UConn Law Survey On Student Engagement

Starting March 30, UConn Law students will have the chance to provide feedback to the UConn Law administration as part of the law school’s participation in the Law School Survey of Student Engagement, or, “LSSSE.”

LSSSE is a nationwide independent research project that provides participating law schools with the ability to learn about which educational practices students find most effective. The survey, which will be tailored specifically to UConn Law, provides student respondents with a series of questions pertaining to their academic and extracurricular lives at UConn Law.

Assistant Director of Student Services Jennifer Cerny said UConn Law will utilize the responses to check in with students and measure their level of on-campus engagement.

“This survey gives us insight into the student body and helps our law school figure out the best ways to reach students and better meet their needs,” she said. “It takes into account everything from how students use services on campus, to engagement in (and out of) the classroom, to providing data to justify programs and campus initiatives”

The survey contains questions inquiring about a range of topics, from a student’s frequency in participating in the classroom to a student’s personal and professional development. Students may answer these questions from a spectrum of answers, ranging from “very much” to “very little.”

In addition to the pointed survey questions, students will also have the opportunity to fill out an additional, open-ended comments section. Cerny urged students to take the time to fill out this section.

“The most helpful part of the survey is the comments students write about their experience at UConn Law.” Cerny said. “We want valuable, honest feedback about the law school.”

Cerny said once the law school collects the anonymous responses, members of UConn Law’s administration read every comment and use these comments to gauge where improvements to the law school are most necessary.

UConn Law first participated in the survey in 2011 and had a response rate of 64.8%, surpassing the national average of 52% Cerny said she hopes to surpass that number this year.

“It’s really important for every student to take the time to do the survey,” she said. “This is one of the few ways to offer feedback about one’s overall experience completely anonymously.”

Cerny said UConn Law made a number of changes in response to the feedback it received during the 2011 survey.

“It is easy to justify big changes on campus with the power of the student body behind the changes,” she said. “To help us make these changes happen, everybody needs to participate.”

In addition to using the data as a way to collect useful feedback about our campus culture, it also serves as a tool to compare UConn Law with similar law schools.

“We are able to compare ourselves to both our peer schools and the other 189 law schools that participate in LSSSE,” Cerny said. “That’s the global idea of the survey.”

Students that complete the survey will be entitled to a yet-to-be-determined giveaway. Cerny said, however, students should also be incentivized by the desire to provide their anonymous feedback about how to improve the UConn Law experience.

Survey invitations will be sent on March 24, with the actual survey period running from March 30 through April 16. For more information about the LSSSE, students may contact Jennifer Cerny or visit http://www.lssse.iub.edu/.

 

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Op-Ed: Late Grades and Grade Changes; Students Up In Arms

By Nina Pelc-Faszcza

Regular stress and anxiety surrounding fall grade releases was met with even more hostility at the beginning of this semester, when rumors began to circulate that students were receiving incorrect grades and the registrar was not being prompt with posting grades in general.

We all understand that grades are extremely important. Students have to apply for summer jobs, after-graduation jobs, and time-sensitive, prestigious clerkships; we want to show our parents and friends; and, maybe most importantly, getting grades provides us with a sense of closure, a feeling that we can finally put the past behind us. However, in the process of grade-posting madness, life and human error is bound to happen.

Grade posting at UConn Law is a multi-step process involving both professors and the registrar. A simplified version of the process is as follows: law professors will hand-write the grade of each student next to his or her name on a class roster, the registrar will input those grades manually into the system, and then the registrar will post them after double checking that the right grades have been assigned to each student. (Another fun fact: the registrar does check to make sure classes on the B median are graded appropriately).

As one can imagine in a system of hand-written grades and manual input, the occasional error is bound to happen. It sometimes does happen that grades are interchanged in the input process, or that, in an effort to post grades sooner and stifle the widespread anxiety (such as over a weekend when a professor decides to submit his or her grades at 4:59pm on a Friday), grades are posted without being double-checked. For the few students who are affected, you are rightfully annoyed; these mistakes should not happen.

