March 24th, 2020:
UVSS Support & University of Victoria Executive Petitioning:
On March 23, members of the LSS spoke with the UVSS’ Director of Campaigns and Community Relations and Director of Outreach and University Relations. Concerns regarding exam scheduling, grading, and accommodations were brought forward, particularized to how decisions pertaining to these subjects have, could, and will impact law students.
The LSS received full backing and support from the UVSS.
Following our March 23 conversation, members of the LSS and the UVSS co-penned an e-mail to the University of Victoria Executive petitioning them to re-consider the current exam structure. The importance of having UVic’s Grading Scheme fall in line with the grading schemes implemented by other Canadian Law Schools was highlighted, as were concerns regarding fairness and autonomy. Members of the Executive include UVic’s President and Vice-Chancellor, Vice President Academic and Provost, Associates Vice Presidents and Associates.
The UVSS has also petitioned the Executive to consider implementing a “drop without penalty” option for students.
NOTE: The University Executive has indicated that their decision regarding a change to the current exam grading scheme will likely be made public by end of day Wednesday.
University of Victoria Faculty of Law – Updates:
Answers to Concerns Regarding Law Library Closure:
The UVic Law Library is working to compile an e-mail detailing all online resources available to students. The e-mail will include links to multiple online research resources, online versions of course textbooks, and an online copy of the McGill Guide. Students should be receiving this e-mail within the next 24 hours.
Answers to Concerns Regarding Consistency in Courses:
Many student concerns regarding a lack of consistency in courses have been brought forward. The Faculty of Law has highlighted that Professors maintain responsibility for their classes, and have the academic freedom to maintain that responsibility.
Professors were however, required to consult the Teaching Completion Decision Tree to assess whether the learning outcomes of their courses had been met. If it was determined that requirements went unfulfilled, Professors were obligated by their accountabilities to the legal profession, the University, and the Law School to corroborate such requirements. Unfortunately in some circumstances this had to translate into a continued dissemination of course material.
The Faculty of Law has been notified that some course assignment deadlines have been extended, but now conflict with the Revised Exam Schedule. They are working quickly to look into this matter and remedy the conflict.
Answers to Concerns Regarding Exam Scheduling:
Additional student concerns regarding the Revised Exam Schedule have been brought to the Faculty of Law. First, please note that although the Revised Schedule does have exams beginning and ending later than originally scheduled, they still fall within the University’s Exam Period.
Professors have been explicitly instructed by Dean Breau to avoid writing “take-home” exams. Meaning, the exams that will be distributed to students will be written as if students were completing them in our typical 3 hour windows. This instruction was given specifically with the hope of eliminating student’s abilities to trade more time working on a take-home with a higher grade. Students who are worried about overlapping take-homes or not having a day off between exams are encouraged to remind themselves of the Dean’s instruction. They are also encouraged to alleviate their anxieties by reminding themselves that with longer take-home periods, they can set aside time to study with the exam questions in mind before moving into the writing stage.
The LSS posited to the Faculty whether they have considered abandoning our Grading Curve for this semester given the circumstances, noting that other Law Schools have chosen to do so. As of right now the Faculty of Law has not come to decision on it, but it will be announced as soon as they have. They have also communicated that transparency will continue to be prioritized once they move to discussing this subject.
Decisions Regarding Sumer Semester:
The Faculty of Law are still conducting meetings regarding how Summer Semester will proceed but have high hopes that an answer will be available to students early next week.
University of Victoria Student Resources – Counselling Services:
All UVic Counselling Services are still operating. Counselling sessions are being offered over the phone and can be booked by phoning 250-721-8341.
A Note to All Students:
We are currently living in a time of extreme and fast-moving change, which is uncomfortable and scary for us all. As law students, our somewhat uncertain futures may seem more unclear than ever. Although anger and fear are healthy and normal reactions to this circumstance, it is important to remember that everyone is feeling impacted by COVID-19 in their own unique way. The LSS urges you to use this time as an opportunity to come together and support one another as a community as we struggle to find meaning and answers together.
March 22nd, 2020:
March 19th, 2020:
The LSS Executive has been working diligently to compile student questions and concerns regarding the University’s response to COVID-19, and has been in constant communication with one another, and with the Faculty of Law to ensure those questions and concerns are properly relayed.
The Faculty of Law has been very open to hearing the matters we have brought forward so far and transparency is being encouraged from both sides. This is a summary of the discussions we have had to date, and the answers we have been given thus far.
University of Victoria – COVID-19 Committees:
The University has struck two COVID-19 response committees, members of whom are working around the clock to ensure the most up-to-date response measures are being complied with. These committees have also been feeding down information to individual Faculties regarding University policies as they relate to remote classes, take-home exams, and grading schemes.
It is important to note that many policies have to be complied with and that a lot of decision making goes beyond the scope of powers held by members of the Faculty of Law. For instance, the Faculty of Law must follow the University of Victoria President’s Guidelines. In addition the Faculty of Law must adhere to the Guidelines set out by the Federation of Canadian Law Societies.
