A Visit with the Dean
As we approach the end of fall semester and I approach the mid-point of my first year at the Levin College of Law, I wanted to take this opportunity to visit with you about some of the activities and events of this fall.
The construction project is on schedule and going well, but the inevitable disruptions have been — and will continue to be — significant. We will continue to make every effort to manage the project as best we can to minimize any inconveniences and hardships.
Some construction-related problems have been particularly knotty. The necessity of adhering to the construction schedule to enable Fall 2004 classes to be held in the new education towers and avoid other, larger issues makes it impossible to offer exams at the law school at their “regular” times due to unavoidable — and unacceptably loud — construction noise. Dean Ludwick and others in Student Affairs solicited student input regarding exam times and locations, and made every effort to meet concerns and please as many test-takers as possible, thereby helping us to meet the best resolution possible in the circumstances.
The renovation of Holland Hall, which will begin this summer, requires that the library be relocated for 15 months. Where to relocate the library has presented many challenges, but Dean Shannon has reached an agreement for placement in a location in Butler Plaza formerly occupied by Publix (see page 3) that will work reasonably well (realizing that no option is as desirable as having library resources on campus), particularly in comparison to other options we had to consider.
Study space on or near our campus while the library is closed is another important — and difficult — issue. Dean Shannon and I are working hard on this problem as well, and we will find answers one way or another. The good news is that, while plans originally called for construction to end in June 2006, good management has allowed completion in March 2005. This time savings eliminates many months of disruption and accelerates when we can take advantage of our new facilities.
In my meetings with students throughout the semester (I plan to continue my biweekly breakfasts with students next semester, and encourage you to sign up in Student Affairs), changes made by faculty last spring in the grading curve have been a frequent topic of discussion. Students have made many excellent points, and I want you to know that your faculty and administration have done more than just listen to your concerns.
In October, faculty amended the honors cutoff in the Grading Curve Transition Rules to ensure that at least as many students will graduate with honors under the new rules as under the previous system. Last week, faculty amended the transition rules to permanently exempt seminar courses. These were good changes and ones that needed to be made, and student input was very helpful.
It is common in large institutions to feel decisionmakers do not care about impacts on those who must live with the decisions made. Let me assure you this is not the case at the Levin College of Law. I hope the work all of us are doing regarding these and other issues evidences the seriousness of our purpose.
Finally, I want to share some personal thoughts on another issue of great importance to me and, I hope, to you. It is imperative that all of us at the College of Law are mindful of our obligation to help build a community grounded in respect for the human dignity of others, and that we are active in the promotion of that principal.
An assessment of our community would show many positives, such as the pro bono work many of you do and public service projects sponsored by JMBA and other student organizations. But our collective performance is not perfect, which means we must continue to strive to build and sustain a collegial and healthy learning environment.
You will hear me say on many occasions that our society has much work to do in the areas of race, ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation. If we cannot deal responsibly and effectively with these issues in our universities, I have very little hope for our society. Thus, our universities must work hard on these issues, and law schools, including our own, must be leaders for broader campus communities. So let us commit to work together to demonstrate to our university — and ultimately to the society around us — how we can build productive and supportive relationships. Our administrative team will work closely with students, faculty and staff to help make this happen.
Please continue to let us know how we can serve you better. I cannot promise that every request will be granted; indeed, in my 25 years in legal education, I have heard my share of unreasonable requests. But I do pledge that we will help every student and member of our college community work through issues and concerns, and we will take every reasonable step at our disposal to assist you. Please feel free to e-mail me personally at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last, but not least, let me say that I feel more strongly than ever that joining the UF community and the Levin College of Law was an excellent move for me. I am very proud of this place, and I am very excited about our future.