The Committee on the First Year Lawyering Program, covered in this issue, represents a good idea gone wrong. The FYL program certainly has its share of problems, and reforms that remedy those problems certainly would be welcome. But the recent action by the Committee in practically forcing a student member to resign raises signals that any reforms implemented will be top-down reforms rather than student initiated.
Jay Cox, a member of the Board of Student Advisors, was asked to resign from the Committee. The debate over whether he was forced to resign or whether it was merely a “request” clouds the real issue of the near lack of student voices on the committee. It has been stated that Cox’s membership in BSA would impede the “neutrality” of the Committee. If this were the case, it should have been made clear BEFORE Cox joined the Committee so that another student could have filled the position. Removing Cox now sends a terrible message that the Committee has already made up its mind about the role of BSA-that they are not to have a say in the future of FYL. Furthermore, it should be noted that there is another term for a unanimous vote asking someone to resign: it’s called being fired, and this is what happened to Cox. If the Committee wanted him gone, they should have said it clearly and not hidden behind this wall of terminology.
Whether one loves the BSA or not, it has played a role in the FYL program for many years now and is more in tune to what works in the program and what does not than most faculty members. Every member of the Committee brings biases-some have taught in the FYL program, some have not, some have good impressions of the program, some do not-it is insulting to assume that Cox or any other BSA member would be so caught up in their own role that they would not be able to step aside and look at the bigger picture in making decisions that are best for the HLS community. At least with Cox, we know where he is coming from. The same cannot be said of other committee members.
The Law School Council is to be applauded for its role in advocating for Cox and further student involvement. This is precisely the role student government should play, and the LSC has done its job admirably. Now it needs to ensure that Cox’s role as “special adviser” is more than a hollow symbol and becomes a real attempt to include BSA in determining the future of a program it is so involved with. The LSC should also continue to push for greater general student input in reforming the FYL program-ultimately, it is future students and not the faculty or BSA that will be most impacted by any changes to the program.