Ten years after Schedule Change, HLS Students Still Struggle To Make Time for Events

As many of the roughly 1,900 students at Harvard Law School stream out of morning classes, they are faced with more options than most. This Wednesday, the lunch menu at the Law School includes a book event, three guest speakers, five club meetings, and a clinic talk.

According to Dean of Students Ellen M. Cosgrove, approximately 5,000 events take place at the Law School each year.

Nearly ten years ago, the Law School tried to address claims that there were too many events with too few attendees by rescheduling all classes that met between noon to 1:00 p.m. According to Cosgrove, who was consulted regarding the schedule rearrangement, the change aimed to give students another block of time to attend speaking events and club meetings while taking their lunch with them.

“Before [the change], students had to schedule most things for the evening,” Cosgrove wrote in an email. “That doesn’t work as well for students with partners and children and clinic or journal obligations, which can require solid blocks of uninterrupted time."

However, Cosgrove wrote that she believes that that there are more events at the Law School than before due to increased funding for student organizations and greater support of organizations and journals by firms.

"I haven't heard any observations that attendance has changed," she wrote.

Yet, it is unclear whether students consistently use the scheduled time to attend events.

According to first year law student Rena T. Karefa-Johnson, the time period allows her to attend interesting events that catch her eye.

“I’ve gone to things that I wouldn’t have gone to...because they’re so accessible,” Johnson said.

Still, some have questioned whether students appreciate the hour for events or merely use it as a chance to catch up on the heavy reading loads of law school courses.

“If I finish my readings, I generally go to something,” Johnson said, estimating that she spends one third of her lunches at events.

With so many events on campus every day, most students do not spend every lunch period at events and attendance dwindles toward the end of the semester as finals draw students away from club meetings and into the library, according to second year law student Shane A. Hunt.

“I try to go to at least one event a week,” Hunt said. “I’m not going five days a week—I don’t think anyone does.”

Others have focused on events that directly relate to their interests, according to Stefan A. Blunschi, who is pursuing a master's degree in law and estimated that he attends an event every other week during lunch.

“The general sense here is that students are attracted to Harvard Law School because there is an embarrassment of riches,” Cosgrove wrote. “Students are encouraged to pick and choose in a way that optimizes their educational path.”

With so many events on campus and no one wanting to limit the options, many student groups have focused on coordinating events with other clubs to avoid duplicating and overlapping one another, according to Hunt.

Rather than calling the 5,000 events that occur each year too much, most organizers have accepted the challenge of publicizing events so that they are well-attended.

“What’s the alternative?” Hunt said. “It looks really bad to bring in a high-profile guest and have no one show up, but that’s one of the risks you run.”

—Staff writer Tyler S. Olkowski can be reached at tyler.olkowski@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @OlkowskiTyler.

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