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Saturday, September 09, 2006

Cancelling classes to conference?

Here's a question for the students out there: does it bother you when a professor cancels a class in order to attend a conference or workshop? 

On one hand, this sort of thing usually imposes a cost of sorts on you, either in the form of a make-up class at a potentially inconvenient time or, if the class is not made up, in a reduction in the amount of instruction you receive per tuition dollar.  And on the other hand?  From the professor's point of view, of course, the benefits are perfectly clear (workshops are tremendously useful for improving the quality of one's scholarship, and both conferences and workshops are important both for professional networking and for exposure to new ideas).  How about from the student's point of view?  The benefits are much less direct, to be sure, though arguments can be made that (a) an enriched professional life for your prof ultimately will pay off to some degree in the classroom or (b) having a Friday class cancelled from time-to-time is not, on the whole, actually a bad thing....

And so the question arises: Do you view this practice as beneficial?  Problematic?  Or perhaps just a minor cost imposed by the fact that your professors are, at the end of the day, both teachers and scholars?

Posted by Bobby Chesney on September 9, 2006 at 09:06 AM in Life of Law Schools | Permalink

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» On Canceling Classes from Discourse.net
Prof. Bobby Chesney asks if it's ok to cancel a class for a conference. Will Baud, Yale Law student, channels Felix Frankfurter and says that it would be something akin to a violation of a 'sacred trust':So I think a very strong presumption against sac... [Read More]

Tracked on Sep 10, 2006 3:25:03 AM

» Professors Cancelling Classes for Conferences from Outside The Beltway | OTB
Bobby Chesney poses a question for students: does it bother you when a professor cancels a class in order to attend a conference or workshop? This solicits an interesting discussion in the comments section and a response from Yale Law st... [Read More]

Tracked on Sep 10, 2006 8:42:21 AM

» Professors Cancelling Classes for Conferences from Outside The Beltway | OTB
Bobby Chesney poses a question for students: does it bother you when a professor cancels a class in order to attend a conference or workshop? This solicits an interesting discussion in the comments section and a response from Yale Law st... [Read More]

Tracked on Sep 10, 2006 8:44:16 AM

» On Cancelling Class from PoliBlog: A Rough Draft of my Thoughts
(To my students who read this blog: no, this isnt a notice that I am cancelling class). James Joyner notes a conversation that started at ProfsBlawg by Law Prof Bobby Chensney who asked on his site: Heres a question for the students out ... [Read More]

Tracked on Sep 10, 2006 1:43:10 PM

» On Cancelling Class from PoliBlog: A Rough Draft of my Thoughts
(To my students who read this blog: no, this isnt a notice that I am cancelling class). James Joyner notes a conversation that started at ProfsBlawg by Law Prof Bobby Chensney who asked on his site: Heres a question for the students out ... [Read More]

Tracked on Sep 10, 2006 1:45:10 PM

Comments

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If you are presenting a paper then it's fine. It's less okay if you're merely attending the conference. Try not to do it that often and understand when students also occassionally have other obligations they must deal with. If you follow this I'm sure it's fine.

Posted by: Matt | Sep 9, 2006 10:31:49 AM

I believe that Profs attending conferences ultimately benefits everyone. While it may not benefit the immediate class it will probably benefit future classes. I would much rather have a prof miss for a conference than be stagnant and content in what he knows and miss class for Drs. Appointments or other things of that nature. While we are the students it is nice to know that our Profs are still looking to learn. It can actually be motivating and have sparked interesting conversations that took place outside the classroom. If you limit your legal education to the classroom only and not what is currently happening then you aren't really interested in the law and just the money and you probably won't last very long in the real world. So should Profs. care about students who aren't really interested in real world law?

Posted by: 2l | Sep 9, 2006 11:51:00 AM

I think cancelling class once or even twice might be ok in a semester ... but more than that would tell me where the prof's priorities are and that the classroom isn't necessarily at the top. "2L" is right that it's great for students to see and hear that their profs are contributing in significant ways to the discourse on certain issues. But ultimately, I want someone teaching me in the classroom. All students love having a class or two cancelled, but it usually requires make-ups, which are problematic for busy students. THis goes back to the whole scholarship vs teaching balance problem. (I tend to give teaching a bit more of an edge.)

