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ABA Proposes Sweeping Changes to Academic Freedom, Online Library Standards, and Accreditation

published November 22, 2023

By Author - LawCrossing
Published By
( 2 votes, average: 3.5 out of 5)
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ABA Proposes Sweeping Changes to Academic Freedom, Online Library Standards, and Accreditation

In response to escalating tensions surrounding academic freedom and free speech issues on campuses nationwide, the ABA’s Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar unanimously voted to advance a proposal to the House of Delegates. The proposal addresses concerns raised in recent years, particularly incidents at Stanford Law School and Yale Law School, as well as ongoing campus protests related to the Israel-Hamas conflict.
 

 Academic Freedom Proposal
 
 Key Points:
  • The proposal aims to amend Standard 208 to explicitly permit faculty, students, and staff to communicate controversial or unpopular ideas through robust debate, demonstrations, or protests.
  • However, the proposal prohibits disruptive activities that hinder free expression or impede law school activities.
  •  Notable changes include protecting freedom of expression to guest lecturers, speakers, and law libraries' services.
 
 Clarifications:
  • Specific terms such as harassment were not defined, with the understanding that individual law schools would address these in their policies.
  • The proposal emphasizes that it does not allow law schools to restrict speech beyond what the First Amendment protects.
 
 Online Library Standards
 
 Proposed Changes:
  • A proposal eliminating the requirement for physical law library collections advances, allowing flexibility in using space, technology, and information resources.
  • Modifications include ensuring the full-time status of the law library director and refining the hiring processes for library personnel.
 
 Accreditation Standards for OnlineOnly Law Schools
 
 PostPandemic Adjustments:

 
  • The pandemic prompted a reevaluation of distance learning allowances. Fully approved law schools can offer up to 50% of distance learning.
  • Two proposed changes will be open for notice and comment, focusing on facility standards and substantive change eligibility.
 
 Experiential Learning
 
 Call for Comments:
  • The council's call for comment on Standard 304, covering experiential learning, aligns with evolving bar exam alternatives in some jurisdictions.
  • The Experiential Credits Working Group's survey indicates support for increasing clinical credits, with the cost of live in-house clinical instruction prompting the exploration of less costly alternatives like externships.
 
 Future Considerations
 
 Resolutions and Recommendations:
 
  • Resolutions, including recommended revisions to Standards 302, 314, and 315, will be considered at the ABA Midyear Meeting in February.
  • Informational reports are due by December 8, with the potential for changes based on feedback. The council will seek input from all law schools via an online form.
 
 Conclusion
 
The ABA's proactive approach to address contemporary challenges in legal education reflects a commitment to upholding academic freedom while adapting to evolving educational landscapes. The proposed changes aim to strike a balance between fostering open discourse and maintaining the integrity of law school activities. The outcome of these proposals will likely shape the future of legal education in the United States.

published November 22, 2023

By Author - LawCrossing
( 2 votes, average: 3.5 out of 5)
What do you think about this article? Rate it using the stars above and let us know what you think in the comments below.

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