Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Response to Pitt Law Ranking

Last night, my alma mater dropped precipitously in the law school rankings due to the relative inability of their graduates to find jobs.  If Federal Express ever stops holding my brand new printer hostage I will print this letter and mail it to Dean Carter.  Until then, this is my open letter in response to Dean Carter's open letter.

Brian Schwartz
4519 Liberty Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15224
(814) 232-1885

March 12, 2013

William M. Carter, Jr.
c/o University of Pittsburgh School of Law
3900 Forbes Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15260

Dear Dean Carter:

There's a character in a Scott Turow book who realizes that he went to law school for the wrong reasons.  He went to law school to please his family and get over a failed marriage; he didn't want to be a lawyer.  My only thought upon reading this was, "S***".  Nonetheless I went to Pitt Law, my family is pleased, I am on good terms with failed-marriage girl, and I'm not a lawyer.  That's four for four.  Pitt Law was the right choice for me and this letter is about the right choice for Pitt Law.

Jokes can be made about the U.S. News rankings.  I have a couple of friends from Chicago-Kent and we would joke about who is better educated.  It was always along the lines that one of us went to a top 67 school and one of us only went to a top 71 school.  When the new rankings came out, I thought I'd look through them and come up with a good joke.  In fact I was shocked and appalled.  It is not a good joke that Chicago-Kent is tied with my undergraduate alma mater Case at #68 while Pitt is tied with West Virginia University at #91.

I found this out at 2 a.m. Tuesday and immediately tweeted:
Today I watched Pitt lose a baseball game to West Virginia on a cold, windy day in March because I love this university.  I came home and read your inevitable response.  You point out that "there were no significant negative changes during the time period in question that could possibly justify such a dramatic shift in our ranking."  No, it was a positive change in the ranking methodology that dropped Pitt in the rankings.  U.S. News now considers accurate employment data instead of whatever is reported by the schools.

You point out four positive changes at Pitt.  First, that the law school was recently ranked #39 in the production of partners at the top 100 law firms.  Those newly minted partners in the 2000s would have graduated in the 1980s and early 1990s when Pitt was roughly the #39 law school in the U.S.  I posit that while this study shows what Pitt Law was and should be, the U.S. News study dated yesterday shows what Pitt is.  And to whatever little extent that study does show recent positive changes at Pitt Law, it is dated 2011 which was during Dean Crossley's tenure.

Second, that the law school's faculty was recently ranked #47 in scholarly impact.  I do think that Pitt has some professors who are both outstanding scholars and outstanding teachers.  Witness Peter Oh, Lawrence Frolik, David Herring, Anthony Infanti, and others.  Far too many Pitt Law professors are not outstanding teachers.  Far too many Pitt Law classes are taught by people who are not Pitt Law professors.  And no one attends a school because its faculty is #47 in scholarly impact.

Third, that the class entering in 2012 included 23% minority students.  I value diversity and felt that the class entering in 2008 was diverse as well.  It's still diverse.  There's the guy from China who lives in China because he couldn't get a job in the United States with a Pitt Law degree.  There's the guy from Saudi Arabia who lives in New York City because his Saudi Arabian connections and his Pitt Law degree couldn't get him a job in Pittsburgh.  There's the guy from Montana who graduated from Georgetown because Pitt would rather lose its best 1L student to Georgetown than raise his scholarship by $5,000 a year for the final two years.  There are the guys who started out as non-diverse white guys from Pennsylvania who are now so diverse that they live in Pittsburgh and work in Marietta, Ohio, because they wanted to be lawyers and now work in southern Ohio as non-lawyers.  These guys I have mentioned are all doing quite well in their careers but that is not my point.

And finally fourth, that Pitt Law students continue to excel.  Quite a few of the most amazing individuals I have met were or are students at Pitt Law.  Their continuing excellence is in more cases in spite of Pitt Law than because of it.

You then tie things up with your main point:  that the rankings do not reveal any diminishment in the quality or impact of the school.  The basic argument of your letter is that Pitt Law hasn't gotten worse in the past year, its ranking has, thus the ranking is flawed.  The basic argument of my letter is that Pitt Law hasn't changed in the past year, its ranking has gotten worse, and the ranking system is now (and was not then) accurate.  Thus, Pitt Law's ranking reflects how good Pitt Law actually has been, at least since my association with the school.

