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Improving the student experience

18 Oct 2016 - 09:15

Dear Students,

This is a follow up to my recent e-mail in response to some of the demands of student protestors regarding the institutional culture, curriculum, pedagogy and staff-student relationships at Kramer Law.  As it happens, many of these demands coincide with processes that have been underway at Kramer Law in the past year, including the Self-Evaluation Report that we had to prepare for the Council of Higher Education and their recent site visit, as well as the curricular review and strategic plan of UCT.   I and others on the faculty have also written about the transformation of legal education in the past few months. 

See Penelope Andrews, Law Faculties Must Embrace Difference to Produce Great Graduates,

https://theconversation.com/law-faculties-must-embrace-difference-to-produce-great-graduates-59927

Jaco Barnard Naude, Apartheid Mentalities and the Transformation of Legal Culture

http://constitutionallyspeaking.co.za/resources/apartheid-mentalities-and-the-transformation-of-legal-culture/

Dianna Yach, UCT: No need to Fear the Curriculum Review,

http://www.politicsweb.co.za/news-and-analysis/uct-no-need-to-fear-the-curriculum-review.]  

The goals that I highlight below were in the pipeline for a Faculty Retreat next month, as a follow up to our self-improvement plan provided to the CHE site team last week. Because of the events of the past week, I thought that it may be useful to provide you with details of those goals now.  I will be meeting with the Law Students Council and class representatives on Friday to explore ways to meet the goals and to develop a timeline for implementation.  It will also be beneficial to our deliberations to have student input before our Faculty retreat next month.    I am especially seeking your input as to what you consider to be a decolonised syllabus.

In the past week I have received e-mails from students and parents who wish classes to continue and from students who state that continuing to suspend classes is the just thing to do.  It is clear that there is a division in the student body regarding this issue, but the responses to the survey that I sent out last week demonstrate that a majority of students want classes to continue.  

I refer you to the VC Desk sent to you earlier today.  It stated in part:

All deans and executive directors have endorsed the continuation of classes and are in support of returning to full operations. I urge all staff, both academic and PASS, to do all they can to support the return to full operations at UCT. It is inevitable, and desirable, that we all have different viewpoints, political stances, demands and opinions. But the issues that we should all be agreeing on are that a prolonged shutdown will have irreversible, damaging consequences for all at UCT and that unlawful behaviour is unacceptable (no matter the cause).

I know that it is very difficult for many of you to come to campus while there is security around.    And I really wish that this was not the situation.   I am reassured by the VC that the private security personnel are under strict instructions to conduct themselves with professionalism and restraint.    I have received complaints from two students about racial profiling by members of the security personnel.  I have relayed those complaints to the VC.   Professor Alan Rycroft also shared his concerns with the VC after his dialogue with students this afternoon.    The conduct complained of is unacceptable and regrettable. 

As always, please know that I am keen to engage with you on these issues, in person and by e-mail.   I am in Johannesburg this week as part of a CHE Review Site team at Wits Law School.   I will be back at my office on Friday.

Sincerely,

Penelope Andrews

Dean and Professor

IMPROVING THE STUDENT EXPERIENCE AT UCT LAW

Goals:

Nurture an inclusive environment

  •          Working with the LSC to generate ideas on how to build unity, enhance mutual respect, dignity and trust.
  •          Develop a Faculty Charter of Rights and Responsibilities to clarify mutual expectations.

 

Across the curriculum strengthen the importance of constitutional transformation and explore ways to decolonise the curriculum

  •          Consider the scope for semesterisation rather than full year courses
  •          Commitment to innovative and decolonised pedagogy
  •          Consider electives for preliminary year students

Embed and improve the mentoring programme. 

  •          From February 2017 introduce a staff-student mentoring programme
  •          Work with LSC on student peer mentoring.
  •          Work with Res committees on in-res mentoring
  •          Start an alumni mentoring programme

 

Increase experiential and practical learning opportunities

  •          Expand student law clinic engagement, consider legal practice internships and community externships.
  •          Address challenges and think creatively about community service course. 

Address the need for another clinic.

Start a “No student falls through the cracks” programme (“We Care”)

  •          Funding to be secured for academic support and developments programs including a greater focus on legal writing, exam taking skills, time management, project management and other skills.     This to be mainstreamed and available to all students.
  •          Work towards a closer articulation between ECP and mainstream curriculum.
  •          Consider ways for students to transfer in and out of ECP.
  •          Develop ways of utilizing technology to address challenges for students in the wake of going paperless.
  •          Interrogate the value of podcasts as learning strategies
  •          Put in place law school support for student facing mental and/or emotional ill-health, including an on-site psychologist or counsellor and workshops on anxiety / panic attacks / depression and other psychologically related challenges for students

I also attach for your interest a power point presentation that I delivered at the City University of London in July on Transformation of Legal Education.  The program and description of that event may be found at:

http://www.city.ac.uk/events/2016/july/a-workshop-to-launch-the-schools-athena-swan-application-process?dm_t=0,0,0,0,0.