will hold an open forum in Chicago on April 2, 2011 to hear comments on these topics under consideration:
Ralph Brill (Chicago-Kent) posted on the LawProf Discussion Group the following memo to law school deans from Dean Donald J. Polden (Santa Clara), Chair of the Standards Review Committee:
Carl's Brambrink's email (below) informs you of an "open forum" at the next meeting of the Standards Review Committee. I thought that I (as the chair of the Committee) would add to that a short report on the Committee's progress on it's comprehensive review of the Standards, Interpretations and Rules of Procedure. I hope this is helpful in giving you more information about the work of the Committee and revisions that we'll begin sending up to the Council by this summer.
First, the Committee has been working for the past 2.5 years on a comprehensive review of the accreditation standards. This review is required by the US Dept of Education and by the Standards themselves. We expect to have several chapters completed by this summer's meeting and those revised chapters will be transmitted to the Council for their consideration and action. In the normal course of things, the Council will "notice up" all proposed changes for public comment and ask the Standards Review Committee to conduct public hearings on the proposed changes. It is possible that proposed changes could be noticed up for public comment as soon as next fall or winter. Thereafter, the Council will make final decisions on any revisions to the Standards.
Second, the Committee's work has been comprehensive; we have considered, or are in the process of considering, revisions to all the standards and rules. Many of the current standards will remain substantially similar to their current form, but there are significant changes in other standards. In conducting the comprehensive review we have attempted to provide law schools with more flexibility than the current standards permit, increase the transparency of accreditation decisions, consider ways to make accreditation review less complicated and costly, and improve the clarity of the policies and rules. But, I think it is fair to say that everyone won't like every change. Indeed, we have found that some legal education constitutency groups love some of the proposed changes but hate other ones.
Third, there has been a lot of "input" from many legal education groups. We have received hundreds of comments, recommendations, criticisms, etc. Some of the discussed revisions have generated controversy, including reports and stories in trade journals and newspapers. Some of those reports and stories have been accurate; others less so. I encourage you to go to the Committee's website (at bottom of this report) and judge for yourself. We have received very little commentary on the proposed revisions and discussion drafts from deans and your opinions on the possible changes to the accreditation standards are important to legal education.
Fourth, some of the matters that the Committee has discussed and which may be in revised chapters going to the Council, include:
a. Requirements that law schools articulate student learning goals and periodically measure their students' achievement of the goals;
b. A new rule that would provide for the public disclosure of accreditation findings for individual law schools;
c. Relaxing the current standard that requires that schools must require every applicant to have a score on a valid and reliable entrance examination (practically speaking, the LSAT);
d. Removing the current requirements that prescribe particular types of contracts (in terms of duration, participation rights, etc.) that must be given to faculty members who don't have tenure, while strengthening law schools' obligations to protect the academic freedom of all full time faculty members. A related edit would relax the current requirement that the university or governing body must provide the dean with tenure as a member of his or her faculty;
e. Reconsidering current standards that require schools to have class attendance policies, limit students from taking a internship at which they would be paid, and substantially limit credit hours that can be earned by students through distance education courses;
f. Reconsidering the (relatively new) policy concerning minimum or threshold bar passage rates and addressing the perception that the thresholds established by the policy are too low.
There are many other important accreditation policies that the Committee is discussing and we encourage your views on them, including concerns and suggestions to improve both the current standards and the Committee's drafts of revisions. Send your comments to me or to the Office of the Consultant, and please consider attending the "open forum" to express your views in person.
The Committee's website is "information rich" with Committee drafts as well as comments, emails and letters from interested parties.