Good Faith Advice

To be honest, part of me wishes that UCI Law could avoid being ranked all together. But I wonder if you think that the atmosphere at UCI might change post-ranking, and if so, what your suggestions would be to keep the unique atmosphere here. Do you think it’s possible to dictate the “culture” of an institution?   

Sincerely,
Rankings Agnostic

Dear Rankings,

I also often wish that UCI Law could avoid the drama and controversy intertwined with national rankings, and I share your concern about the sustainability of our school’s culture. Despite this concern, I am optimistic that aspects of the culture can survive, if not thrive, long after the school receives its first ranking. I do not think that anyone should “dictate” that a certain type of culture exist; our culture should flourish because our community collectively wants it to, not because we feel like it is mandated. Such a culture depends heavily on every single member: past, present, and future, of the law school. Everyone needs to do their part to continue to foster what we all share. UCI’s culture will inevitably evolve, as it has since the school’s founding, and there is nothing inherently wrong with that; evolution is a good and natural thing. Yet rankings, changing school policies, shifts in student demographics, and other dynamics could lead to a less friendly, supportive, student-centered, innovative, and unique environment. Below, I have listed a few key suggestions as to how we can facilitate a productive and positive evolution that champions the values upon which the school was founded. This is, of course, nowhere close to an exhaustive account, but hopefully our community can continue this critical conversation and preserve those qualities of UCI that we hold most dear.

1. Transparency, Open Communication, and Accountability

The administration must be transparent about its decisions and actions. This is true for many reasons including the reality that the administration’s actions impact everyone in the community and can alter our culture. Every member of the law school community should feel comfortable communicating openly and honestly with the administration. Additionally, everyone must be held accountable for their actions; transparency and open communication will facilitate such accountability in identifying which parties are responsible for various decisions. Failure to maintain transparency, open communication, and accountability can quickly lead to distrust, disloyalty, and a severe disruption to the school’s culture. All of us should challenge the administration and ourselves to maintain the school’s commitment to excellence and innovation while striving to be open and collaborative. We truly are all in this together, and are actions should reflect that

2. Student-focused Institution Building

Students should continue to be active and engaged participants in all aspects of the school’s growth: from faculty appointments, admissions decisions, the development of the new law school building, and many more aspects of the UCI experience. When the law school community listens to and understands the needs of students, exciting and important opportunities arise. The Global Justice Summit, the VOICE, the Perspectives Reading group, PILF, the Experian/Jones Day Moot Court competition, to name a few, are all exceptional examples of the many programs and initiatives in which students continue to invest their time, energy, and unique perspectives. Each new class introduces different viewpoints, opinions, interests, and talents, and each year, new pathways open at the school. UCI Law thrives off the invaluable commitment of all of its members, and students should continue to serve at the heart of this community.

3. Faculty That Care

UCI Law’s faculty are truly exceptional. It is vital that this remains the case. Not only are our professors the top experts in their fields, but they also enjoy teaching. They love engaging with students and contributing to students’ success. Our faculty care. They care about whether their students learn. They care about their students’ personal and professional development. They care about the numerous policies, programs, and people that shape the school, and they work tirelessly to ensure that UCI Law will have a bright future. Our faculty care about our school’s culture, and they are invested in maintaining it, as well. We need to continue to make them a priority.

4. Dedicated Alumni Connection

An essential part of the UCI Law community is our quickly growing group of alumni. Our school is what it is today thanks to the amazing students who have now graduated from this institution. They play an important role in maintaining UCI’s culture in part because they helped create the culture from scratch. We must show our appreciation of their contributions and invite them to remain fully engaged in every aspect of our community. Our alumni can serve as candid mentors, connect us to new networks, and continue to increase the nation’s and the world’s awareness of our school. Every member of UCI Law should respect and value the alumni as central to our wonderful culture.

Yours in solidarity,
Mary Poppins

 

Dear Rankings,

Thank you for your question! It will allow me to gush over one of my favorite things, UCI Law. I appreciate Mary Poppins’s organized and practical approach because it lets me be more…meta.

I think that the culture at UCI is a main reason why many of our students chose to come to here over other institutions (I know it is why I am here). I think that there is a unique atmosphere that surrounds our little corner of campus. Word of mouth from friends at other law schools paints a different picture of what it is like elsewhere. However, I have watched the culture of UCI evolve over the years I have been here. Each class is made up of unique individuals with differing perspectives who have compiled to create the UCI culture we have right now. The culture at UCI was not the same two years ago and it will be different in another two years, but the core of what it is to be UCI Law is solid and we should all try to make sure it never changes.

Did you ever play with that magical mixture of cornstarch and water when you were a kid? If you do not know what I am talking about, you should look it up because it is fun and science. The mixture is not a solid and not a liquid because it is somehow both. When pressure is applied, it becomes solid as a rock, but when there is no pressure it is a liquid. To me, the UCI culture is similar. What is solid at UCI is friendliness, compassion, and support. The competition is not against fellow UCI students in classrooms because we are all on the same team. People do not put down others because we do not have open class rankings. If pressure is applied to change this aspect of UCI, it won’t work because we are solid as a rock and cannot be broken. UCI is also liquid because new ideas come in, we expand, we spread out, and fill in areas that were lacking.

The culture at UCI is ever-evolving and will without a doubt change post-rankings. This does not have to be a negative. What we need to do as students is to continue setting an example to future classes by supporting our fellow students and by fighting to infuse and improve the legal field with an injection of UCI Law culture. If a student misses class due to a family emergency, copies of notes will be in her inbox before she even asks. If a student (or two) have a laptop stolen from Starbucks during finals, their classmates will be there with outlines. If a student oversleeps on the day of a final, the class will band together and wait for him to arrive. I know that these situations have happened before and we can continue this legacy. If we continue to uphold the UCI culture that you fear might be lost in the future, we will continue to be solid at the core.

Cluing you in,
Nancy Drew