Volume 3, Issue 2, (Originally Published on Monday 11 March 2013)
An unforeseen scheduling conflict faces MLS students, as the 2013 Law Ball clashes with interim assessment tasks for a number of subjects, provoking uproar amongst the student body.
The ball is scheduled for Thursday, 18 April, the evening before the Trusts one-hour interim exam. This assessment task, scheduled for Friday, 19 April, is worth 30 per cent of students’ final marks, although it is optional and is likely to be scheduled in the afternoon.
‘If the faculty wants to thumb their noses at students, thumb their noses at significant student events, that’s a matter for them, but it’s extremely disappointing,’ said second-year Evan Lacey.
MLS Associate Dean Elise Bant pointed out that the process of settling the interim assessment timetable was complex. Trusts had introduced a mid-semester exam this year in response ‘to student feedback about the desirability of interim assessment,’ she said.
In choosing the date, MLS student support staff Kate Bartlett and Kate Van Hooft examined numerous considerations: whether students would have sufficient time to prepare in between each assessment piece, that it would not conflict with other class times, that sufficient class time was available prior to the event to learn and practice the assessment content, among other factors.
‘All of this was taken into account in determining the assessment timetable as a whole, and where Trusts should sit within it,’ Bant said. ‘I do hope that the timing of the Law Ball will not unduly undermine [the aims of introducing interim assessment] – and also wish those that attend it a very enjoyable, but also healthy and safe evening.’
The dilemma arose when Law Students’ Society (LSS) Activities Directors Andrew Frawley and Nick Jane began planning the event in December 2012, and were required to make a booking in early February – before the assessment timetable’s release. The assessment timetable became public on Tuesday, 26 February.
Frawley confirmed last week that a deposit had already been paid. ‘The cost of changing it is in the ballpark of $50,000, which we cannot afford’, he said. He also conceded that the LSS could have done more to get advice from the faculty about assessment timing, but said that in the past, faculty had been unhelpful in this regard.
There are also minor conflicts with two other subjects. Principles of Public Law has a syndicate task, worth 20 per cent, due the following Monday. Legal Ethics has an in-class, one-hour written test scheduled for that week, also worth 20 per cent. While two-thirds of students taking the subject will have completed the test before the ball, De Minimis understands one stream may be required to sit the test on Friday, 19 April, but that this is unlikely.
The University of Melbourne Assessment Procedure policy, rule 4.3, requires faculty to publish information as to the approximate timing of assessment tasks in the subject Handbook. The entry in the Handbook for Trusts does not mention the timing of the interim assessment, while both the PPL and Ethics entries state that assessment will be in accordance with the coordinated assessment schedule. The Course Assessment Design and Methods Procedure policy, rule 3.1, contains a similar requirement that was also not complied with, as does the Meeting Student Expectations Procedure policy, rule 2.1.
LSS President Pat Easton and Vice President Lewis Cohen met with faculty last Tuesday, 5 March, to discuss the clash. They announced it publicly on Facebook on Thursday. The LSS has reportedly had significant difficulties in the past avoiding clashes with assessment tasks when scheduling events.
Former LSS Activities director and president Antony Freeman sympathised with the plight of the current organisers, stating that the LSS is ‘in a tricky spot’.
‘Assessment timetables, religious holidays, public holidays and other dates restrict the available dates’, he added, pointing out that venue hire fees were much higher on Fridays and Saturdays, when clashes with assessment were less likely.
Not all students were upset by the timing, and most remain excited for the premier event of the law school social calendar. First-year Alex Horton, who did not think the timing of the event would be an issue, said he was ‘absolutely pumped for law ball’.
Horton said his LMR group had already organised seating arrangements, and that some were getting suits personally tailored in Thailand. ‘It’ll be grand’, he remarked.