If “Should we build a law school?” was Step 1, shouldn’t “What should we build?” have been Step 0? Yet we seem to have skipped that important step.
A committee is assessing the feasibility of a Memorial University law school. To the administration who commissioned the feasibility study: excellent work! This is certainly an important question: is a law school in this province a “feasible” venture for our university?
And it has already raised a host of other important questions. Do we need a law school? What value would a law school add to our university or our province? What will it mean for our university community? Will it be named after Bob Simmonds?
I am sure that each of the members of the feasibility study committee will undertake their work with diligence. They will be objective and think critically as Memorial evaluates the value of a law school here for the third time in history. They will consult with many of the university’s stakeholders — including the public (the St. John’s public meeting was held Sept. 10 at Rocket Bakery). And they will return an answer, which could be “yes, this is feasible” or “no, this is a bad idea.”
But that answer — whatever it is — is irrelevant unless we also consider other alternatives that could be available at this time.
I fear the decision to consider creating a law school at Memorial is an arbitrary one, for we aren’t also considering what else we could create. A law school is fancy and shiny. It is an accessible idea to most people, at least until we complete this feasibility study. But I worry that we are ignoring some other incredible options in its pursuit.
You may have already thought of some of these ideas — a school of journalism, or veterinary medicine, perhaps dentistry. Although some of these options might never work, others might — and just thinking about any of them should raise the same feasibility question that the law school concept has raised. That question, to me, is reason enough to consider them equal alternatives for now.
So, is it enough to simply examine the feasibility of a law school at Memorial, or should we be carefully considering what other options might be equally (or even more) worthy of our time and resources?
We have yet to be objective and think critically about what else our university or province might want or need. We have yet to consult with many of the university’s stakeholders, including the public, on what other schools or faculties we might create. And we have yet to compare the answers we come up with to see what the best option for us really is right now.
Ryan J. A. Murphy