Administration vets concerns at town hall
By Jenna Box (4JM)
Top UF Law administrators answered questions from students Tuesday on topics ranging from financial aid, facilities, library hours and the curriculum.
The John Marshall Bar Association hosted the town hall meeting to give students a forum to voice their comments and concerns about various aspects of the law school and administrators work with students to address various suggestions.
UF Law Dean Robert Jerry; Alyson Flournoy, senior associate dean for academic affairs; Rachel Inman, associate dean for students; and Deb Staats, associate dean for administrative and fiscal affairs, addressed concerns from students for about an hour. “It’s very helpful to hear your questions and comments and to put things on our radar,” Dean Jerry said.
Topics of discussion included:
Students urged administrators to provide a knowledgeable and customer-service-focused financial aid coordinator. Inman noted that in past years the staff member in that position behaved as a law school employee. The financial aid coordinator position is funded by UF’s Office of Student Financial Affairs, that person fulfills advising responsibilities regarding federal financial aid.
“I believe that we currently have the replacement who wants to meet those needs, but I beg your patience and understanding as that individual learns (about) the college of law,” Inman said. “I believe there will be better service.”
Additionally, students questioned why health care is not incorporated into the cost of attendance and therefore able to be covered by financial aid.
According to the Office of Student Financial Affairs, Inman said, health care must be a “required educational expense” in order to be included in the cost of attendance. At UF Law, it’s not considered to be required due to coursework.
“For example, a med student is going to be working with cadavers, working with individuals who have an illness — they then need to have insurance,” Inman said. “So they consider it to be a required and a part of (educational expenses).”
She noted that many institutions, including UF, are assessing how the Affordable Care Act will impact how health care coverage is folded into the cost of attendance.
“Including health insurance as an educational expense in cost of attendance is the right policy answer, and that’s the position the college will take when this is discussed in university conversations,” Jerry said.
Requests for additional new water fountains and basic maintenance were brought to Staats’ attention during the meeting. She said the law school buildings are on the Physical Plant Department’s list to have more fountains replaced with the newer models, but it’s up to main campus as to when those changes will occur. The fountains in Bruton-Geer cannot be retrofitted for the new filtered fountains due to the building design. For now, she noted the library and the third floor both have newer water fountains with a filtered water feature. Jerry noted that Bruton-Geer has been around for nearly 30 years, and the master plan calls for it to potentially be demolished and replaced within the next 15 years.
Water pressure and faulty sink faucet handles in Bruton-Geer were also mentioned. Although the water pressure will likely not be able to be fixed due to the engineering of the plumbing systems, the sink faucet handles will be repaired.
“I do want to ask you, if any of you see something like that that needs repair, please email me,” she said. Staats can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As usual, law students expressed concern about undergraduates studying in the law library and extending library hours.
With more specific time and day proposals, library staff might consider extending hours, but for now it’s not on the table, said Elizabeth Outler, associate director and head of public services for the Legal Information Center.
As for limiting access for undergraduates in the law library, it’s a challenge, she noted. Outler is looking at the possibility of limiting certain times of day to undergrads, but when it comes to sections of the library, such as the Quiet Room as one student suggested, things get complicated.
“(The Quiet Room) really has the lion’s share of the most important parts of our collection, so that would be an area that would be hard to restrict,” she said.
1Ls noted they’d like the opportunity to take electives. This idea is something UF Law faculty looked at as part of revising the first-year curriculum in the past several years, Flournoy said, and that there was some faculty support for the idea, but ultimately did not adopt this option.
“At this point I don’t think it’s likely we’ll revisit that in the immediate future, but I understand the impulse,” Flournoy noted.
As in previous meetings, students asked about the possible expansion of skills and experiential learning opportunities at UF Law.
Flournoy said the Strategic Planning Committee is looking to improve the availability of skills classes – including those that promote the key skills of research and writing.