Two weeks ago today, I packed up my little car and drove six foggy hours on the Pennsylvania Turnpike to get back to Baltimore in time for the Spring semester of my 1L year. The first semester had been more than tough. I had been dealing with constantly changing dosages of happy pills, and my dad had told me he and my stepmother were divorcing right at the end of Thanksgiving break, and as a result of all this stress and tension that had been building up from this awful semester, I did not do as well on my finals as I had been expecting to. But I definitely did not expect a curt email from the Associate Dean’s office in my inbox on Sunday afternoon telling me that my GPA was .939, which was not enough to continue for the spring semester. If I wanted to appeal their decision (which had already been made) I could petition them to give me a hearing.
First of all, who does that?! They wait until the day before class starts, when I’ve paid my tuition and bought all my books, and send an email out at 3pm on a Sunday telling me they’re dismissing me, and then NOBODY ANSWERS THEIR PHONES. Granted, in my sheer panic I may have left too many missed calls and frantic email messages, but let’s be real, panic. Secondly, I think they might have timed this out on purpose, so I couldn’t get them on the phone and babble at them in a variety of languages.
So I drafted a letter explaining all the issues I had had the previous semester, got a letter from my psychiatrist explaining the bit about my medication, and sent it all in the first chance I got. Which was Monday. I also spent Monday morning camped out in the Dean’s suite, waiting for the woman whose name had been tacked onto the dismissal email. She finally waltzed into her office at 10:30, and promptly told me that she didn’t know what I should do now, that she did not have all the answers, and her job was to send emails.
Fuck that shit.
Having found no answers in the Dean’s suite, I went up to the Academic Support office, where the awful woman with cold dead fish eyes and bangs from the nineties told me it was “a shame we’re meeting under such circumstances.” This woman was a gem. And by gem I mean useless waste of time. She essentially told me that I should just drop my petition and forget about law school because I wasn’t cut out for it. Bitch please. I am fucking brilliant. Don’t even get me started on how goddamn brilliant I am. You were lucky to have me. Sensing I was getting no help or sympathy from her, I called my parents. Mom was all on the “Okay let’s figure out your other options let’s take more tests and apply to more schools” train, while Dad was “Fuck these fuckers they don’t deserve you anyway.” Both supportive in their own way. My aunt however, called hysterically a couple times telling me “Calm down. Just calm down. You NEED to CALM DOWN.” I think she was more freaked out than I was. I kept going to classes, on the off chance that they wouldn’t dismiss me, and by Tuesday I got another curt email telling me when my hearing was.
The hearing itself was comical in how they tried intimidating me. They put me in a windowless room, at one end of a long table, with the Academic Review Committee on the other end. Very adversarial (I learned that word in undergrad, FYI). I explained why the semester was an anomaly (I had straight AP classes through high school, finished my Bachelors in three years, and had a $10,000-a-year grant to THIS FUCKING SCHOOL), and how I had already made plans to improve my grades. They weren’t very interested, and ten minutes later said they had all the information they needed and that they would email me a decision shortly.
Shortly meant Thursday, right after I sat through another Contracts II class. They dismissed me. I walked back to my apartment in a fog, called my mom and then my dad, and started packing. I couldn’t leave that night because I was more than a little emotionally compromised, and had so much shit left to do. I packed up three big bins, two suitcases, and four reusable shopping bags, and then I fell asleep. I put everything into my car, and almost a week after I had gotten there, headed back through Pennsylvania because I just could not be in Baltimore any longer.
What I realized during the six hours it took me to get back to Ohio was that no matter how much schools or other institutions preach about how they’re a family and will do anything for their students, that just is not true. It’s not feasible. They can’t reach out to everyone and make sure they’re okay. And when you’re most decidedly not okay, it’ll show up in your grades, even though you think you’re strong and can handle everyone else’s problems. And when you’re not strong enough to put out the grades they can publish, to brag to all the other schools that their students are the smartest, they drop you. They cut ties and every email you send asking about what you’re supposed to do next is ignored for a few days and then gets an impatient reply. They won’t stand by you when you’re down. So don’t expect them to.