Final Exams – Scheduling, Grading & Consideration of Accommodated Students:
Today, Dean Breau sent an email to all students with both a Teaching Decision Tree and Revised Exam Schedule attached. The University set today, March 19, as the deadline for Faculties to disseminate that information. Please note however, that as matters have been changing on a day-to-day basis, the Revised Exam Schedule is still subject to modification.
It is important to note that the current University of Victoria course calendar cannot accommodate pass/fail courses unless the course was scheduled as such from the date of its commencement. However, this restriction has been labelled a “technical obstacle”. The LSS has been informed that all examination and grading options are still being considered.
Students who receive accommodations through the Centre for Accommodated Learning (CAL) were explicitly considered in the Teaching Decision making process, and when the Revised Exam Schedule was compiled. The Facility is committed to ensuring that Professors are writing their take-home exams with accommodated students in mind, and has been diligent in ensuring that exams can be completed with more than enough time to spare in the writing-windows they are permitted. Students concerned about accommodations and those impacted by having children at home are encouraged to reach out to Yvonne Lawson, Manager of Academic Administration and Student Services.
With regard to exam writing, Professors has been instructed to adhere to consistent Exam Cover Pages which will provide limitations on word and page counts. They have also been informed that normal protocol will be followed throughout the administration of take-homes, meaning they will be available by phone and/or e-mail within reasonable business hours to clarify any student questions regarding mistakes found within exams, but will instruct students who come forward with substantive law questions that stated assumptions must be made.
Other Canadian Law Schools – Dialogue between Schools & How Other Faculties are Responding to COVID-19:
The LSS has been in touch with representatives from all other LSS bodies within Canada. Data is being shared among representatives and is being consistently updated regarding how provinces and institutions are responding to COVID-19 in an attempt to encourage consistency among Faculties of Law.
UVic, UBC and TRU Faculties remain in close contact throughout this time, and all Law Deans across Canada have also been in touch with one another to discuss matters as they change daily. A teleconference is scheduled to occur between all Law Dean’s tomorrow to further this dialogue.
Law Centre – Concerns & Responses
Students currently enrolled in Law Centre are encouraged to self-isolate at their discretion. Grading will be based on all work completed prior to the COVID-19 University in-person class cancellations, and as part of a response to all BC Courts being closed yesterday, students should be wrapping up files and sending in memos. Although the work offered by Law Centre is an essential provincial service, the LSS has been informed that this work is not a student responsibility.
Students currently enrolled in Law Centre for the Summer 2020 term remain registered in the course and the Administration remain optimistic that the clinic will operate as usual. In the event that the clinic cannot operate, students currently enrolled will be accommodated by being registered into Summer courses. Meetings are scheduled to begin next week to discuss how that registration will be handled if it is necessary.
Students on Exchange – Status Update:
All international students have been ordered home by the University and generous funds have been offered to assist students in their return. Students who are currently on exchange have been, and remain, in close contact with the Faculty of Law.
Graduating Students – Graduation Requirements, Convocation & PLTC:
The Faculty of Law has deferred a priority to graduating students to ensure to the best of their ability that graduation requirements will be met amidst COVID-19. GPAs will be calculated and J.D. completion letters will be sent to respective Law Societies as soon as possible in order to meet graduation requirements.
Currently, Spring Convocation is still scheduled to occur in June and no modifications to PLTC schedules have been communicated to the law school. Dean Breau will be reaching out to the Director of PLTC to request any updates and will be compiling information resources available to graduating students planning to article both within and outside of BC after graduation. This information will be sent out to students in e-mail format as soon as it is assembled.
LSS Reimbursements – Clubs, Skit Night & Grad Banquet:
The LSS is working as quickly as possible to devise a way to reimburse students involved in Clubs and those who purchased tickets to attend Skit Night and the Grad Banquet, while still adhering to social-distancing practices. At the suggestion of Dean Breau, we will be touching base with Rosemary McCutcheon, the Faculty’s Manager of Finance and Administration to seek further advice on how to expedite this process.
LSS Student Lounge – Locked Down:
As of this afternoon the LSS Student Lounge has been locked down to further promote the health and safety of those still working within Fraser and to encourage social distancing.
LSS Lockers – Procedure:
Students who are currently storing personal belongings in the LSS Fraser Lockers are encouraged to leave those items where they are in an effort to promote social distancing. Typical semester-end emptying protocols will be delayed until further notice.
LSS COVID-19 – Consultation Survey:
In order to continue a dialogue between students, the Faculty of Law, and the University, the LSS has compiled the following COVID-19 Consultation Survey. Please help us compile the diversity of needs, questions and concerns of our student body and complete it as soon as possible. Please note that names disclosed in this survey will be kept confidential between the LSS President and the VPSA; they are only being collected to ensure students are not submitting multiple forms.