UF Law deans hear student concerns, share campus progress at Town Hall Meeting
By Nicole Safker (2L)
The John Marshall Bar Association held a Town Hall meeting March 30 in the Martin H. Levin Advocacy Center to provide an open forum where students could address concerns related to all aspects of their experience at the UF Levin College of Law.
Dean Robert Jerry, Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs William Page, Associate Dean for Administrative and Fiscal Affairs Debra Staats and Associate Dean of Students/Interim Dean for Career Development Rachel Inman, sat on the panel.
Dedicated Bar prep course
UF Law does not currently offer a dedicated Bar prep course, but the American Bar Association now allows schools to offer one tailored to the state exam that the majority of students will take. The college is willing to entertain the idea, but the administration believes that the private Bar prep courses that virtually all students take serve student needs. Dean Page noted the high correlation between grades and Bar passage rates and emphasized the need for students to study and do well in their classes.
Most Bar subjects already offered, more Bar-tested subjects available
Bar-tested courses that are already offered at UF Law include Florida Constitutional Law, Florida Civil Procedure, Florida Criminal Procedure, Federal Constitutional Law, Estates & Trusts, Business Entities, Property, Evidence, Torts, Advanced Torts, Medical Malpractice, Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure and Contracts. Contracts curriculum will expand beyond Sales to cover Articles 3 and 9 to compensate for the addition of that material to the Florida Bar Exam. The college will also add Remedies in Equity, which will be taught by Professor Justin Nast and will be available in the fall semester. Dean Page stressed that while students should take the Bar Exam into account when registering for classes, it should not be their primary focus.
U.S. News & World Report rankings
UF Law tied for 24th among public law schools and tied for 47th overall in the U.S. News & World Report rankings released last month. The UF Law Graduate Tax Program continues to rank first among publics and was second overall this year. The Environmental and Land Use Law Program rose to sixth among publics and 13th overall and dispute resolution ranked at seventh among publics and 19th overall. Prior to the rankings’ release, Dean Robert Jerry expected UF Law to rise as a result of the higher LSAT scores of the incoming class, better financials and better placement numbers. But the ranking methodology used by U.S. News changed significantly two days before rankings were released. Students in LL.M. programs are now considered “unemployed” for purposes of placement. Since UF Law has a significant number of JD students who go on to pursue their LL.M., this change hurt the law schools’ rank and resulted in the school remaining at roughly the same level as last year.
UF Law is considering offering a more code-intensive and substantive Professional Responsibility course closer to the end of the second year, when most students take the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE). The 1L course would then be replaced with a more general professionalism and ethics course and would drop to two credits.
Legal Research and Writing
Now that Legal Research and Writing is a graded subject, some students have expressed concerns that it would be inappropriate to receive grades for preliminary drafts since the primary purpose of those drafts is to serve as a learning experience. Looking ahead, the Strategic Planning Committee has considered making Legal Research and Writing a four-credit course and devoting the extra classroom time to advanced legal research techniques for 1Ls.
Mandatory grading mean
In response to student concerns about grade inflation, Dean Page is willing to revisit the issue of the placement of UF’s mandatory mean GPA of 3.25.
Martin H. Levin Advocacy Center
The second-floor construction is expected to be completed mid-July. The second floor will contain two new smaller court/classrooms, both with judge benches and one with jury box, as well as a collaborative space for teams to use while preparing for competitions. The second floor will also be the new home of the Legal Research and Writing Department, and the Environmental and Land Use Law Program will move into LRW’s previous space on the second floor of Bruton-Geer Hall.
Center for Career Development
A professional search firm, Spellman & Johnson, has been hired to find the next assistant dean for career development. That search is expected to be completed by June or July and the new assistant dean should be hired by the end of the summer. Dean Jerry stressed, however, that finding a high quality applicant will take precedence over any time constraints placed on the search. Career Development offices are moving to the ground floor of Holland Hall into the prior Student Organizations offices. This move will place Career Development “front and center” and should facilitate better employer relations and increased visibility. Student Affairs Dean Inman will continue to serve as interim until the new dean is in place.
In early summer, the Communications Team will move into prior Career Services space on the second floor of Bruton-Geer Hall to provide more workspace for the department.
New faculty offices
A suite of offices for new faculty will be built in the Communications Suite on the second floor of Holland Hall once communications personnel have moved to Bruton-Geer. This will be the final step of the relocations and will fulfill the ultimate goal of providing more faculty office space.
In response to student inquiries about replacing bathroom faucets and water fountains, Dean Staats looked into it and the UF Physical Plant Division responded that these fixtures are replaced on an as-needed basis. The issue of the odor in ground-floor library bathrooms is the result of sewer-pipe construction. Physical Plant personnel is currently applying a chemical treatment to absorb odor and will increase application of that chemical if the odor continues.
Pressure washing of brick and concrete on buildings and sidewalks has been postponed twice because of timing and weather issues, but will be taken care of over the summer.
The cafeteria is getting a make-over, including new lighting, furniture, walls and floors. The new look will extend to the lounge area on other side of the wall where student organizations used to be. Carts containing microwaves will be available in the renovated space. In regards to additional power outlets in the table area, Dean Staats said the construction would be too cost-prohibitive.
Library hours will be extended for spring exams a week earlier than last year, and will result in the library being open until 4 a.m. The issue of white noise emanating from the speakers in the quiet reading room was actually a HVAC system problem that has been resolved.
Food and drink on campus
The issue of having a hot food option for students on campus is still not resolved. The school purchased a “Turbo Oven,” which was not as successful as hoped, possibly because people don’t like the vegetables on their sandwiches to be heated. Dean Inman will work with vendors on main campus like Panda Express and Subway to possibly bring a limited menu for advance orders of food. Per student suggestion, Dean Inman will also consider bringing a set amount of a vendor’s most popular offerings to be made available a la carte.
Wachovia has decided that there is not enough student traffic on the law school campus to merit the installation of an ATM machine.