Pitt Law reminds me of Pitt football.  Truly great in the 1970s and today, much better than Duquesne.  The last time I saw Steve Pederson I wished him success in the upcoming football season and he laughed.  I should hope that you do not take it as a joke when I give you my sincerest and best wishes for success in the upcoming academic year.


Brian Schwartz '11

Public domain material

Monday, March 11, 2013

Bars I Have Known

There's something to be said for the security of any Saturday night when you can look around and think back ten years and realize the bar had a different name, the bar was in a different state, the hot chick and the drunk guys you're with have different names, and you damn well live and breathe and it is Saturday and you're at your local bar with at least one hot chick and a couple of drunk guys.  Here are my local bars, to date.

Buffalo Wild Wings
Cleveland Heights, Ohio
July 2002 - January 2003
I turned 21 during finals week and then was home until July.  So Buffalo Wild Wings became our first local bar.  I can't explain why at all, but for some reason everyone in Ohio loves going to Buffalo Wild Wings and that's where you'd call from if you wanted them to go out.  Those were also the days when people answered their phones and those were also the days when if you were calling to get a crew for $1 beers you'd have one.  These are just days.

The $1 ladies' night used to be the best because there would be one chick there buying $1 beers for all of us guys there.  You then had to find a new chick the following week because even though it was our money, chicks just aren't accustomed to (and don't like) having to order every three minutes.  I stopped going to this bar because we ran out of chicks we knew who were 21, beers on Ladies' Night are like $4.50 if you're a guy, and we could no longer afford to go to the bar.

Cleveland Heights, Ohio
February 2003 - June 2003
Most of my readers have never drank at the good old commune at 2476 Euclid Heights, but enough have and they would agree with me on one point:  You don't need to go out when you drink there.

The Baldwin House
Coopersburg, Pennsylvania
June 2003 - March 2004
My girlfriend worked at this bar and I would drop her off and pick her up and hear all of her bar stories.  I got engaged to her on the advice of a guy who had just walked out of this bar.  I knew who he was and assumed this married psychiatrist/research chemist/farmer/Penn professor/drunk would have good relationship advice.  I'm not saying he didn't, I'm just saying I should have kept in touch.

Anyway, the Baldwin House opened in 1856 and by late 2003 was struggling.  Now the only female bartender was engaged.  The place closed less than 90 days later and we moved back to Ohio.

Cleveland Heights, Ohio
March 2004 - June 2004
Most of my readers have never lived at the good old commune at 2476 Euclid Heights, but enough have and they would agree with me on one point:  You don't need to go out when you live there.

Brooklyn, Ohio
July 2004 - September 2005
I can't imagine we lived in Brooklyn very long before we were at Picnic's.  Brooklyn is a respectable working class town, near the interstate, and a good place to raise a family.  Our family was three drunk guys, a dog, and one or two hot chicks depending on the night.  I'm not saying we fit in at Picnic's.  I'm saying Brooklyn is a town of 10,000 people and we fit in better there than anywhere else.

The bartenders liked us, they didn't talk to us, and we ran a tab and didn't keep track of our tab.  There were enough Sunday mornings where I woke up at home next to my girlfriend, thought "Awesome," checked my credit card statement, and 20 dollars looked like a pretty good deal overall for two of us for the previous night.  Fifteen of it was probably tip.  One time some guy insulted that girl in that parking lot by yelling "Hey you, you fucking hippie."  He had a decent point.

I once had friends visiting from Chicago, D.C., and Phoenix.  I brought them to this bar whose sign read "IC NIC'S UB AND GRILL."  They were not impressed.

Picnic's had the only karaoke night I ever legitimately enjoyed.  I don't sing karaoke but there was another Brian there who rocked it.  I stopped going because we moved a mile away to Parma, we typically walked to the bar, so Picnic's was no longer local.  It's now McG's Pub and Grub and I hear the new owners ruined the place.

Parma Tavern
Parma, Ohio
October 2005 - February 2006
My housemate got a girlfriend and my girlfriend did not like hearing those two have sex.  Fair point, so we got a one-bedroom place in Parma once the lease ended.  When you work in shipping, it is nice seeing this particular shining beacon from your living room window.  You know that there's at least one day this week when you don't work in shipping and you're pretty likely to be at Parma Tavern the night before, be that night Friday or Saturday.

