The law faculty had a meeting yesterday, and there was general agreement about many things most of which I’ll leave to the Dean to discuss. But three items are worth noting now: I think that there was consensus on the need for each of us to reassure students that they will not be penalized for physical absence from lectures (a latitude which will not, however, apply to exams…sorry guys) whether on or off campus and to provide meaningful alternatives, be they tape, video, handouts, or alternate meetings, which will meet students’ educational needs and expectations.
There was also widespread agreement among the faculty that this is a major teaching moment: many of our students have never seen a strike up close, or a picket line, and with unions down to circa 10% of the US work force, this is a chance to learn about labor relations, worker economics, and many other things it will be valuable to know.
Another item of consensus was that the law school hasn’t done a great job of communicating what the faculty are doing with their classes — in part because they’ve been too busy doing it to tell the registrar’s office. Or indeed communicating our thinking, or much of anything.
So, law student readers, expect a barrage of communication efforts in the days to come. And indeed, it begins:
U.M. Law Town Hall Meeting. The meeting will take place today, Tuesday, from 4:30 6:30 in Room 352. Dean Lynch will moderate the discussion. All students and faculty are encouraged to attend. The meeting will be an opportunity for students to voice their concerns about the strike and its ramifications on the law school community. Unfortunately, the meeting time conflicts with some classes. Given the pressing nature of the concerns and the importance of meeting before spring break, this was the best time we could find. We will tape the discussion and make it available on the web for those who are do not attend. Conflicting classes will meet at their usual time unless your instructor decides otherwise. Any issues related to class conflicts should be directed to your instructor.
Student Organized Panel on the Strike. Also today is a panel discussion of substantive issues regarding the strike. This panel, organized by students, consists of a UNICCO spokesperson, SEIU (union) representative, a UNICCO worker, and Professor Michael Fischl. The meeting will take place in the student lounge from 12:30 2:00 and pizza will be served.
It is important to realize that law students feel alienated and abused to a spectacular extent. Talk to someone in the alumni giving department. It usually takes about seven to eight years after graduation for the alumni to feel like giving anything at all to the school.
As a result, the students feel the sort of feelings that you report them having — that they are being abused by those who owe them a fiduciary duty not to disrupt their education in areas that will enable them to find employment — and that such feelings somewhat mirror their general beliefs and attitudes about their professors and the law school experience.
The list that the one student read to you probably captures everyone in the bottom two thirds of the class or about sixty-seven percent of your students, if not more.
Not to say that they are correct, and that you are all acting like you believe Republicans act, but it is a shame that no one was able to forsee or understand the students well enough to predict and address this issue before it developed.
This post should have been about how the students would react and the way that your fellow faculty had already moved to address those concerns.
Yes, this is a mild reproof, but I also hope it helps you see the students in a different light, and helps your communicating with them.