Rorschach Blot

by scotslawstudent

Scott Greenfield, the old curmudgeon that he is, has posted a blog post on the nerve of youngsters these days. I never really like reading about the Slackoisie – just because I have a nagging sense that I may fall under the umbrella but he does have a fair point.

The Slackoisie is a fairly specific term for a made up, blawgosphere word. It’s not a generational thing, it’s a personality thing. I think the biggest issue is the importance you attach to your opinion – in that how critical it is that others agree with it. I’d think it’s a very human thing to say “how don’t you agree with me? I’m right” but that’s why I suspect I’m the sort of person that Greenfield is discussing.

To relate the problem of relying on opinions in law to law the way to write a good law essay is, surprisingly, using lots of law. However law does not come from your opinions, it comes from other people’s opinions. My mooting tutor memorably advised the society that the ideal submission should have you regretfully explaining that, try as you might, there is simply no other way to read the previous decisions other than to benefit your side. It’s not your opinion, it’s the law. Basically an academic law degree is all about learning to wield authoritative opinions to accomplish what you want in life. It’s not the sort of thing that really strong opinions would like, I’d have thought, but there you go.

He posts a litmus test – an email exchange between a student and a professor at NYU. I’m going to call it a Rorschach Blot – it’s not a question you answer, what’s important is what you make of it.

It involves a student ringing up to complain about being ejected from the class because he or she was an hour late and this isn’t a bad thing because he was actually just trying out lots of different classes that evening and that was why he was late getting there. The professor in turn clarifies that the student was jumping between multiple classes with the intention of finding one that he liked.

The professor did not seem to be very impressed by this, he actually tells the student to pull himself together, it looks a little like this:

Sent: Tuesday, February 9, 2010 7:15:11 PM GMT -08:00 US/Canada Pacific Subject: Brand Strategy FeedbackProf. Galloway,

I would like to discuss a matter with you that bothered me. Yesterday evening I entered your 6pm Brand Strategy class approximately 1 hour late. As I entered the room, you quickly dismissed me, saying that I would need to leave and come back to the next class. After speaking with several students who are taking your class, they explained that you have a policy stating that students who arrive more than 15 minutes late will not be admitted to class.

As of yesterday evening, I was interested in three different Monday night classes that all occurred simultaneously. In order to decide which class to select, my plan for the evening was to sample all three and see which one I like most. Since I had never taken your class, I was unaware of your class policy. I was disappointed that you dismissed me from class considering (1) there is no way I could have been aware of your policy and (2) considering that it was the first day of evening classes and I arrived 1 hour late (not a few minutes), it was more probable that my tardiness was due to my desire to sample different classes rather than sheer complacency.

I have already registered for another class but I just wanted to be open and provide my opinion on the matter.


MBA 2010 Candidate
NYU Stern School of Business

The professor’s reply:

From: To: “xxxx” Sent: Tuesday, February 9, 2010 9:34:02 PM GMT -08:00 US/Canada Pacific Subject: Re: Brand Strategy Feedbackxxxx:

Thanks for the feedback. I, too, would like to offer some feedback.

Just so I’ve got this straight…you started in one class, left 15-20 minutes into it (stood up, walked out mid-lecture), went to another class (walked in 20 minutes late), left that class (again, presumably, in the middle of the lecture), and then came to my class. At that point (walking in an hour late) I asked you to come to the next class which “bothered” you.


You state that, having not taken my class, it would be impossible to know our policy of not allowing people to walk in an hour late. Most risk analysis offers that in the face of substantial uncertainty, you opt for the more conservative path or hedge your bet (e.g., do not show up an hour late until you know the professor has an explicit policy for tolerating disrespectful behavior, check with the TA before class, etc.). I hope the lottery winner that is your recently crowned Monday evening Professor is teaching Judgement and Decision Making or Critical Thinking.

In addition, your logic effectively means you cannot be held accountable for any code of conduct before taking a class. For the record, we also have no stated policy against bursting into show tunes in the middle of class, urinating on desks or taking that revolutionary hair removal system for a spin. However, xxxx, there is a baseline level of decorum (i.e., manners) that we expect of grown men and women who the admissions department have deemed tomorrow’s business leaders.

xxxx, let me be more serious for a moment. I do not know you, will not know you and have no real affinity or animosity for you. You are an anonymous student who is now regretting the send button on his laptop. It’s with this context I hope you register pause…REAL pause xxxx and take to heart what I am about to tell you:

xxxx, get your shit together.

Getting a good job, working long hours, keeping your skills relevant, navigating the politics of an organization, finding a live/work balance…these are all really hard, xxxx. In contrast, respecting institutions, having manners, demonstrating a level of humility…these are all (relatively) easy. Get the easy stuff right xxxx. In and of themselves they will not make you successful. However, not possessing them will hold you back and you will not achieve your potential which, by virtue of you being admitted to Stern, you must have in spades. It’s not too late xxxx…

Again, thanks for the feedback.

Professor Galloway

I actually think the professor is right to tell the postgraduate student that he can’t wander into classes an hour late. I think he’s really right to point out that you want to get the easy stuff right. I also think that the reason people are seeing this as an incredibly snarky email is that it is an incredibly snarky email, it apparently has to be. “Again, thanks for the feedback” concludes the lecturer, not (mainly) because he’s being snarky but because the student actually was giving him feedback on his performance.

And that’s just totally crazy.