The thing about Parma Tavern is there's really nothing to say.  We lived in Parma for five months and only went out once a week and sometimes had Cavs tickets, so we would have only been there maybe 15 times.  Still, that's enough that at most bars something notable would have happened.  I don't think I ever got a free drink, I don't think I was overcharged, I don't think anyone there made a fool of themselves and if they did it wasn't me.  Perhaps it was better in those days to go out and have nothing notable happen.

Slice of Life
Wilmington, North Carolina
March 2006 - September 2007
Cleveland is so damn cold that the dream of more than a few people living in Cleveland is to someday move to Florida or North Carolina or some shit like that.  One day we woke up in Cleveland in March, it was winter, and the next day we lived by the beach and it was spring.  UNC-Wilmington was playing in the NCAA tournament so we ventured downtown to find a place to watch.

That was Friday of our first week in town and we met a nice middle-aged couple who took us under their wing for the night.  The next time there, we met a really drunk, really old, really rich guy who would take us out and buy us literally $100 in drinks and try to steal my girlfriend.  Our bartender Matt was from Pennsylvania like most of our bartenders in that town.

Slice of Life has around four tables and maybe 14 stools.  If this place sounds small you're thinking along the right lines, but don't think that I never had to call the people I was meeting to ask where they were because I was at Slice of Life and they were at Slice of Life and I could not see them and they could not see me.  They also serve food after they stop serving drinks, which is helpful on nights of that nature.

My friends who hadn't liked Picnic's didn't believe me about the quality of women who drank at my bar in Wilmington.  But Picnic's is nowhere near the ocean and nowhere near a state school in the University of North Carolina system.  This one stopped being my local because by September 2007 it was high time to move back to Pennsylvania.

AOL Instant Messenger
Emmaus, Pennsylvania
September 2007 - August 2008
I was working 56 hour weeks and saving for law school and also, no chick was dumb enough to want to go out except for the one I rejected for being an 18-year-old lesbian.  I didn't think that one would have lasted long term and I have come around too late to thinking it's a chance you get once at most and maybe should take.  That being said, I drank once a month for this year and it was in a chat room.  When you drink in a chat room with Laura, you don't drink alone.  That's true no matter how much your parents might think you drink alone.

Pittsburgh (Oakland)
August 2008 - May 2011
I'm not sure what other law schools have to offer.  Some of them, I hear, are legitimately good at teaching people the law.  It depends what classes you take but Pitt was often not that good in that particular area.

Nonetheless, I can't imagine all that many law schools have a bar across the street where it's $5 pitchers of Yuengling or Miller Lite, all day, every day.  And I can't imagine how Pitt graduates all that many students with that being the case.

One time I was forced to drink a Blue Moon at this place.  Blue Moon girls showed up.  Did anyone know Blue Moon even has girls?  The one asked me if I liked Blue Moon and I said "No."  She asked why and I said, "Because it tastes like someone poured orange juice in my beer."  My friend and I accepted their offer of free Blue Moon.

When one starts studying anything at Pitt, one should accept the first offer to go to Hem's with colleagues.  One should proceed in that manner until the day after graduation.  That's how we rolled.

Green Front
Pittsburgh (South Side)
May 2011 - April 2012
By the time I lived on the South Side, I just couldn't go out on the South Side anymore.  People go out on the South Side to break up, throw up, or get in fights.  I don't fight, I don't throw up, and I either had no one to break up with or didn't want to break up at a South Side bar.  Luckily there was Green Front.

Going to Green Front is not going out and I can't explain why not.  You might leave there at 2 a.m. and have breakfast there at 8 a.m. the next morning, but you had not gone out either of those times.

I never go home with a woman I just met at a bar.  I don't think it's a good idea.  The one time I accepted such an offer it was at Green Front, I had asked where home is, and the woman had said, "Across the street."  We only had to walk less than 100 feet and she still got stopped by the cops for something on the way back.  I just kept walking.  The Pittsburgh police don't do much to help you out with the chicks.

Pittsburgh (Bloomfield)
May 2012 - July 2012
The first time I was ever at Lou's is a good story.  This was 2009, we had been at Silky's, and you know those times when you see a drunk guy and are just shocked anyone could possibly be this drunk?  The guy was Will, Will is from Michigan and knows my friend Ryan, and that explains it totally.  I wound up joining a group that was later kicked out of Lou's because Will, from the moment he walked in, was yelling "WU-TANG, WU-TANG..." at the top of his lungs.  Once Will was finally outside, he looked at the door in shock, shook his head, and said softly, "I guess that bar isn't down with the Wu-Tang Clan."