Lastly, I'll point the Prawfs to a great example of a professor who manages to maintain a very, very busy speaking and writing schedule while not missing classes. I was very lucky to be taught Constitutional Law by Nadine Strossen, full-time professor at New York Law AND President of the ACLU. (Aside: I don't always agree with her or the ACLU on issues, but in the classroom she's very fair and balanced, and NOT in the Fox News meaning of that phrase.) She usually teaches 2 full sections of Con Law (100 students +) as well as one advanced Con Law seminar class each semester (less than 20 students). More than most professors I know of, she keeps an incredibly busy schedule outside the classroom but she is nevertheless known for not missing class. The students get the benefit of all of her non-class experiences every week, twice a week.

Posted by: Former Law Student | Sep 9, 2006 3:47:45 PM

I think the commenters are right. I hate cancelling class, for whatever reason. But from time to time, it has to be done for a conference - but not more than twice in semester - I would hope!

BTW, I have never seen "to conference" used that way. But I kinda liked it.

Posted by: Miriam Cherry | Sep 9, 2006 7:41:10 PM

I think the commenters are right. I hate cancelling class, for whatever reason. But from time to time, it has to be done for a conference - but not more than twice in semester - I would hope!

BTW, I have never seen "to conference" used that way. But I kinda liked it.

Posted by: Miriam Cherry | Sep 9, 2006 7:41:13 PM

As a 3L, I am in favor of class being cancelled at any time, for any reason. Also, I don't think the average law student cares about the "reduction in the amount of instruction you receive per tuition dollar." I tend to view my tuition dollars from the macro perspective: I am paying $75,000 for a JD, not $150 per class session. The fact is, most law students are in law school for the degree. It is an unbelievable waste of money for any other reason. This doesn't mean that law students don't enjoy learning, it just means that we aren't paying for the intellectual stimulation.

Posted by: Mark | Sep 9, 2006 10:58:12 PM

After first year, classroom work is only but a small part of the real education of a lawyer. While classes are important, the real work is done in the student's writing and doing outside work.

Socrates was a smart guy, but he didn't have a lot of books to deal with. The smart law student is doing the class reading, some hornbook work in prep of the class and is hopefully writing a student note even if he is not on a "Law Review". He is learning by teaching himself to think critically, and he is engaged in some type of "real" world legal work as an intern, clinician or paralegal.

If I were a full time Prawf I would prep a podcast of a lecture and give that while i am away, but I would rather see my students spend the time reading a hornbook in one hand and looking at the cited cases in the other.

An important note... Unless you too intend to be a law Prawf, it isn't what you do in the classroom that is going to make you a good lawyer, it is what you do with the class work once you leave that will establish your success.

Posted by: That Lawyer Dude | Sep 10, 2006 12:18:53 AM

If classes were only cancelled, I don't think anyone would care. But at our school, they have to be made up. Our make-up classes are almost always scheduled for Fridays at noon, one of the few times that there are no other classes scheduled. However, most 2/3Ls here do not have any Friday classes on their schedules, and many of us work on those days. So you end up having to choose between going to class or going to work. So it's a huge pain in the ass.

That said, I don't think most students mind one or maybe two missed class days for whatever reason. (But if every prof reschedules 2 classes, that's 8-10 make-up classes to deal with.) Beyond that, I think students understand if a prof has to miss class because of illness or other emergency circumstances. But missing more than that for other reasons is likely to irritate a number of students.

Posted by: Jane | Sep 10, 2006 4:22:50 PM

The only time I was mad that a class was cancelled was when I skipped the entire class for the entire semester (thank you to whoever invented pass/fail grading!) but in the last week figured I'd show up to one class, just to see who was in the class and maybe bum an outline for the exam. of course, when i showed up, the class had been cancelled. what a waste.

Posted by: andy | Sep 11, 2006 1:34:36 AM

I only mind if a prof misses class if the same prof is realy strict about attendance. Every student understands that professors have other commitments and that its OK to miss class every now and then. This is especially true because a better prof makes for a better law school. However, this is a two way street. I have had profs that require a list of classes missed and reasons for the absence. This is unacceptable. We are all adults and should be able to use our time wisely.

Posted by: Whatthehell | Sep 11, 2006 8:44:48 AM

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