Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Stanford Law Considering Move to Quarter System
I first heard this rumor a few days ago and I was immediatly against the idea. My feeling is that the quarter system has the danger of packing a semester's worth of material into a third the time and giving reduced credit to boot, leading to increasingly stressed out students. When you throw in the addition of smaller vacations and more months studying for exams, it seems on first blush to be a rather ill-conceived idea.

Or so I thought until I talked to one of my mentors, Professor Cole. I don't yield in argument all that often, but Prof. Cole put up a good case of why we should switch. First, the law school acknowledges that there is a fear of increased work for decreased credit, but it is willing to structure the professor incentives so that it will be in their best interest to award the same amount of credit as before by having them be able to teach a correspondingly lower amount of classes if those classes are for bulk credit. In other words, Tax, which is four units in a semester, would now be six units in a quarter or three units in two consecutive quarters. And the professor will want to structure it this way so that they credit for teaching the required amount and not have to teach an additional class. In the off chance that this incentive does not work, there will be a safeguard (of dubious effectiveness I believe) of checking the reading list for each class to make sure that it is the "appropriate" amount of work potentially by a faculty committee.

Second, moving to a quarter system will increase the amount of courses that will be available for law students because it will synch us with the rest of the university. Such a synchronization leads to the third benefit - we will be better able to have courses taught by professors from other departments when such teaching is merited (say for example in the corporate finance classes). This will reduce teaching loads and make recruiting faculty from other schools all the easier (because new faculty will have a drastically diminished load if they come teach at Stanford Law under this system). With more tenure track faculty, this of course leads to the real red meat for us Stanford Law Grads - a move up in the rankings.

As I said, I think this is a good case. I need to sleep on it some more to see how I feel about it. But I think Professor Cole has likely changed my mind on the issue.

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