Lou's is like Cheers except that instead of everyone being charismatic and funny, no one is charismatic or funny.  It's a good summer bar because they have an outdoor patio which isn't visible from the main drag.  Other than my apartment I don't think anywhere else in Bloomfield that has that.  I also do believe I have seen more hot lesbian hookups on Lou's patio than in my apartment.

Pittsburgh (Bloomfield)
August 2012 - Present
An interesting thing about living in Bloomfield is that even though Shadyside is one mile away, no one is coming the one mile to go out in Bloomfield.  I had previously lived in Bloomfield for two years and either didn't know anyone who drank in Bloomfield or didn't know they drank in Bloomfield.  So I would buy 12-packs of PBR at Howlers from Beth.  I don't think I ever so much as drank one beer at Howlers in those two years.

Howlers recently became my local bar when we rented an apartment three doors away.  We did not rent this apartment coincidentally.

Howlers books bands most nights.  You'd think they'd be all local but quite a few come from pretty far away to play our little gem of a dive.  Zach's band plays there and is good; the others are mostly not.  But the bands bring out interesting crowds.  My favorite was the night when to fit in, you had to be wearing blue denim and black.  I was wearing a black T-shirt and blue jeans so you'd think I'd be good.  I looked like a total horseshit person because clearly anyone with class and musical taste that night was wearing black pants and a blue denim jacket.  I don't think I even got in.

Needless to say, I prefer the interesting crowd that's in the front room.  Let's say someone texts to ask what you're doing with whom and you respond with something such as "PBR with Matty, Tommy, Kristy, Biffie, Mark, Adam, Joe, Sue, Colin, the hot chick whose name I forget, a couple other chicks, and whoever else shows up."  Your out-of-town friend will think you found a house party on a Wednesday, but you are certainly at Howlers.

Copyright 2013 Brian Schwartz / Cannot reprint

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Kirsten Dunst Rumor

I don't have any children, but I already know the feeling of seeing my son take his first steps.  For I have experienced the feeling of having my own incorrect rumor repeated back to me.  And I know the feeling of seeing my son earn his Ph.D.for I have seen my incorrect rumor published in a 2.5 million circulation publication.  Here's the story.

Emmaus, Pennsylvania, May 1999
Like most 18-year-olds I had high hopes for my college years.  Having risen amazingly from a challenging upper-middle-class, white, suburban childhood, I was ready.  I would travel to a city, any city, where I would immerse myself in interesting knowledge by day and party with megababes by night.

I had seen enough movies to know that even fictional universities are a total blast.  I was accepted at five real ones and they were all such great choices, it scarcely mattered which one I attended.  It mattered so little that this decision was made by coin flips.  By a 13-12 score I would attend Case Western Reserve University.


Cleveland, Ohio, August 1999
It started off well, it really did.  The first girl I met was friendly and hot.  Mere hours later, some tool played "The Boxer" for her on an acoustic guitar.  "That's so beautiful," she said.  "Did you write that?"  He did not.

These are the babes dreams are made of.

December 1999
Alas, it was not to be.  Case Western Reserve University seemed to have all the things that would attract a surplus of babes:  a rigorous engineering curriculum, the nation's fastest internet connection, bitterly cold weather, crime, and Division III athletics.  Babes did not agree.

Case's percentage of male students hovered in the 60s, but that number was a moving target at best considering the number of students who didn't appear to be male or femaleor just didn't appear at all because they didn't leave their rooms.  The party scene was basically me and one other student sitting around, wondering how we could get beer.  We couldn't.

The internet connection was great.  There might have been other schools where I would have caught my girlfriend asking a Multi-User Dungeon for relationship advice.  At those schools I would have been surprised.

Has never been in a Multi-User Dungeon.

January 2000
I had a friend at Case who also graduated high school with me, so we hung out a lot.  At the time, it was the in thing for rich celebrities to go to college for no reason.  Natalie Portman was a freshman at Harvard.  How hilarious would it be if she were instead at Case, ensconced in concrete-block, man-hating, all-female Norton House, downloading "Razorblade Suitcase" on MP3 and studying for the Engineering 145 exam?

Then came the idea.  We would start an Internet rumor that just such a thing was happening.  We would claim that a celebrity planned to attend Case that fall.