But in the grand scheme of things, we are all humans capable of making mistakes. Have you ever sent an email that you read maybe twenty-five times to avoid looking incompetent, only to notice right after you hit send that you misspelled the person’s name or missed a “the” in the middle of a sentence? (Or even worse: hitting “reply all” by accident!) Have you ever re-read your writing sample after submitting it, noticed a glaring typo, and wondered how you (and the six people you had proof-read it) could have ever missed it? Yes, that is called human error, and it happens to the best of us. In the end, we will all receive our grades (usually the ones we deserve) in due time, and all is well.

As for the matter of some grades being posted well past the January 24th deadline (which seemed a bit late to begin with), this is attributable to our professors and the (usually) unforeseen and understandable circumstances that they face. The registrar will almost always post grades within twenty-four business hours of receiving them, and will nudge any professor who disrespects the deadline. Professors are people too; we expect them to abide by deadlines as we must abide by theirs, but a teensy bit of slack should be given. Grading, especially for large doctrinal classes, is not as quick and easy as one may think.

And for those of you with multiple-choice scantron exams who did not receive your grades until the very last minute and thought, “This is ridiculous! How lazy can my professor possibly be?!”: you can sleep more soundly at night when I tell you that nine times out of ten this is done on purpose. Professors oftentimes submit such grades early but make the strategic decision to delay the reveal so that you are not left staring at and obsessing about that one grade in isolation for three weeks until the rest of them come out. But for those professors who are just inexplicably late, well that’s just rude.

 

Op-Ed: The Road Behind: Perspectives from a 1L

By Chantelle Ankerman

When asked by those outside the legal world what the first semester of law school is like, I am at a loss. Just as no one can really prepare you for what it will be like before you live through it, it is difficult to convey the significance of the experience once you have. Still, I can vaguely describe law school as a cure for any misguided belief you may have of possessing an above-average vocabulary, intellect, or stamina.

I found myself in a world where just about everyone I met impressed and interested me. I felt the borders of my mind expanding daily. It was scary, and sometimes painful, but in an exciting way. There were days when I was exultant: I understood the concepts and made some reasonably intelligent remarks in class. But there were also days when I felt hopelessly stupid, alone, and out of my depth. Those moments define the struggle of growth as much as, if not more so than, the times of triumph. Therefore, one of the most valuable lessons I have re-learned these past few months is not to fear trials, but rather to embrace them.

Throughout the semester, I constantly heard the seemingly benign iteration “I just want to get it over with,” in reference to classes, assignments, even the whole of law school itself. It is natural to want to avoid things that are stressful, and I do not think I have ever been so tired or worked as hard. But essentially what we do when we give utterance to that sentiment is to wish our lives away. The grains of sand in life’s hourglass are numbered for each of us, and once fallen, they cannot be reclaimed.

So don’t seize the day only to mentally dispose of it before it has begun. Putting off being happy indefinitely is a mistake. I made some big sacrifices this past semester: I missed pheasant season, attending a wedding, and a bachelorette. At the time, I felt that it was the responsible thing to do, but when faced with those types of choices again this semester I will try to choose more judiciously.

One last gleaning from my journey thus far is to never underestimate your network (I’m not talking 4G). I mean the people in your life who love and care for you. I have a small, tightly-knit family, and it was beyond hard for me to take a back seat in planning and executing our various gatherings. Before law school I was the cake-baker and the thank you card sender. Now I’m the bum who sends Christmas presents two months late. The spectre of inadequacy looms on occasion, but I am more often overwhelmed by the response of family and friends: “You’re in law school! It’s okay!” I have perceived a communal effort to bear me up with moral support, meals, and kind words. Despite how I might feel sometimes, this reminds me that I am not engaged in a solitary effort, and that the fruits of these labors are meant to be shared.

Op-Ed: The Road Ahead

By Chantelle Ankerman

When I mentioned to a professor that I was attending a 1L Spring Orientation this semester, he was confused. I begrudgingly forsook the comfort of some extra sleep under my down comforter for the mandatory five-hour session. Despite breakfast being an underwhelming selection of pastries and Lilliputian cups of coffee, the day began on an otherwise exciting note with Dean Timothy Fisher’s opening remarks. I was again struck by his distinctive speaking style as he walked among the tables in Starr Hall, not a scrap of paper in hand, and delivered a speech of equal parts conviction and sage wisdom.

