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The George Mason School of Law announced yesterday that it will be renaming itself in honor of the late Justice Scalia. The name change comes after a $30 million donation, according to The Washington Post -- $20 million from an anonymous donor (the International Order of St. Hubertus, perhaps?) and $10 million from the arch-conservative Charles Koch Foundation.
The school will now be known as the Antonin Scalia School of Law, giving it the regrettable acronym of ASS Law or ASSoL. And no, this is not an April Fool's joke.
The school's governing "Board of Visitors" approved the name change -- apparently without thinking it entirely through. "This is a milestone moment for the university," GMU President Ángel Cabrera announced. "These gifts will create opportunities to attract and retain the best and brightest students, deliver on our mission of inclusive excellence, and continue our goal to make Mason one of the preeminent law schools in the country."
While we're all for GMU getting some extra funding, we have to wonder how many of the "best and brightest" law students will want to graduate with a degree from ASS Law.
Indeed, the school's new name has brought it more mockery than preeminence. It has inspired the Twitter hashtag #ASSLaw (a sad follow-up to the recently trending #LawyersAreTheCoolest) as well as at least one parody account, @ASSLawyer.
Adding Scalia's name, paid for by the Koch brothers no less, is somewhat fitting for George Mason. The law school, in the D.C. suburb of Arlington, Virginia, has long sought to set itself apart as a right-leaning institution.
But, there are a few reasons, besides the acronym, to question the new name. As Above the Law's Elie Mistal noted, there's a certain irony in dropping the name of a founding father for a contemporary jurist who obsessed over the founders. "If George Mason just wanted to appeal to conservative students, they could have called themselves the Chick-Fil-A School Of Lawsauce, and still pocketed the money," Mistal writes.
And then there's the fact, pointed out by Gawker, that Scalia wasn't exactly a supporter of George Mason Law grads:
"By and large," Scalia told an American University of Law student in 2009, "I'm going to be picking from the law schools that basically are the hardest to get into. They admit the best and the brightest, and they may not teach very well, but you can't make a sow's ear out of a silk purse. If they come in the best and the brightest, they're probably going to leave the best and the brightest, OK?"
At the time, American was ranked 45th. George Mason is currently ranked 45th.
But, hey, who are we to second guess the new name? Besides, the new Antonin Scalia School of Law is sure to make a killing in merchandising rights alone.
Editor's Note, April 6, 2016: To avoid the unfortunate acronym, the dean of the school has indicated that the new name will be Antonin Scalia Law School.
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