Universities not consulting students

September 14th, 2012 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Press reported:

law students are promising to fight plans to restructure the law faculty.

In what many are calling a sudden change of governance at its School of Law, the university is absorbing that operation into the College of Business and Economics, and the law library will permanently relocate to another site on campus.

The structural change means the School of Law is now part of the college and will be represented on the university’s senior management team by the college’s pro-vice-chancellor.

There will still be a dean of law.

In an email to students last night, LAWSOC president Seamus Woods and vice-president Rachel Walsh said the society was told about the change earlier in the year.

”Before we had a chance to respond or consult students, we were advised it had been taken off the table. That was the last we had heard until Monday,” they said. …

LAWSOC was told in a meeting with vice-chancellor Rod Carr last night that the move was “probably” final.

I can’t comment on the merits of the decision (but will say that the law is about more than just business and seems an awkward fit), but the apparent lack of meaningful consultation with affected students is troubling.

I’ve been hearing stories from other campuses also, about universities not consulting students on major issues.

We live in the Internet age, where every student is online. The university knows the e-mail address of every student impacted by a particular decision on a course, faculty or even building. They should have developed or be developing an online consultation tool that allows students to have a say on decisions that impact them – especially as they fund a fair proportion of the university from their fees.

Student consultation should be in the DNA of a university.

14 Responses to “Universities not consulting students”

  1. peterwn (4,288 comments) says:

    An assignment for Margaret Wilson. Before entering Parliament, when she was Law Dean at Waikato she stymied a similar proposal by Waikato University on the basis that Council ratification was needed and she could get the ‘numbers’ to defeat it..

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  2. Viking2 (14,374 comments) says:

    what bullshit.
    If the Universities had fee paying customers then they would have to meet the customers needs.
    But they don’t they had entitled free fee customers who think that they are the be all and end all of the uni’s and must have a say.
    When they pay for what they get then they are entitled to a say. Until then Stop collecting your free student loans.

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  3. capitald (69 comments) says:

    I’m pretty concerned about the move. I studied law at Canterbury – the building has the entire faculty, the library and all of the resources in a single place. It enables all law students to study in the same place. Law is heavily dependent on the library. Having all of the law students together enables the kind of community required to do what is a very full on degree. I notice that there are no similar proposals to put other departments in the engineering department for example.

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  4. F E Smith (3,504 comments) says:

    It is not the first time that the University has tried to place the School of Law within the College of Business. The Law Faculty fought tooth and nail last time (about 5 or 6 years ago, from memory, although it might be a bit more than that) and succeeded in retaining their independence, but it will be difficult to do it again if the University is more determined.

    Here is one Cantuar graduate hoping that the University fails again.

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  5. David in Chch (595 comments) says:

    It’s not the first faculty, nor the first time, and little or no consultation with staff or students, then or now. Sad but not surprising.

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  6. UpandComer (665 comments) says:

    This is blown out of proportion.

    Was talking to the vice chancellor at Otago about this – all that is effectively happening fro the student’s point of view is that the law library will now be in the main library.

    I’m not sure why this is so controversial. The government is doing exactly the same thing with the various law departments/libraries being moved into one.

    I guarantee you that 95% of those law students will not touch a hardcopy legal resource for their entire tenure at the University. Students rarely access hardcopy material when the University makes Brookers/Lexis available and it’s uncommon to need cases from pre1967 or wherever the line is for the digitization.

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  7. Stuart (51 comments) says:

    I gota agree with viking, it is not worth consulting with students as the onl ones that respond are the ones that will complain about everything. it will affect staff far more and in the end, the students are not there for very long.
    Consultation will only delay things, costing time and money which will harm the students far more than being left out of a decision. In fact, many law students also study commerce so this may make some administration for them easier, and for the others, it is simply a different building to go to.

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  8. trout (1,132 comments) says:

    Time to reduce the number of Law Schools. The proliferation of lawyers in this country (especially the production line ‘Waitangi’ lawyers from Waikato) has only led to the rapid growth of a ‘legal industry’ which costs a mint and does little to increase productivity or a lead to better quality of life for Kiwis.

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  9. PaulL (6,061 comments) says:

    Storm in a teacup. It’s a structural change. This is about as useful as consulting with unions when you want to restructure your organisation. In other words, not.

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  10. David Garrett (10,993 comments) says:

    Upandcomer: I dont know where you got your law degree, but I seem to remember a great many pre 1967 cases having considerable importance … Rylands v. Fletcher – the root of an entire branch of the law of nuisance; Donoghue v. Stevenson: the basis of the entire modern law of negligence; Hadley v. Baxendale, the basis of damages in contract…I could go on for quite some time.

    Even “back in my day” it was possible to get a law degree without actually reading more than the headnotes to any cases…but the degree so earned was not a very good one.

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  11. capitald (69 comments) says:

    I agree with David on this one. I am yet to find someone who objects to the move who actually went to law school.

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  12. UpandComer (665 comments) says:

    Yes David, but note that those are seminal cases which are in fact available online precisely because they are the bases of branches of law. Any big line of cases of importance and pedigree is available online, even if it not on the official material providers. What is more important for practical purposes is the thin end of the wedge those cases support at the wide end – which are available digitally. All the important old cases are available online, and those that aren’t are referenced, hence the need for the very occasional dabble into hardcopy.

    Overseas jurisdictions are even more highly digitized then the common-law. America, Europe etc have databases which extend much much further back then the common-law. Thus there is less of a need for foreign precedents to be sourced in hardcopy. Law libraries today should really just function as facilitators of digital content, which in effect they largely do, rather then warehouse storage facilities of old case lines.

    Law students are most upset over the fact they will lose a designated study space and corresponding status. However, why should generic study space need to be centered around a particular library where the same can be achieved easily in more generalised study spaces. The fact that hard copy is still conceived of as important is more a symptom of lawyer’s nostalgia and protecting old ways of doing things then a necessary part of the profession. Similar amalgamations are taking place at Otago in other faculties, such as medicine.

    Also, Universities are softer these days on undergraduates, and actually provide all of the requisite case materials for a particular course to the students in hardcopy at the outset of the course. So this further lessens the need to head to the library.
    Law libraries are of course necessary. Where many students will need to access hardcopy will be at honours levels and above – yet again most of the hardcopy material has a digital duplicate, or can be found other then in law libraries.

    You’re an old man Garrett.

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  13. Lee C (2,993 comments) says:


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  14. rakuraku (162 comments) says:

    The problem with this country is Lawyers and too many of them. If you want something stuffed up get a Lawyer involved.

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