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Law school reputation intact: Acting dean

It’s business as usual at UNB’s Ludlow Hall despite the events of recent weeks.

Acting associate dean of law, John Williamson, said that the law school is still functioning and that the sudden leave of absence and allegations of sexism and harassment surrounding its dean of law, the resignation of its associate dean and the leaves and absences of professors because of illness will not affect its reputation.

“What we’re basically saying is there’s no question there’s a situation, but the situation isn’t really impacting now on the function of the law school and that, particularly with regards to courses, students are going to class and getting their education,” said Williamson.

Last week this did not seem to be the case. According to reports from law students, the absence of their professors because of illness meant they were missing out on class time and, in some cases, last term’s marks were not released. But Williamson said that things are getting back to normal.

“I know at some time in the last week or so [normalcy] may not be what the students felt, but right now there is no question it is functioning and they’re getting their education and the life of Ludlow goes on.”

Although Williamson could not comment on the absence of professors because it was a “personnel issue” he did say that the issue of grading has been “dealt with.”

These issues, among others, were the subject of a question and answer session held last Thursday between Williamson and law students, where students were given an opportunity to voice their concerns.

But giving voice to their concerns, at least publically, was not considered an option for many law students in recent weeks. Last week, motions for reaffirming students’ right to speak freely were brought forward in both the UNBSU council and the UNB Senate after some law students claimed they were feeling pressure not to speak publically about the issues within their faculty. The motion tabled in senate failed.

Law student Edward Choi said this was because students feared for the reputation of the law school and how their future careers would be affected if the reputation dropped on account of the recent events. According to Choi, of great concern for many were the articling positions necessary for law students to receive their licences.

“Articles are jobs law students get after law school but before becoming a lawyer,” Choi said. “It’s harder to find an articling position nowadays because of both the supply and demand and … the reputation of the law school is more important than it used to be.”

Clea Ward, director of career development and external relations for the faculty of law, said that the law school’s reputation will not change.

“Our reputation is built on the education that we provide and our graduates out there who do good things. And none of that is changing,” Ward said.

“And that’s not to downplay in any way anxieties and concerns that students have but I think that it’s important to focus on the things that are within our control and for students that’s being able to go to classes and carry on as the normal life of students.”

Ward also said that while she could not comment on past instances of students being pressured not to talk — no specific incidents have been reported to the faculty — going forward the institution “would never tell students what they can and can’t say.”

The recent issues in the faculty of law came to light after the dean, Jeremy Levitt, took a leave of absence after only four months on the job. It was later discovered that there were allegations of sexism, harassment and threats of violence made against him by two former colleagues at the Florida A&M University College of Law.

Williamson said the outcome from the allegations against Dean Levitt will be determined at the level of the UNB administration and is separate from the law school.

“That’s a situation that’s really separate from how we’re functioning now and really it’s a matter I think that we have to wait, and it’s really ultimately going to be a matter for the university administration to deal with,” Williamson said.

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