Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Things that infuriate me

- Harvard: How can a school have $34.9 billion and be so bad at everything? I could talk at length about the many ways they have failed us (course selection, grade viewing, general humanity and dignity), but instead, I will focus on what is the most infuriating thing about being reminded of how fabulously, obscenely wealthy my school is. Let me note that, at the time the Harvard endowment was worth $25 billion total, the Law School had about $1 billion in its own endowment account. Assuming things have gone up proportionately, the Law School should be around $1.4 billion now, right? At the time I graduated from USC, the entire university had about $2.5 billion in its endowment. Anyhow, rage...

Harvard Law School has the most miserly financial aid policy I can imagine. First of all, without regard for the fact that so very many students (myself included) receive no financial support from their families toward their graduate education, they calculate a parental contribution unless you, as a student, have been completely financially independent from your parents for 7 years (or they're dead...at least they were sane enough to include that caveat). This means that somebody could graduate from college, spend 5 years as a totally independent adult in the workforce, and still have their financial aid package calculated with an assumption that their parents are footing the bill. Having adopted a totally unreasonable policy on when parental contributions are calculated, the school takes an equally asinine approach to how they are calculated. The school assumes parents will spend 22% to 47% of their available income, plus 3% to 6% of their adjusted net worth, every year. This, of course, doesn't consider things like the massive tax liabilities and early withdrawal penalties associated with drawing on retirement assets. And, of course, they have a blanket "no merit-based aid" policy, which makes people like me, who gave up scholarships at other perfectly good law schools, feel really good about life.

But that's not the part that makes me angriest. The part that gets to me, particularly in light of this article, is the explanation of why they don't have any merit-based aid. And I quote: "The School does not award 'merit' or 'full-ride' scholarships (which typically are not need-based) because these would necessarily reduce the resources available for need-based aid and increase the debt burden of every financially needy student." Those sons-of-a-bitches could let every current student go to HLS completely for free and survive entirely on alumni donations and interest on the existing endowment. To suggest that the reason for their absurd policy is necessity rather than pure avarice is just insulting. I would say "How dare they?" (my voice would convey the italics), but I don't consider myself the kind of person who says things like "How dare they?"

They only way I will ever give a dime to Harvard Law School after I graduate is if I write them a check for ten cents, just to be insulting, and in hopes that they spend more than that dime in processing the donation.

- The Average American: For the love of god, people, read a freaking book. One in four Americans didn't read a book last year. And as my friend Jamason pointed out when he lamented this story, all you coastal elites out there can take pride in knowing that midwesterns and southerners read more than you, thanks to religious reading.

I can be bad about this myself, since during the school year I come to associate the written word with pain. But it doesn't mean I'm not reading anything, I'm just limiting myself to things that people are making me read. And every summer, I discover anew that I actually like books.

I would be curious to see what the statistics are on this kind of thing for Canada or countries in Europe. There's a knee-jerk assumption, whenever a story like this comes out, that it reflects how uniquely culturally vapid the United States is. I've always suspected, based in part of my personal experience, that people from other civilized countries are just as ignorant and un- or mis-informed, even willfully blind, as Americans are, they're just less boisterous and conspicuous about it.

- The Fucking Asshole Who Left a Big Goddamn Dent and Scratch in the Passenger Side of My Beloved and Otherwise Pristine Car on the Northeast Corner of the 4th Floor of 3rd Street Promenade Lot #3 in Santa Monica, CA, on August 22, 2007, between 9 pm and 11 pm, and Then Didn't Leave a Note: I can't wait to call the City of Santa Monica Parking Office tomorrow morning to get access to the security cameras in the lot at the time so that I can nail your fucking ass. As penance, I propose that, if you drive something nice, I be allowed to take my 7 Iron to your car for 1 glorious, cathartic minute. And if you don't drive something nice, I suggest that you stand in for your car.

This is the problem with loving your car too much. I will avenge you, baby.

Update: They only have cameras on the first floor, so they can watch for people who leave without paying or whatever. They're planning to install cameras elsewhere. I bet they have "planning" to install the cameras since the moment they opened the structure. Bah.

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