William E. Adams
Law schools, like the rest of society, face the uncertainty of the future of the COVID-19 pandemic. Nonetheless, planning for next year must be done, and schools have submitted applications to exceed our distance education credit limitations should it be necessary. Applicants have submitted plans for how they intend to begin the semester and contingency plans should conditions require it. The Council held a special meeting on July 15 to review and approve the plans. Schools are being creative and in addition to plans to teach completely online, a variety of approaches blending in-person and remote instruction were submitted. We will continue to work with schools as their initial plans may change, depending upon developments caused by the virus.
The Council will consider its Standards agenda for the year at its August meeting. The pandemic will likely cause consideration of some issues to be delayed, but I hope that some of the issues that have been pending can be resolved. I will discuss the topics that the Council decides to consider this year in future columns. Whether permanent changes to the current distance education requirements and limits are in order will be a topic for discussion after the pandemic is a thing of the past. We have all experienced the advantages and disadvantages of remote communication during this crisis, so I anticipate interesting discussions ahead.
As travel remains challenging, the Council will have another virtual meeting in August. For the same reason, we are going to hold the postponed round table discussions virtually. We will announce those dates and invite participants in the near future. I hope that these discussions will be one of the ways that we gather input from groups interested in legal education.
Continuing with the theme of changes wrought by COVID-19, site visit inspections this year will be conducted virtually. The details have been worked out, schools and site chairs have been notified, and training will follow. Limited in-person visits will follow once travel is safe again. Some of the changes being implemented may be made permanent in the future. We think that those changes may make those future visits more focused and helpful to both teams and schools.
I am also extremely pleased to report that, after a national search that included several good candidates, Stephanie Giggetts, who has served as our Accreditation Counsel, has accepted the position of Deputy Managing Director. In that prior role, her duties included staffing the Standards Review Committee and leading the process for our renewal of authorization by the Department of Education. She has also participated on multiple site visit teams, assisted with our training workshops and guidance memos, advised deans and associate deans on a variety of issues, and has overseen our complaint process. Her expertise with all aspects of the accreditation process will be most valuable as we face the unprecedented challenges posed by the pandemic. I look forward to her bringing her talent, experience, and expertise to her new role.
The end of July brings about a sad farewell to our colleague and friend, Barry Currier, from the office. During his term as Managing Director, Barry accomplished many things. I will highlight only a few. Not as obvious to the public as it is to the office and Council, his innovative idea to eliminate the Standards Review and Accreditation Committees (AC) has resulted in heightened efficiencies and reduced costs. The Council’s assumption of the tasks of the AC has eliminated a step in approving new programs and addressing accreditation issues, thus reducing the time to process those matters by three or more months. Further, the elimination of the eight meetings of the eliminated committees reduces costs for the office and frees considerable staff time so that we can provide more assistance to schools and the Council. He also led the successful renewal of authorization to accredit law schools by the Department of Education. He also suggested and assisted the Council in several changes to the Standards and Rules. As a proponent of data collection to better inform students, applicants, and the public, he has overseen improvements in that area. He was always a positive force in the office, and I know that my colleagues will miss his supportive oversight. Finally, his knowledge of developments in legal education and higher education in general along with his knowledge of the history of our Standards due to his previous service as Deputy will be missed in the office and Council meetings. Although he will be leaving us, I have no doubt that he will remain interested and engaged with legal education going forward. Good luck in your future endeavors, Barry!
The end of the Council year brings changes to the leadership and membership. I extend my utmost thanks to Diane Bosse. Diane has provided much wise leadership in her former service on the Accreditation Committee and on her current service on the Council. I have constantly looked to her and Scott Bales for advice on handling the unprecedented challenges posed by the pandemic. She has always provided calm, wise leadership in ensuring that the schools got the needed permissions necessary to switch to online teaching. I am glad that she will remain on the Council to continue to assist. I also thank departing Council members Greg Murphy, Jeff Lewis, Jim Hanks, and Zach Faircloth for their service. All will be missed.