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Law Students May Postpone Exams Due to Stress from Grand Jury Decisions
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Protestors fill New York City streets after the Eric Garner decision was announced.

Summary: Columbia University School of Law has announced that students will be allowed to delay their final exams if they have suffered mental trauma from the recent grand jury decisions in the Eric Garner and Michael Brown cases.

According to the Daily Caller, law students at Columbia University will be allowed to postpone taking their final exams if they suffered mental trauma from the recent grand jury decisions in the Eric Garner and Michael Brown cases. Interim dean Robert Scott stated in a message to students, “The law school has a policy and a set of procedures for students who experience trauma during exam period. In accordance with these procedures and policy, students who feel that their performance on examinations will be sufficiently impaired due to the effects of these recent events may petition Dean Alice Rigas to have an examination rescheduled.”


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Scott noted the recent grand jury decisions that have been the center of news media outlets nationwide: the decision not to indict Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson for the shooting of Michael Brown, and the decision not to indict NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo for his use of a chokehold that killed Eric Garner.

Read about a flash mob that assembled after Garner’s death.

Both decisions, closely followed by the media, resulted in protests. Both police officers are white, and both men who died are black. The decisions sparked an increase in racial tension across the United States. Violence and looting broke out in Ferguson when the decision was announced, causing hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage. Protestors also filled New York’s Times Square after the Eric Garner decision was announced.

Read an analysis of the Garner grand jury decision.

But why should law students be able to postpone their exams because of these decisions? Scott explains, “The grand juries’ determinations to return non-indictments in the Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases have shaken the faith of some in the integrity of the grand jury system and in the law more generally. For some law students, particularly, though not only, students of color, this chain of events is all the more profound as it threatens to undermine a sense that the law is a fundamental pillar of society designed to protect fairness, due process and equality.”

Michael Brown’s family has vowed to continue seeking justice.

In addition, the law school will also hold special sessions in the coming week with Dr. Shirley Matthews, a trauma specialist. Several faculty members will also hold special office hours to discuss the grand jury decisions with students.

Next semester, the school plans to conduct a reading group, a speaker series, and teach-ins to “formulate a response to the implications, including racial meanings, of these non-indictments.”

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