Columbia law school and “existential worry”

I thought I had covered every angle of interest to me in the story about Columbia law school postponing the exams of law students “traumatized” by two grand jury no-bills. But the New York Times article that John linked to prompts an additional line of thought.

Here is what one Columbia law student, a Latino, told the Times:

“The word ‘trauma’ is sort of being misunderstood. It’s not a trauma that somebody has if they’ve been exposed to the war. It’s not being able to focus, it’s worrying about your family members. It’s worrying about your future as a lawyer. It’s an existential worry. Then having to apply the very law that’s being used to oppress us.”

“Existential worry” is something nearly all of us must deal with. I experienced it when America re-elected President Obama. It made me worry about the future, especially the future of my children.

Nonetheless, I soldiered on with my blogging.

I experience existential worry when I see what’s happening to Jews in Europe, where we have family members living. For that matter, I experienced existential worry last night when I learned that a raving, knife-wielding anti-Semite attacked a Jewish student in a New York synagogue while the student was praying. The police shot the attacker when he refused to drop his knife. Reports that some were criticizing the police for this only added to my existential worry.

Nonetheless, I got up this morning and wrote a long post about the Feinstein report.

Writing about the Feinstein report brought on more existential worry. Not only is it depressing to witness Democratic Senators produce revisionist history that assails those who, using methods that congressional Democratic knew about and even encouraged, helped protect America from those who attacked us on 9/11, but I fear that the Democrats attack on the CIA will make America more vulnerable to future deadly attacks.

Nonetheless, I’m writing this post.

Admittedly, writing blog posts is more cathartic than writing law school examination papers. And, if we take what some Columbia students are saying seriously, the very act of writing a law school exam is a big component of their existential worry. As the student quoted above puts it, “having to apply the very law that oppresses us” is traumatizing.

There are only two known cures to having to apply the law that, considered as a whole, these students find oppressive — i.e. to engaging in legal analysis as we know it: (1) abandon the field of law or (2) become a professor of “critical race theory” and/or “critical legal studies.”

I hope that Columbia’s existentially worried students won’t abandon the field of law (the Latino quoted above clearly doesn’t plan to — he’s applying for a clerkships that, presumably, will call on him to apply the law). If we take them at their word, they show little current aptitude for the field. However, they are young, and with adult supervision should overcome their aversion to engaging in legal analysis.

Where will the adult supervision come from? Don’t ask. I’m starting to experience more existential worry.


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