Allard student creates petition for remote learning options as law school returns to in-person classes

An Allard Law student created a petition calling for increased remote learning options for students as the law school prepared for the return to in-person classes this week.

Although many faculties will remain online until at least February 7, the Allard School of Law resumed in-person classes on January 24.

The petition — which has 181 signatures at the time of publishing — says that students, particularly those who are disabled or immunocompromised, should have the option to learn remotely if they want to.

It calls on the law school to live stream or record all lectures; provide PPE for enhanced safety for students, staff and faculty; give students the option to take final exams remotely; and supply electronic materials such as laptops and tablets for students to access online lectures and perform their academic duties.

During the January 19 Senate meeting, Allard Dean Ngai Pindell addressed students’ concerns after student senator Sebastian Cooper asked why the law school wasn’t remaining online like other faculties.

“[Students] really wanted both in-person instruction and some capability of receiving virtual instruction … We have the capability at the law school to deliver on that whether it's through live streaming or recording the classes or other mechanisms, and that's what we intend to make full use of next week,” he said.

Pindell also said that the school would “allow students and faculty, without application or permission, to remain away from the faculty for up to two weeks for health or other legitimate reasons.” Specifically, he said the Short Term Absence Policy will protect students from being penalized from in-person absences and doesn’t require them to seek academic concession.

New safety measures will be implemented in the transition to in-person classes in addition to existing mandates, according to Pindell. This includes a strict ban on eating classrooms, restricted indoor dining in designated areas, reduced socializing on the first floor of the Allard Law building, limited in-person events and a distribution of a limited supply of N95 masks.

Despite these policies, Allard students are still required to take final exams in person, and experiential learning programs may remain in-person due to the facilitative and operational requirements of the program.

Allard’s Law Student Society said in a statement sent to The Ubyssey that it was “disappointed that the school administration did not consult with the students before making the decision to return in-person,” but that it was appreciative that the dean and administrative staff have taken efforts to listen to students’ concerns during a town hall.

‘Students shouldn’t have to choose’

Quinn Candler, co-president of Law Students for Decriminalization & Harm Reduction, said that he felt unsafe when classes were in-person last year due to leniency in reinforcing COVID-19 guidelines and restrictions. However, he also said that remote learning took a toll on his mental health, so he felt torn about having to go back in-person.

Candler said that Allard had a history with “[making] decisions against what most people perceive to be the students’ best interests,” which comes at the expense of marginalized groups who are often unheard and excluded in decision-making.

“Law students are competing for jobs within percentile points of one another. So then students that then can't attend class and then lose 10–20 per cent of the in-person participation grade and are going to be at a significant disadvantage,” he said. “It's those same students that are marginalized or experience precarity in a lot of other ways in our lives.”

Candler and Chloe Trudel, co-president of the UBC Law Disability Alliance, said that some professors have allowed students to attend classes remotely.

Trudel expressed concerns with potentially exposing students if she were to catch the virus.

“Students shouldn’t have to choose between being safe and staying home [when] feeling under the weather, especially now that symptoms are mild for most people,” she said. “I can't just miss 40 per cent of classes if professors aren't obligated to do anything for me to be able to catch up.”

Both Candler and Trudel shared the same thoughts about utilizing technology to allow students to attend lectures remotely.

“As someone with ADHD, I think I have an easier time focusing when it's at home to be honest, because I can pace and still listen. But at the same time, when it's a really heavy course load, six to eight hours of zoom can be really draining,” said Trudel.

“There's no reason to not use the resources that are already there for … students who can't be there in person because they shouldn't be forced to miss that much material if they're clinically ill or whatever else,” she added.