Tuesday, December 13, 2005

You've Got Mail

At Stanford, there are dozens of law school listserves. There's one for each class. There's one for law related talk. There's one for any old discussion.

I think there's even one for people trying to get pick-up basketball games together.

Over the last three months, I've received over four thousand e-mails. Excluding spam. They range from the banal and personal plea for an "earring left in Room 185" to the more pertinent "Ambassador Morningstar now speaking in 280A!"

This is par for the course and, usually, anything goes. If you have something to say, there's a listserve to say it on. Except, of course, if you want to post something on "law-announce." Many men have fought and died over the right to post on the Holy Grail of SLS communication.

E-mails to law-announce go out to every person vaguely affiliated with the law school. As you may surmise, that includes students, professors, staff, and, I imagine, the girl working at Law Cafe who makes those strange tofu rolls.

When it comes to law-announce, there's a modicum of decorum required. But, the general rule is that nothing primarily humorous or politically slanted passes muster. It must be urgent. It must be of general importance.

So, when the following message hit my Inbox, I was somewhat surprised. It was the kind of inextricably political announcement that has often cluttered my e-mail -- though usually through a list of another name.

"4 PM, December 12. Vigil in support of Williams' life, on the eve of his scheduled execution. Bring candles, signs, and warm clothing. San Quentin State Prison. Contact: info@savetookie.org, call 510-XXX-5418 or 510-XXX-7966. Several Stanford Law students will be participating. Please join us."

But, it was the response in kind, by Malibu Tiger, that stirred contentious embers around these parts.

"If anyone knows of a vigil for Albert Owens, Thsai-Shai Yang, Yen-I Yang and Yee Chen Lin (the four innocent people Tookie Williams brutally murdered in 1979) and/or a vigil for all those murdered over the years by the Crips, please let me know."

Regardless of your stance on the death penalty, I think it's fair to say that the victims and their families are too often obscured in the debate. There's substance in Tiger's parody. That's more than I can say of the ad hominem scolding that followed. Holding aside the surprisingly thoughtful response from the Professor credited with persuading Illinois' Governor to grant clemency to over 150 prisoners on death row, my favorite of the dozen or so replies is posted below.

"Dear Dick (sic), Please keep me off your fucking bleeding heart republican list. Figure out a way to reply to emails without sending your shit to everyone at the law school. It is finals week and the last thing I need is pompous asshole emails. If you need to reply, my personal email address is janedoe@stanford.edu"

Wow. Law Announce is not a force to be treated lightly. 1L Tiger has received his first and final warning. There's a lesson here somewhere. With great power, comes great responsibility. Or, at least, the implicit understanding to make sure that an arguably political posting be left-of-center.

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