Vol 12, Issue 9
A Personal History of Teamwork at MLS
When I started the JD, one more senior student in particular had an air of casual academia about them, and certainly other students regarded them as a savant.
When I encountered my first year assignments I began to appreciate the mettle of grey matter needed to do well. It was then that an older friend informed me that the student I previously regarded in French class had completed the Constitutional Law exam in a group of three. For their section. As a whole group of ten. They received an H1, of course.
I wasn't angry hearing this, I was impressed. Stories of collusion were coming thick and fast. A warning came at the front end of our Obligations exam; students in years prior had booked rooms at the library for the weekend to discuss it beyond their pairs. We knew collusion was not tolerated, but I got the feeling that it was just a bit too on the nose for the faculty's liking.
A Constitutional Crisis
I've done a lot of group assignments at MLS. Many end of year assessments are precluded from the group dynamic because they’re held in the REB. But take home exams, like those found in Consti and Evidence are large take home exams. In my class it was accepted that talking about the Evidence assignment is allowed, each case theory will be distinct and the facts so dense, it might be helpful to get the student's head around things.
Contrast this with the Constitutional exam. Solo 6k in 8 hours. A mammoth task. We were told explicitly not to collude, reminded again and again, but I got the feeling the teachers knew they were reciting a Sisyphean exercise. A kind of academic groundhog day.
Sure enough, around week 9, as the last of the LSS campaigners had retreated into their seats of power atop level 2, a whole different kind of spruiking was taking place. My closest friends from first year and I had already decided to do it as a team. All very hush hush. A classmate and I were discussing the impending exam with dread. The conversation lulled. A pregnant pause, birthing a bastard of deceit that could cost a student their degree.
“Have you heard some people are doing the exam together!?” they asked, the emphasis my own.
“I've heard whispers, groups forming”
“Say, do you want to do it together?”
I came clean and gave them my game plan. I contacted my team, they allowed him into the fold. They bailed on the day, later posting a picture themself with their other team. I empathised with the staff, a bit on the nose, I felt.
It didn't even turn out that well. My group didn't get amazing scores, nothing more than I would usually expect. I don't think there's all that much to be gained from teaming up, although it is rife at MLS, more a product of fear than anything.
Is this a problem? I would argue a resounding no. Employers ask for students with teamwork skills and this is what such projects provide.
Is it disingenuous? Absolutely.
Is it a clear cut advantage? Possibly.
It is the ability to choose partners to the exclusion of others that makes the process unfair. But this again is a skill that benefits students in real life: the ability to make strategic relationships. The solution therefore would be for the law school to lean into this: would it be so hard to make the consti mid-sem only redeemable if one elected to do the assignment alone, with the option to do it as a team and only taking 80% of the grade.
Is this foolproof? No. There is the possibility that people will elect to do it solo and do it as a group, but presented with the binary choice, I have faith the majority of students will be honest, where they may have not been previously. Moreover, it may alleviate some of the stress that is felt by some students with families.
I'm in no way against collusion. I'm against a culture that pushes students into a shroud of deception. It's a bad feeling for me as a student and no doubt other students as well.
This is the work of a JD student
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