeting process. And if students are not Wisconsin residents, then, as I said before...
We at the law school should attune ourselves to the needs of the state precisely becasue of what you mention--the budgeting process. Where do you think the UW law school gets it's money? A lot of it comes from the state budget.

Since I agree with you that it's a good idea to attract out-of-state students (and I don;t think that anyone woiuld fight us on that)--what do you say to my question: How should we define our "obligation to the state" in a way that stays true to the meaning of that phrase yet doesn't alienate out-of-state students, which both you and Eric appear to think we're at risk of doing. (I don't really see a great risk.)
good info
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