Law School converts to semesters; U follows suit

by Kelly Hildebrandt

During the first weeks of September, the halls of University buildings are mostly empty of students.
But in a little nook of the West Bank, students fill the hallways and classrooms as they cram constitutional amendments into their brains in the last minutes before an exam. The Law School is bustling — not because students really love the law, but because in the early 1980s the Law School switched to semesters.
“It’s great,” said second-year law student Jay Pralle about the deserted campus. He said it’s easier to find parking and get administrative help the month before fall quarter begins.
The rest of the University will start using the semester system fall quarter 1999. The switch-over is estimated to cost just less than $4 million, said Peter Zetterberg, director of the semester conversion project.
Zetterberg said tuition won’t change, but students will probably spend less on books. Currently about 80 percent of universities in the nation use the semester system.
If the University-wide change goes as well as the Law School’s did, problems will be few.
“I think students were instrumental in requesting (semesters) because they were competing for summer jobs,” said David Bryden, a Law School professor that taught during the transition.
Although Bryden doesn’t remember the transition having any effect on classes, he said there is a potential problem: When professors are faced with longer classes, they sometimes drop one course and expand another, giving students fewer options.
“It was quite smooth,” said Terri Mische, communications director at the Law School. Mische was a law student at the time of the switch and said the administration made the transition easy for students by counseling them on what kinds of changes would happen.
Law students are currently permitted to take five credits outside the Law School each year. “That does present logistical problems,” Pralle said, although he hasn’t taken any non-law classes yet.
“I like it better because it gives you more time off in the summer,” Pralle said, adding that courses go more in depth with the additional weeks.