Guideposts for the Pursuit of Excellence in Challenging Times
The core values of the AALS, which are articulated in Bylaw 6-1, provide critically important guidance in the Association’s activities and to our member schools. The core values emphasize excellent class room teaching across a rigorous academic curriculum. They focus on the importance of faculty scholarship, academic freedom, and diversity of viewpoints. The core values also establish an expectation that member schools will value faculty governance and instill in our students commitments to justice and to public service in the legal community. All of these objectives are to be supported in an environment free of discrimination and rich in diversity among faculty, staff, and student body. These core values combine to provide an environment where students have opportunity to study law in an intellectually vibrant institution capable of preparing them for professional lives as lawyers instilled with a sense of justice and an obligation of public service.
Almost all of our member schools are dealing with extraordinary financial pressures as a result of the economic crisis in the country. Reductions in financial support from state legislatures and shrinking endowments have put unprecedented financial pressure on law schools in meeting their obligations to students and the profession. Almost all law schools are dealing with budget cuts, which have produced a variety of cost saving strategies including hiring freezes, travel restrictions, program and course-offering reductions, and even salary reductions and layoffs.
Other events, including review of ABA accreditation standards relating to student learning outcomes, law school governance, and academic freedom and security of position as well as the changing nature of the legal profession that our graduates will enter, raise additional, potentially challenging issues for the legal academy.
Our 2011 Annual Meeting in San Francisco provides us with an opportunity to discuss how the Association’s core values guide law schools as they address the issues confronting legal education. It is precisely because law schools have pursued these values that legal education in the U.S. is the model and envy of the world. Especially in the face of daunting challenges, it is important that law schools continue to be anchored in these values as we adapt to necessary changes in what we do and how we do it.
Because the core values focus on excellent teaching, a rich curriculum, high quality scholarship, academic freedom and faculty governance, nondiscrimination, and diversity, there will be much that can be highlighted. I am looking forward to meeting with you in San Francisco.
H. Reese Hansen,
AALS President and Brigham Young University J. Reuben Clark Law School