BY THE BOARD
Last week the administration sent an email to the student body announcing that the law school Coop and the Harkness Commons mailboxes would be displaced by the new building construction from this summer until the new building is complete, which will be several years from now. We read this notice with great interest, after the events of last spring, when the administration announced the temporary closing of the Coop, and then, perhaps in response to student criticism, including coverage of the plans in the Record, announced that the Coop would remain open after all.
The Record’s reporting in April 2007 revealed two concerns about the closing of the law school bookstore. One was that the administration had not adequately informed students of the plan, beyond a mention at a construction informational meeting in the fall of 2007. The administration has headed this problem off this time around with last week’s all-school notice well before graduation, when the closing will happen. Indeed, the Dean of Students office has done an excellent job this year of avoiding nasty surprises by having periodic construction town hall meetings and responding quickly to student concerns about noise, mess, and other construction problems.
The other issue, though, was about the effect on students of losing a dedicated law school bookstore, and after reading the administration’s notice, we have to renew some of those concerns, however minor. We certainly don’t feel entitled to a bookstore just steps away – as Dean Cosgrove noted, most of us went to large universities and managed to make trips of several blocks between the bookstore and our classes and apartments. But in the spring, our conversations with students and the then-employees of the Coop suggested that in moving to the larger Harvard bookstore, we would likely lose some or all of the variety in study aids, supplements, and law school merchandise our little Coop now holds, not to mention the course knowledge the employees have. Will it be a real injustice if the next four classes of students have to go without HLS sweats and must turn to the internet for Gilbert’s and Emanuel’s? No, it won’t, but at a school that values student quality of life as much as Harvard Law does, we’ll be sad to see these convenient aspects of book-buying go.
We’re pleased to see that the administration is brainstorming ways to minimize the effect of the bookstore loss on students, and as usual, asking for student input. If they’re looking to improve the course material experience in general, the we have a couple of suggestions. Encourage professors to tell students if older editions of casebooks are acceptable, and discourage them from requiring expensive supplemental texts and statutory supplements that will barely be used, when a PDF chapter or statutes easily found on Lexis or Westlaw would do just as well. Be tree-friendly by helping more faculty put course reader material online and having the copy center print fewer gigantic packets for students who weren’t going to pick them up anyway, and encourage course reader recycling at the end of the semester.
We know students will make do without the law school Coop. But we’ll miss it just the same – and rush off to buy a couple HLS bears, just in case we don’t see them for a while.