Volume 20, Issue 1
As we all trudge back to another semester at the University of Zoom, it is okay to feel a little embittered.
The solemn email we all received last week from the Provost relayed his ‘extreme disappointment’ at the latest lockdown. The message, seeking to sympathise with both domestic and international audiences, assured us of the University’s commitment to its students. It was sent a couple of days after the notification about our student invoices.
Well, Professor McCluskey, perhaps we might be forgiven for snarling at UniMelb’s professions of camaraderie.
We are not all in this together. In fact, it’d be more apt to say that students and MLS have been pitted against each other by the pandemic. The University has flatly refused to cut fees, even for students who are literally not allowed into the country of their purported alma mater. What does it mean for your resume to proclaim ‘attended Melbourne Law School’? Frankly, a lot less than it used to, if attending Melbourne Law School means lying naked in your bed with undiagnosed depression, constantly checking that your camera is still off.
I know it’s an easy applause line to criticise the uni, but that doesn’t mean it’s unwarranted, and frankly, it’s been a long time coming. Melbourne Law School has been leaning hard into its intangible benefits for a long time – the weight of its name, its collaborative learning environment, the access it provides to Australia’s foremost legal minds – and profiting handsomely.
It’s become a bit of a joke. I’ve been here a long time, and I don’t think these selling points really lived up to what was delivered. All the pandemic has done is peel back the gilded veneer of MLS, and exposed its hard, avaricious superstructure.
Even when we are on campus, our teachers reside behind locked doors, aloof and inaccessible. Class discussions consisted of a cursory factual question occasionally thrown out, which the teacher then answers for themselves. Now, on Zoom, many teachers have given up on even asking questions.
That stale dynamic is the inevitable result of cramming forty-to-sixty students in a room, facing the same direction, or of only paying teachers for enough Zoom class time to blaze through the bare bones of the course material. Anyone claiming with a straight face that we are being given the best possible legal education is trying to sell you something. We are being sold a credential with rapidly falling market value, by a player with oligopolistic control.
It is high time to reassess the fairy-tale we’ve all been sold, as the University steadfastly refuses to acknowledge reality. It is high time for all of us to insist, as we enter a fourth semester of online delivery, that this one-sided bargain be renegotiated.
Gazza is a third-year JD student.
The views in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of De Minimis or its Editors.