BY HUGO TORRES
With the First Year Lawyering program undergoing a radical revamping next year, the new leadership of the Board of Student Advisors finds itself adapting to the changes and ready to redefine the role BSA. The Committee on the First Year Lawyering program voted last fall to alter the structure of FYL, with one of the major changes being the elimination of BSA members as student teachers. Instead, FYL instructors, who will now serve for two years at a time, will each be able to choose Teaching Assistants who do not necessarily have to belong to the BSA.
Justine Patrick, the newly elected vice-president of BSA, is excited by the new opportunities. “I think the changes will have a positive impact on both the BSA organization as a whole and on the law school community. I think we’re a group of students that have the ability to add value to the HLS experience by creating new activities for students while improving upon our current services.” Patrick believes the changes will allow BSA to focus on making the student experience at HLS more enjoyable. “I was excited to be heavily involved in BSA next year because I think this is a great opportunity for BSA to reinvent itself as a student services organization dedicated to making life on the HLS campus more enjoyable. In the past when BSAs were spending a lot of time teaching, I think some opportunities to improve student life were missed due to time constraints.”
“I hope that BSA will become known as the main student services organization on campus,” said Patrick. “I’d like the BSA to be known as the group on campus that runs centralized panels on common law school issues. The BSA should be the first thing 1Ls think of when they have a question about which class to take, how to get a summer job, how to approach time management or exams etc.”
Adam Hornstine, the new president of BSA, also expressed optimism that the changes will result in a better BSA. “While we are all disappointed about losing our role as teachers in the FYL program, we are all tremendously excited about the opportunity we have been given to reshape the BSA to create a new vision for our organization.”Hornstine clarified what some of the new responsibilities will entail. “Specifically, we will be leading 1L orientation, serving as informal advisers throughout the year for the 1Ls that we lead through orientation week, organizing large discussion panels for 1Ls on a variety of topics, and helping provide other necessary student services. And of course, we will be refocusing our energies on the other events that we have participated in the past: course evaluations, Upper Round Ames, etc.”
Newly elected secretary Emily Combs explained that the new leadership team came to the job fully aware of the changes occurring within BSA. “All three of the new executive board members were on the committee that revised the BSA’s bylaws, and we all felt heavily invested in the changes to the Board’s character. Exploring ideas for our future was exciting, and I wanted to make sure that we actually put those plans into effect. I decided to run for Secretary because I am avidly committed to this organization’s aims, and I want to take part in implementing the proposed changes to our role on campus.”
Outgoing president Ron Varnum says that the BSA made a conscious decision to “focus on advising and make it a crucial part” of the BSA. Also, although there currently exists tutoring support, Varnum believes that making BSA responsible for tutoring will make it easier for students to know it is there and to take advantage of. “There isn’t a real formal program in place [right now]” said Varnum.
In addition to no longer serving as student teachers, BSA will also not be running the first-year Ames program. “It’s not part of the new mission,” said Varnum.
Membership in the BSA will, however, remain exclusive of Legal Aid and Law Review. Currently, students can only join one of the three organizations, a practice Varnum says will continue. Also likely to continue will be the practice of paying BSA members. Although Varnum was uncertain what the new BSA pay scale will be, under the new FYL system, FYL teaching assistants will see a drop in their stipend, from $7,500 for current 3L BSA members, down to $5,000 next year for teaching assistants. It is likely that stipends for BSA members will see a drop as well.
Recruiting for a new crop of BSA members is set to begin soon, and though Varnum sees changes being made to the application process, he does not believe the ideal candidate will vary much from previous years. “The qualities you look for are the same,” said Varnum, noting that strong interpersonal skills, legal writing, analysis, and study habits will all continue to be qualities that define BSA members.
Patrick believes that the changes will also make BSA more unified, as it will no longer have its members assigned across seven first-year sections. “Teaching in seven different sections has contributed, understandably, to seven different mini-BSA factions. I’d love for BSA to be one interconnected organization working as a group to improve student life.”
Looking towards the future, Combs believes the BSA will be in a unique position to define itself. “Next year we are going to have a lot more freedom to create our own responsibilities. I hope we can continue to develop our plans so that we truly do provide the kind of services that students want from the school and their peers.”
Hornstine is similarly excited by the opportunities that lie ahead. “As president, I want to help fashion this new role for the BSA on campus in order to provide students at HLS with the student services that have been lacking to this point. Fortunately, we have a number of excited 2Ls that are ready to work with us to launch the new BSA.”