We’ve previously discussed how Mid-Atlantic law schools are having to shuffle their class schedules because of Hurricane Sandy.

Cancelling classes is the easy part. It’s not clear that current students are even capable of taking notes in class without power.

But classes cancelled this week need to be made up next week. Not because the extra teaching is all that crucial, but because the ABA and various state bars mandate a certain number of classroom hours for law students. It’s regulation at its worst: they can’t directly measure what matters (are kids getting a quality education), so they mandate an arbitrary figure that at best means nothing.

At worst, it forces schools to jump through hoops to meet the requirements even during times of hardship. At Rutgers Law-Newark, they’re looking to have finals right up until the holidays. At NYU Law, their best solution is just to make classes excruciatingly long to make up the hours…

The solution to the class crunch from NYU administrators is not ideal. Even the school admits that. But it’s the best they can do given the strict rules. From the scheduling memo that NYU law students received Thursday:

We have been exploring a variety of ways to make up the week of classes that we lost as a result of Hurricane Sandy. We need to make up the time somehow in order to comply with New York Court of Appeals rules (and thereby qualify our students to sit for the Bar Exam) and also ABA Accreditation rules.

After discussing the various options and conferring with the Dean, we have concluded that the best (or least bad) option is to revise the block grid schedule for courses so as to add the number of minutes that we need in each of the remaining classes of the semester in order to make up the lost time and reach the minimum number of credit hours required by the Court of Appeals and the ABA…

As you will see, the addition of the minutes will result in moving up the start of the first class of the day from 9 a.m. to 8:30 a.m., and will result in delaying the end of the initial block of evening classes from 7:50 p.m. to 9:45 p.m. (and even beyond that for a few of these courses that extend beyond the end of the block).

You can read the full memo on the next page. The new schedule will start November 12 and run for the rest of the semester, and it sounds totally awful. Getting up at 7:45 a.m. to be at Civil Procedure at 8:30 a.m. or something else similarly boring? Will NYU also provide cocaine and amphetamines to keep people awake?

But it’s the best NYU Law can make out of a bad situation. The rules don’t allow for a lot of flexibility. Actually, even asking for flexibility takes so freaking long that NYU can’t be flexible:

We have also considered the possibility of asking the New York Court of Appeals and the ABA for waivers of the requirements for minimum class time. From past experience, we are not optimistic that a waiver would be granted. But, even more significant, our past experience suggests that, even if we request expedited consideration of a petition for a waiver, it could take some time to get a ruling from the Court and the ABA, and we can’t afford to wait since an adverse ruling at that point would come so late in the semester that we wouldn’t be able to catch up on the lost time by adding minutes or make-up classes.

Mmm… smell the bureaucracy.

This shouldn’t be hard. The ABA should be able to say, “This requirement, stupid in the best of times, is now actively hurting our member institutions, so we’re going to waive it for everybody this year.” The courts should be just as flexible.

Maybe NYU law students can daydream about these and other possibilities while they’re not paying attention during a 140-minute class that starts at 8:30 a.m.


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