Issue 3, Semester 1, 2019
“Our largest commencing class”. Not exactly the words one wishes to hear on the orientation day of a degree oft ridiculed for producing an oversupply of graduates. Alas, words to this effect were uttered to the nearly 400 commencing students in the Derham Theatre just last month. Now, at the end of my first week at MLS, I realise that these words must have been true, because the law school was unable to find sufficient seats to accommodate first year students in their Torts, Obligations, and PPL seminars.
(Imagine the surprise of arriving five minutes late to your first seminar as a law student and having to spend the next four hours hunched on the stairs, or squeezed up to the end of someone else’s desk. These are fates that befell several of my classmates earlier this week. In an undergraduate degree this would be excusable due to the cataclysmic drop off in attendance about to follow, but in a postgraduate degree with essentially mandatory attendance and a faculty that holds onto lecture recordings tighter than Coca-Cola and its formula, this is unacceptable.
Today my own classmates just narrowly avoided the stairs, but nonetheless space was still at an oversubscribed premium. The official university timetable states that the seminars for PPL are capable of fitting 60 students each. The PPL syndicate allocations tell a different story however (see right):
Yes, that’s right. Every single stream of PPL is at, or exceeding seminar capacity by as much as ten percent! This is in a course which explicitly makes the claim “Usually the maximum class size is 60 and in many subjects it is smaller, to enhance the opportunities for interaction between students and teachers and amongst students themselves.”
To avoid this situation all the law school would have needed to do would be to increase the number of first year streams to 7. This would in turn bring down the average class size to a still rather large 54 students. For a degree that is costing the majority of students over one hundred thousand dollars (or circa $100/seminar-hour if you are so inclined) it is completely unacceptable that the university is sacrificing quality in such a brazen manner.
I write this post individually, but having spoken to peers at lunch events and the garden party I know I am not the only one concerned about the situation. With the addition of another stream impossible at this stage, it is simply my hope that the law school will acknowledge the issue so it is not repeated, and find some manner to reduce the impact to students in currently oversized classes.
Anonymous is a First Year JD Student
A note from the Associate Dean (JD)
Students might be interested to know that the JD first year cohort numbered 364 (at the commencement of semester). At the equivalent time in 2018 the figure was 360.
I am concerned to hear from some teachers and students in first year subjects that students have not always been able to get a seat in class. It is my understanding that all classes have been scheduled into rooms with adequate capacity to seat all students enrolled in that stream. We can only surmise that if students are not able to find a seat, this might be either due to people attending a stream that they are not enrolled in, and/or people not moving to the middle of rows. In the interests of all students and staff, please attend your allocated stream and not any other. We will continue to monitor this situation, and teachers may call a roll if matters do not settle down.
Associate Dean (JD)
13 March 2019