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July 27, 2008
New York Post
At NYU Law School, cash can buy you class.
Legal eaglets at the top-tier school are wheeling and dealing for seats in the most popular classes.
Offers of cold hard cash, baked goods and Starbucks gift certificates and the suggestion of inappropriate favors flooded the school's Internet forum last week, as desperate degree seekers advertised the level of their desire to win coveted spots before Sept. 3, the cutoff date to add or drop classes.
Other postings solicit offers for slots in such classes as Environmental Law and Capital Punishment.
One July 21 e-mail pleads, "WANT: Entertainment Law, Will Pay Cash."
Another states, "Seriously. Let's talk bribes."
A third says, "I really want this class. I don't have any classes to trade, so I'll rely on the old capitalist standby, cash."
It's a real-life education in the art of the deal for the future counselors, who pay $40,000 a year in tuition at the Greenwich Village institution, ranked the nation's No. 4 law school by US News & World Report.
"People have been buying and selling classes ever since I started," said Colin George, who graduated in May. "There are always jokes about exchanging sexual favors, but I've never heard of its actually happening."
But last week, Vice Dean Liam Murphy fired off a missive to the school's 1,400 students, slamming the "deplorable practice" and threatening punishment.
"I write to remind you that trading class spots for money or goods, or offering to do so, is a violation of law school rules," he wrote.
"It's inappropriate to allocate seating in classes with real money. We endeavor to set up a system that distributes classes in a fair way," Murphy told The Post, adding that he doesn't believe any actual transactions have occurred.
Class registration works on a lottery basis. After the courses are distributed, students can drop or seek to add them. Because there are no waiting lists, students make under-the-table seat swaps by arranging for one to drop a class just a moment before the other shows up to add it.
"We believe in the free market, and we think that we should be able buy things that are valuable to us," George said. "Our job is to find our way around rules."
Murphy hopes this will be the last year cash-for-class offers are made. A registration system with a waiting list is being instituted for the 2009-10 school year.
Some students say they'll be glad to see the cash-for-class system go since it favors rich students.
"I'm amazed how many people want a class war for class registration," said recent grad Terry McMahon. "Law school is really expensive, and those whose parents can cover it shouldn't be able to buy better classes than everyone else."