The Executive Chair of the Board of Student Advisers has officially passed from one Kelly (Matthew, ’09) to another, EB Kelly ’10. The Record had a few questions for EB about the future of the BSA as it approaches its 100th year in 2010.
Record: You’ve been involved in many campus activities, including the Real Estate and the Law Association and the Forum on Local Government. Why did the prospect of being on BSA appeal to you?
I wanted to be part of the BSA because it is an organization that is dedicated to the Harvard Law School community and to building the strongest law students possible, both in terms of their legal research and writing and their overall “well-roundedness”. I had a terrific BSA my 1L year and was hopeful that I could play a similar role in the lives of my students. I wanted to help them grow as writers and in doing so to become a stronger student myself. I was also excited about the possibility of joining the community of 2L and 3L BSAs – a great bunch of really smart people devoted to serving others their law school community. And it has exceeded my expectations on every account. I have loved working with my students and the rest of the BSAs have been a fabulous group to know and work with this year.
What are your duties as Executive Chair?
My duties including overseeing the executive board which consists of three vice chairs: the vice chair for Ames, for the 1L program, and for management. For next year those positions will be held by Stephanie Matthews, David Baumgarten, and Brittany Blueitt. I run the weekly BSA meetings, serve as the primary point of contact for the administration with the BSA, and work with students, faculty and administrators on issues affecting their academic and non-academic lives. I also work very closely with Yvonne Smith who is the BSA point person from the Dean of Students Office and by far the most knowledgeable resource for the organization.
Previously LWR was the only pass-fail course 1Ls took. Under the new grading system, LWR is on par with the rest of the curriculum- do you think this has had an impact on the amount of work students are willing to put into LWR?
With only my own experience as a 1L by way of comparison, I found that students seemed similarly committed to LRW this year as they have in the past. I think LRW is a class that students see as useful beyond just the grade they receive in that it teaches them concrete skills that they put to use right away and has substantially more opportunities for feedback and back and forth than their other classes. Plus I think students want to work hard on their memos and briefs because they know that they may be able to use them as writing samples in applying for jobs.
What effect will the departure of Elizabeth Bangs ’01 (the director of the First-Year Legal Research and Writing Program since 2005) have on the student experience, both for 1Ls taking LWR and upperclassmen teaching it?
Elizabeth has been a incredible leader for the LRW program and we will certainly miss her next year. That said, we are confident that we will work closely with the new director and build upon the strong relationship that the BSA has developed with the faculty and the administration. Elizabeth will be instrumental in the selection of her successor and no one knows better than she what type of person is best suited for that role, particularly in the nature of their relationship with the BSA.
We’ve all heard about cutbacks in budgets across campus. There was some buzz that the stipend BSAs receive from the Law School was in jeopardy? Do you have any news about how fat the checks will be in the coming year?
Though the law school is understandably cutting budgets across the board, and the BSA budget will certainly not be exempted from those cuts, there has not been any indication that there will be changes to the BSA stipends.
How can BSA do more to improve the 1L experience? What specific projects do you intend to take part in in an effort to improve the services BSA provides to the student body?
Thinking about next year, we are excited to formalize and ramp up the non-LRW based advising that BSAs provide. Right now, BSAs do a fair amount of advising about classes to pick, how to apply for summer jobs, how to study for exams and other topics, but we do it in ways less organized than our LRW-related meetings to review memos and briefs. We want to work on doing that type of advising more systematically across the board and regularize what kinds of conversations BSAs are seeking out with their students. Next year we hope to work closely with the section leaders to have the BSAs serve as more a part of the “teaching team” for the section and provide assistance outside the LRW class room in ways that would be helpful. In addition to the section leaders, we look forward to building even stronger relationships with OCS and OPIA. Students, particularly 1Ls, are often very concerned about the job search process, and we want to make sure that BSAs are an informed and useful resource for their students, particularly in these difficult economic times.
The change in schedule next year, the addition of the new 1L class for January and the transitions in the administration, all suggest that the BSA will need to play an important role in ensuring continuity of the 1L experience and to make sure that things don’t fall through the cracks. Though the changes will mean a new teaching experience for us, there are certain core functions that will not change, and we will continue to serve as the resources for our students that we have always been.
The new Executive Board is also committed to working on BSA alumni outreach, as we have a great coterie of alums (including Professor Gerald Frug ’63 and Justice Anthony Kennedy ’61 among many others) and we want to maintain the connection between them and the current community of BSAs at the law school. In fact, just this week in the Ames Semi-Finals we had BSA alumna Judge Jennifer Walker Elrod ’92 back to serve as the Chief Judge for one of the arguments. We hope to plan a reunion of some kind for next year, as the BSA will be celebrating its 100th anniversary.
Will BSA have a role in the screening and selection process for a new Dean? What role, if any do you think BSA can/should play?
To date, we have not been involved in the process for selection the new Dean. More broadly, I think the BSA can and should continue to serve as a conduit between the administration and the student body, elevating the concerns we hear from the 1Ls to the administration and getting feedback back to the students quickly.
We are approaching the 100th anniversary of the Ames Moot Court Competition- do you foresee any changes coming to the Ames process? If so, what changes and why?
The Ames competition is a critical part of the law school experience, and one that we are proud to be a part of. There are always opportunities for growth, and we take the feedback from the competitors seriously as we approach the competition anew every year. One change coming next year is that we will have new case writers for the semi-final round and final round problems. We have had a great relationship with the outgoing case writers and are sure that will continue with whoever picks up the task next year.
How do 1Ls get involved?
The first part of the BSA application is due Friday, March 20 and the remainder will be due after Spring Break. Interested students should talk to their BSA or are free to contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.