February 18, 2005

Law, Letters to be capped at 25 students per year

On Valentine's Day, the Class of 2008 received an e-mail from Susan Art, dean of students in the College, informing them that an application process has been instituted for the Law, Letters, and Society (LLSO) major that will cap the number of students in the LLSO major at 25.

The process, Art said, "provides a fair way for students to state their interest in LLSO while respecting the need to maintain a small program." As students who wish to major in LLSO are required to take the introductory LLSO course during the fall quarter of their second year, the application process makes it so that those students who become LLSO majors are selected by the program chairman, and not by the computer-based lottery system that is used for class registration. This year's introductory course, Legal Reasoning, could not accommodate nearly all the students who wished to take it, preventing those students who did not obtain spots in the class from majoring in LLSO entirely.

Although no reasoning was given as to why the application process was created this year specifically, Dennis Hutchinson, senior lecturer in the Law School and chairman of the LLSO program, said, "As an interdisciplinary concentration, which relies on colleagues from many departments, neither LLSO nor any NCD (New Collegiate Division) program can accommodate all comers without limit. The B.A. Paper is a central requirement of the program, and to insure the degree of sustained supervision required by the project, we must control our numbers carefully."

Art, agreeing with Hutchinson's sentiments, added that, "The move to an application process for LLSO was a decision made after consulting with a number of students who believed that an application process is a better way of imposing a cap on the program than is a lottery."

In response to the seemingly small 25-student limit for the major, Hutchinson replied, "The program has always been small until the last two to three years.  Nor is it clear that interest in the program itself is high: fewer than half of those who take the introductory course actually major in the program." He continued by saying that, "many students double-major (approximately 20 percent of those who complete the program), which suggests that actual interest in the program is overstated by enrollment figures in some courses."

The argument can be made that the LLSO major, as it requires fulfillment of three years of studies, puts pressure on students to make a decision about their major during their first year, as opposed to by the end of their second year. To this Hutchinson replied, "LLSO is not the only program which needs to be done in three years.  In fact, the predecessor program to LLSO—Politics, Economics, Rhetoric and Law (PERL)—which existed from 1976 to 1992 was a three-year program which required an application for admission."

The application is composed of short answer questions, an essay, and, if more than 25 students apply, a possible interview with Professor Hutchinson. Applicants must be in their first year in the College and those accepted will begin the LLSO program in the fall of their second year. Application forms will be available on Friday of 10th week, March 11, and are due by the first Friday of spring quarter, April 1, giving those interested students the availability to work on the application during spring vacation.