Dear Professor Summers,
I was a proud graduate in the spring of 2013 from Barry School of Law. Sure, I wasn’t the head of the class. And sure, I had no plans to stay in Florida, but I loved my time there all the same. One of the things I enjoyed was an opportunity you helped talk many of us into, the Summer in Spain program. So you must understand I was initially shocked when I found out you were the one making disparaging remarks about those who had not passed the February Bar Exam. I didn’t want to believe it at first. Certainly you are not a lax professor or ineffectual grader. Including my own tireless efforts, I can say that I knew few people who had your classes and didn’t work hard for the grades they received. Most of them took that same approach to the bar exam. Most of us in general took that approach to the bar exam.
Which is why your email(which I did receive a copy of) was so disgusting to me. Motivation, tough love, the more stick than carrot approach, and everything else is fine. If you feel that the current crop of 3Ls isn’t taking bar prep seriously, just as some professors believed the same about my 3L class, there were better ways to express that. Indeed when that claim was lobbed at my class it didn’t come in the form of a public calling out or at the expense of any other graduates. Your chosen path was far less professional, and for someone who is supposed to be an example of professionalism to each and every student at Barry, you leave me severely disappointed. And since it isn’t fair to lob complaints without regard for my own situation, I’ll get to the heart of my annoyance.
I didn’t pass the July Missouri Bar Exam. I missed by 10 points, and I was devastated. Not because I had approached it as though it didn’t matter, but because I had taken the two months prior and my entire spring semester and focused them directly on passing. It was the only goal I had. Hearing the success from the class before me was more pressure, but like my classmates all we did was work to make sure we passed. And I was one of the few who didn’t. Since we didn’t pass like many of the February takers, by your logic we also had the wrong attitude and should not be trusted by clients. What kind of educator, much lesson fellow legal professional would make such a blanket statement about anyone. And how should the ones who did pass the bar exam in February feel about your comments? I received my results and found out I passed. Should I and the others feel our passage was the providence of dumb luck and not the months of stress, mental anguish, preparation, endurance, studying, and buying into the bar exam prep we received?
You do yourself as much disservice as you do to all of us who attempted to pass the exam. You didn’t take very specific aim at the current students and utilize this as a teaching moment to motivate them. You kicked vulnerable human beings who are recovering from their low point and laughed at the sacrifices they made. You disrespected the students you in part taught, and the people who have supported them in their personal lives and at Barry itself. And speaking as the son of a 40 year plus educator, you give them all a dark mark of disrespect as well. And the worst part is I doubt you’ll find what you said wrong. I doubt you’ll understand, despite all of the vitriol poured out over social media, and I’m sure at Barry itself, that you used the worst kind of half-hearted attempt to motivate. I’d call for your firing, or a public statement from students and faculty that denounces your comment and exposes your mentality for the warped and destructive idiocy that it is, but that isn’t my way. So I’ll let this open letter stand as how I respond to your comments, close my wallet when Barry asks for Alumni donations, and privately help and encourage every student that I can to pass the bar. Because that is what you should have been doing. And since you decided to drop the ball, it’s up to better human beings to pick it up. For now, leave the motivational emails and messages to the bar prep folks, you’re clearly no good at it.
– Matthew Elisha Williams