Monday, December 21, 2009

Some Thoughts About This New Paper Deadline Business

A little while ago, we praised the decision to push the due date for papers this semester back a month to January 18, in keeping with what the school has done historically, and with what many other law schools do: give students the winter break to write their papers.

Of course semester, all of that ends: the papers for all classes will, at latest, be due at the end of the normal finals period. We noted additionally when this decision came out we thought it was a bad idea. Now, having had a class where the paper was due at the end of finals, and having a class where the paper was due in January, we're sure it's a bad idea.

It should be in the Law School's interest to encourage students to submit the highest quality written work possible. Indeed, many students go on to have papers written for classes published as Notes in prestigious legal journals.

That being the case, we just can't imagine trying to write a high quality paper while trying to study for three to four exams. Some might counter and say that students should just try to get their paper writing done well in advance of the finals period, and this is a fair point in many classes (indeed, some professors require drafts earlier in the semester; others have due dates in October-November).

But it's not true in other classes. In some courses, it's difficult to write the paper before the course nears its conclusion: for Fall courses this is sometime toward the middle or end of November. And then there are short courses. We took a course from November 7th to 17th. Without the pushing of the deadline back to January 18, we would have had to have written a paper plus take four finals. It would have been tough, and our grades in those four exams, and paper would have suffered.

Instead, we have a month to write the thing, and think that we will churn out something pretty good between watching our stories and eating Chinese food with the brohim. Everyone else in the class will have the same advantage, of course.

So, what's the harm in waiting? Yea, it takes a little longer to get grades back - but it's not like grades are returned to us with lightning speed anyway. And that seems like a small price to pay for higher quality work and a collective lower level of stress of the students.

(One reader wants me to point out here that perhaps students taken a paper were unduly advantaged under the old system - having more time to study for less finals. Color us unimpressed by this logic - we'd much rather take four finals than do three finals and write a 25+ paper).

What's the Deal With this "New" Paper Deadline?


Anonymous said...

I agree in that I think a major issue with the "new" deadline is that people will be forced to write papers during the semester well before the course is complete. While this is OK for some topics, for others it really places the student at a disadvantage. It's like taking an exam after only covering 2/3 of the material. Doesn't make sense.

Anonymous said...

Is it true that NGSL members don't have to write papers?