The two most famous 17-year-old actresses at the time were Thora Birch ("American Beauty") and Kirsten Dunst.  "American Beauty" was good, but "Dick" was and is a hell of a lot funnier movie title.  We went with Kirsten Dunst.

At the time, items could be added to IMDB's "Trivia" pages by simply typing them into a form and submitting them.  To Kirsten Dunst's "Trivia" we added the information, "Kirsten plans to attend Case Western Reserve University starting in the fall of 2000."  That was the extent of our plot and we immediately forgot about it.

"Dick" was robbed of a Best Costume Design Oscar.

April 2000
Having been elected by write-in vote, 2-1, I was Hitchcock House's representative to the Undergraduate Student Government.  Every Tuesday night meeting ended with announcements of upcoming events for the week.  This had evolved into kind of a jokeliterally the most exciting thing that happened in the 1999-2000 academic year was a concert by G. Love and Special Sauce.  Someone would say "Spot night, every Wednesday night" (an opportunity to eat bad, cheap food) and we would leave.

Today was different.  One of our fraternity representatives made a earthshattering announcement:  Kirsten Dunst would be attending Case in the fall.  His fraternity was pumped.  She must be interested in our theater program, he opined.  Who cared?  This was cataclysmic.  Kirsten Dunst would act on the stage of the Eldred Black Box Theater!  Cleveland would recoup the loss it suffered when Halle Berry moved out at age two!

I said nothing.  One very outgoing person in every dorm and one very outgoing person in every Greek life cluster now knew.  Everyone soon would.

Will she wear this to Math 122?

May 2000
By the time school let out for the summer, the campus was pumped.  This wasn't USC going from 10,000 babes to 10,001.  This was Case going from two to three.

She was so attainable now.  Everyone knows that you can't date a hot celebrity.  But don't think of it that way.  Is it really beyond the realm of possibility that you could date a girl from Point Pleasant, New Jersey, who is a year behind you at your pretty small university?

Do something.  Sign up to be an orientation leader or R.A. to get first crack at her.  Register for Theater 102, she'll need that for her degree.  Certainly she'll want a guy who has seen and can discuss The Virgin Suicidesor maybe even has the DVD casually placed on his shelf.  You're an asshole who's not good enough for her.  That's what chicks go for!

You still don't want to see this movie.

Summer 2000
Here is where everything really came to a head.  Everybody entertained the thought of the rumor, but nobody truly believed the rumor.  Enter the mainstream media.

Sun Newspapers is a group of 22 weekly newspapers in the Cleveland area.  One of their columnists printed the news that Kirsten Dunst would attend Case in the fall.  Twenty-two newspapers are enough to catch the eye of many Case parents.  "Did you see this?  Kirsten Dunst is going to your school?"  Holy shit, she is.

Twenty-two newspapers reach a lot of eyes, but the Sun papers did not reach over 2 million subscribers.  Luckily, Maxim magazine does.  No doubt relying on the Sun report, Maxim reported the news to the other two million people.  Now we're up to 23 publications going with this news, including the largest men's magazine in the United States.  Maxim had (and still has) a greater circulation than the New York Times.  By this time, only two students didn't believe it and we weren't talking.  Kirsten Dunst would attend Case Western Reserve University.

Kirsten Dunst actually wasn't that well known when we started the rumor.  She was someone who you had to say her name, then describe who she was.  But by August, every TV station was blanketed with ads for that month's release of Bring It Onfeaturing Kirsten Dunst's breakout starring performance.  Everyone knew who she was.  Who at Case would really know?

Better than dropping off film at Medic Drug...

Fall 2000
Kirsten never came.

It was totally plausible that she would skip orientation.  Obviously she was out promoting Bring it On that week.  And the first week of classes - who went to those?  Everyone who had seen the film on its opening weekend knew that she was sexy, and smart, and popular to boot.  She would catch up.

All illusion falls apart.  We had 3,500 undergraduates.  Someone would have seen her.  She's not there.  There's no surf in Cleveland, USA.

For one week, the student newspaper renamed the Fun Page the "Kirsten Never Came Fun Page."  I still have fifteen copies of that issue.  The page isn't fun.

A few months later Kirsten was interviewed about her previous plans to attend Case.  According to the article, "She laughed and said she had never heard of the small school in Ohio."

I disappointed 3,500 people but I made her laugh.

April 2012
Kirsten, Case would still be happy to have you.

Copyright 2012-2013 Brian Schwartz / Cannot reprint