The theme of the day was relationships, specifically the need to foster them due to their crucial role in career development. I couldn’t have been happier, for this dovetailed quite nicely with my own frame of mind. Dean Fisher and several others throughout the day urged us not to leave unused the many resources available to us. I was gratified to hear that my efforts to reach out to last semester’s professors in order to obtain feedback and promote my academic growth were on the right track. But there is more to relationships than what we can get out of them.

Before matriculating at UConn Law, I attended a networking panel at the Law School. One concept that has stuck with me ever since was that one does not simply don the cloak of reputation, one must embody it. Interactions with others should not be a means to an end ¾ something we do merely to further our own interests. To transform into truly meaningful connections, our relationships must be a lifestyle choice. And forget instant gratification. It takes time and effort, and might even require some self-sacrifice. But it’s totally worth it.

Take-home lessons aside, we listened to various panels on journal membership, finding a summer job, and “wellness.” I found most helpful the perspective of upperclassmen who had recently experienced rights of passage such as journal write-on and securing employment experience in a tough market. Their conflicting advice: Relax, but not too much. Lunch was a standard selection of sandwiches, pasta and salad. As we finished munching, James Ray, the Law School’s newly appointed Director of the Career Planning Center, delivered his keynote address. He seemed laid-back and echoed much of what Dean Fisher had said concerning the importance of networking. Unfortunately, about a third of the students in attendance ate and ran, leaving a conspicuously empty room for the last couple hours of the presentation.

Although I thought the information imparted was valid, my general feeling was that the program could have been condensed considerably. Also, the format would have benefited from some variety. Small group discussions, or even a competitive game, might have helped improve the flow. I appreciate the intent behind this additional orientation, but propose that our capacity as veterans of the first (and arguably most difficult) semester of law school renders us at least somewhat capable of navigating the next steps in our journey independently.

 

The Key to Understanding the Keynote Speaker: The Aftermath of Connecticut Public Interest Law Journal’s Symposium

By Sidd Sinha

When Dr. Amy Wax presented her case at the Connecticut Public Interest Law Journal’s (CPILJ) Symposium on disparate impact last month, there were several rattled audience members afterwards. Wax’s presentation was titled “Chasing the Unicorn” and challenged the rhetoric of having programs that were used to benefit minorities. Her data suggested that the efforts that are taken for any programs that help the disadvantaged demographics are not efficient. The most controversial parts of the presentation focused on Wax’s theory that there is no need for disparate impact programs and that the resources used for assisting the underrepresented demographics were essentially being wasted.Seemingly uncomfortable, several individuals left the symposium during this particular discussion.

The CPILJ Editorial Board responded to private messages from those concerned after the symposium. Wax has an outstanding résumé that features impressive academic successes across highly-accredited, Ivy League universities. The decision to have her as the keynote speaker was made by CPILJ’s Symposium Editors, who wanted to have a fair representation of all the various perspectives on the topic.

Professors Dalié Jiménez and Jill Anderson put together a brown bag lunch to discuss any concerns that may have arisen from the Symposium. The lunch took place about a month after the Symposium and went over any issues that were still lingering amongst the law school community. Deans, professors, students, members of the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO), and administration from the UConn-Storrs campus came to discuss some of the flaws in Wax’s arguments.

While a common theme was reviewing Wax’s inability to correctly answer questions about housing laws in Connecticut and dismissal of studies raised to show incorrect assumptions in her presentation, a more profound message came from the lunch. It was clear that Wax had an unpopular view but the larger issue was an underlying skill law students ought to learn in their advanced education: refuting arguments with poise, composure, and data.

CPILJ is hoping to get a full article from Wax and intends to publish a response paper detailing the gaps and assumptions that Wax put forth, which may have been articulated well, but do not contribute to any fair study of how to approach improvements that may be needed in the disparate impact model. While there are studies to support Wax’s case, the basis for her work was not presented clearly enough with information that was credible. CPILJ was glad to have attention brought to the issue and considers the event a success.

More information on Wax’s study and upcoming activities for CPILJ can be found at http://cpilj.com/.