Ethics Dunce: Northeastern Law School, Because With Some Mistakes, “Oops! Sorry!” Just Isn’t Enough…


Northeastern University’s law school this week erroneously emailed 205 current applicants and nearly 4,000 more who had applied the previous year with an offer of admission for its 2023 class.

The Boston school discovered the mistake and sent a follow-up “Oopsie! Never mind!”email several hours later, blaming “a technical error.” “The school of law deeply regrets this unintended mistake and is taking steps to ensure that it will not happen in the future,” the university said in part.

Oh! Well, that’s okay then, as long as you’re taking steps! Nope…not good enough, not nearly. There are some mistakes that simply cannot be excused, because one simply cannot allow them to happen. Telling anxious applicants for a coveted position or benefit that they have been accepted when they have not is a blatant one, and the remedy should be, in cases like this, to be accountable and follow through on the promise of the mistaken message. For one thing, such a tradition would guarantee schools are more careful.

In this case, that would mean a windfall admission for the 205 current applicants, and a gift basket or something for the 4000 from last year.

My father got his law degree at Northeastern, incidentally.

Some of the news stories about this fiasco are mentioning prior instances of law schools and bar examiners that have made similar inexcusable mistakes in the past. Hmmmmm. I suspect Northeastern is responsible for those factoids as part of an “Everybody Does It!” rationalization.

“Northeastern at least is not alone,” says Reuters, for example, quoting “admissions consultant” Mike Spivey. We learn, for example, The University of California, Berkley School of Law in 2006 accidentally emailed 7,000 applicants to say they were accepted. That school bravely blamed a new employee in training, which is even worse than blaming a “technical error.”

Doing this is like the severed toe in the plug of tobacco: someone has been inexcusably careless. There should be consequences beyond embarrassment, and the victims deserve compensation beyond an apology.

3 thoughts on “Ethics Dunce: Northeastern Law School, Because With Some Mistakes, “Oops! Sorry!” Just Isn’t Enough…

  1. Is this a new rationalization? “Northeastern at least is not alone.” It is not really an “everyone does it” or “it’s not the worst thing” but sort of a corollary between the two of them, ¿right?


  2. In 2019, a local private high school sent out acceptance emails to a whole group of incoming freshman. The problem: the admissions department sent it to the 2018 class, not the incoming 2019 class. Imagine my surprise when I received an email celebrating that our son had been selected to join the school as a rising freshman for the 2019-2020 school year. The problem was that my son was already a sophomore at a different school. That email did not instill great confidence in the professionalism or seriousness of the sending school. So, yeah, it happens but there are consequences to such sloppy and unprofessional institutions.


  3. I don’t know if “gift basket” is a euphemism; it’s not much of a deterrence to my mind.
    The 205 applicants should be allowed in, if the applicants desire. Any of the 4,000 applicants should be allowed in should they want. They also get their first year tuition gratis.
    Any applicant who doesn’t want to attend should be compensated by the number of dollars one year’s tuition at Northeastern would cost.
    I might have been more moderate if tuition hadn’t exploded in the last decade, had prestigious institutions not had multi-billion dollar endowments, had they tried to not indoctrinate and instead educate, had their degrees turn out to be practically useless in the real world, and had I not been asked to pay for any of it.
    I’m pretty sure such a penalty would change nothing, but anything less will ensure that nothing changes.

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