April 5, 2005

31 apply for 25 spots to study LLSO

First-years interested in the Law, Letters, and Society (LLSO) major were busy last week—and possibly spring break as well—completing the program's unprecedented application for admission, which was due this past Friday. Dennis Hutchinson, master of the New Collegiate Division and chairman of the LLSO program, said that a total of 31 students applied for the major.

As the Maroon recounted in a February 18 article, the program will be limited to 25 students each year, and the application will include short-answer questions, an essay, and—if warranted by the number of applicants—an interview with Hutchinson.

The application, made available during tenth week of the winter quarter, asks for four brief answers and one extended response. On the single-sheet application, students are asked to express their interest in the major, experience in courses "that involved analysis of legal materials," participation in debate and mock trial through high school and college, and intentions on attending law school. On a separate sheet, students are asked to explain "how LLSO compliments the rest of your contemplated curriculum, and why it is superior to other majors treating the same or related fields." There is a 300 word limit on this response.

Students who applied for the major generally thought that the application was justified in practice and not overbearing in its expectations. "I thought the application was fair," said Lana Harfoush, a first-year in the College. "It's a much better idea to have an application that actually weighs a potential LLSO major's merits to some extent than [to have] a random lottery."

"I didn't think the application was too difficult," said Sonia Jaffe, a first-year in the College. "[Although,] I hope [the interviews] are what really affect the decision because I think it will be much easier to explain myself face-to-face."

Others expressed frustration. "I think it is unrealistic to expect that students will have researched and decided upon a major by the beginning of spring quarter their first year," said Abby Mulligan, a first-year in the College. "I think LLSO will be a great major with a great curriculum, but it's too bad that students who haven't researched majors before this point will be excluded from it."

"It is difficult to assess whether or not the application was equitable because I do not know how it will be weighed by the department," said Matt Beard, a first-year in the College. "Under the circumstances, I feel they did the best that they could."

At least one student refrained from submitting an application because of the LLSO courses' availability to other students. "While I think that my interests correspond exactly to the what the program offers, I find the idea of and reasons for justifying the [application] process are ridiculous, especially since I can take most of the classes I would want through political science because they are cross registered," said Raf Kuhn, a first-year in the College.

Students already in the program had similar reservations about the application process. "It's like a mini-Pritzker application, but it's not for the law school!" said G.P. Garcia, a third-year in the College. "I'll admit that this is one of the best legal programs I know of, and that we pride ourselves on prestige, proficiency, and selection, but this is too much."

Adrienne Timmel, an LLSO major and third-year in the College, hopes serious consideration will be given to each application. "If the program's intention is to only admit candidates who respond yes to these questions, candidates that have never been exposed to the study of law but who may have phenomenal potential might possibly be overlooked," she said. "Like law, I think the intention of the course, as viewed via the novel application process and the application itself, must be reconciled with and balanced against its ‘empirical consequences.'"

Hutchinson said this year's application process should be over "sometime next week."