Administration listens to student concerns at town hall

Published: November 19th, 2012

Category: Feature

From left, Debra Staats, associate dean for administrative and fiscal affairs; Alyson Flournoy, senior associate dean for academic affairs; Dean Robert Jerry; and Rachel Inman, associate dean for students, paneled a town hall meeting Nov. 13. (Photo by Marcela Suter)

By Felicia Holloman (3L)

University of Florida Levin College of Law’s John Marshall Bar Association held a town hall to tackle hot-button issues for students and potential solutions.

Students, faculty, and staff filled the Chesterfield Smith Ceremonial Classroom on Nov. 13 to discuss concerns regarding exam scheduling, the variety of classes offered and library hours.

Dean Robert Jerry; Rachel Inman, associate dean for students; Alyson Flournoy, senior associate dean for academic affairs; and Debra Staats, associate dean for administrative and fiscal affairs, paneled the meeting.

The topics discussed at the town hall were chosen through a student survey, which received 169 responses.

A high-priority issue was the exam conflict rule, which allows students to reschedule an exam if more than one of their exams is scheduled on the same day. The rule does not allow adjustments for students who have two exams within 24 hours of each other.

Nearly 80 percent of respondents reported general dissatisfaction with the rule, while 88.7 percent of respondents reported that having more than one exam in a 24-hour period puts them at a disadvantage.

One proposed solution is to institute a reading period. But Inman remarked that a reading period would likely extend the semester, and could pose problems for students who live on campus or receive financial aid. Jerry suggested scheduling conflicts with main campus may be avoided by starting the semester earlier.

Although the faculty needs to be consulted on the question of changing the exam conflict rule, Jerry believes students expressed compelling reasons for the change.

“This is a solid argument,” Jerry said. Inman hopes for a change to the conflict exam rule to be instituted by spring semester.

Another issue concerned the variety of classes offered in certain concentrations. A total of 56.6 percent of respondents reported that they were dissatisfied with the number of classes offered in their area of interest. A significant percentage of these responses called for more classes in criminal; entertainment, arts, and sports; and real property, probate, and trust law.

Flournoy explained some of the factors that influence the classes offered.

“We look at enrollment each semester and adjust accordingly,” Flournoy said.  “We try to balance the number of offerings in different subject areas so that there is a good array of offerings each semester.”  But in general, the spring semester schedule accounts for students enrolling in fewer credit hours. Thus the number of electives offered is adjusted accordingly.

According to Flournoy, faculty members are working with the administration with the goal of developing additional tools for academic guidance to help advise students on courses that are relevant to different career paths, some of which may not be obvious to students. Flournoy is also working with faculty to develop additional courses in areas of strong student interest.

A change to be instituted this semester is 24-hour access to a classroom for studying in the weeks prior to exams. Law students may use their swipe cards to access the room seven days a week. The change comes amid student complaints that libraries around campus and the county are not opened often enough.

Jerry expressed his appreciation for students’ input.

“We get a lot of good ideas from this, either through comments in the survey or the town hall,” Jerry said.