Club criticizes pre-law program’s lack of resources

By Jennifer Wheeler

With law school application season underway, some students are worried about added stress from the University’s current pre-law advising program.

“It’s scary,” said Amber Rudolphi, president of the University’s Pre-Law Club. “There aren’t enough resources.”

On Oct. 1, the Pre-Law Club and law fraternity, Phi Alpha Delta, sent a letter to the Office of the Provost, vice chancellor for academic affairs, vice provost and associate provost fellow to express concerns they have with the pre-law academic advising program.

The letter said that in order for the University to remain competitive with other higher education institutions, the Office of the Provost must recognize the “lack of quality advising and resources pre-law students currently face due to the recent changes made.”

Rudolphi said the previous pre-law advising program consisted of recently retired Dean Stephen Shafer and a third-year law student. On Aug. 11, Jamie Thomas, the new adviser, was hired. A week later, Shafer formally retired. Thomas now single-handedly oversees about 3,000 students within this concentration.

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    The letter discussed the students’ dissatisfaction with the hiring process that occurred between this transition. According to the letter, Shafer announced his retirement eight months in advance to allow time for employers to find his replacement; however, that time was not properly utilized.

    Shafer prepared for the switch by writing an 11-page recommendation in fall 2007 for the pre-law advising program, suggesting that a potential candidate should shadow him during the year to understand the program, Rudolphi said.

    “I think the most concern is the removal of the graduate assistant position,” said Paul Pless, assistant dean of Administration and Financial Aid to the University’s College of Law. “To me, that seems a low-cost way to providing pre-law students with an additional person to talk to about the process.”

    Thomas said she was not aware of the letter and grievances that the pre-law students expressed. However, she said her weekly Friday walk-in times have not always been full, except for one day.

    She said she was not able to comment on the hiring process nor the decision regarding the number of advisers.

    Bethany Gasperin, junior in LAS, said she is having trouble accessing the advising she needs, not because of Thomas’ lack of effort, but because there are not enough resources.

    “Walk-ins are supposed to be 15 minutes and Jamie spent an hour with one person, not to say that the student didn’t need it,” Gasperin said. “It’s frustrating that I didn’t get to talk with her. I was sent home by the receptionist.”

    Rudolphi said students need to set up appointments with Thomas weeks in advance to receive advising.

    Rudolphi said that Thomas went to an executive meeting of Pre-Law Club during the first week of September. At that time, Thomas told the club that she was booked through the first week of October.

    “Dean Shafer recommended that you apply before Halloween to be competitive,” Rudolphi said.

    Ruth Watkins, vice provost at the advising center, responded to the letter Oct. 1. Board members from the student organizations and members from the Campus Center for Advising and Academic Services met Oct. 6 at the Swanlund Administration Building to talk about the pre-law advising program.

    At the meeting, the pre-law advisory decision process was discussed along with advising’s future plans for the University, Rudolphi said. Rudolphi said that it was decided at the Oct. 6 meeting that at least one adviser must be trained in each department at the University for advising freshmen and sophomores on pre-law. Thomas would concentrate on pre-law advising for juniors and seniors.

    “The changes have not been in place long enough to make a judgment whether Illinois students are being serviced well or not, but I think that anybody can do a better job with more resources,” Pless said.