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Editorial: Law school task force should include more student voices

Tough times have fallen on USD School of Law. Decreased national enrollment and low bar passage rates put the law school at risk of losing its accreditation, according to a South Dakota Board of Regents report. Some have offered moving the law school to Sioux Falls as a potential solution.

To say the least, it has caused some division. On one hand, Sioux Falls holds far more opportunities for law students. Clerkships are easily accessible and internships are more plentiful. Life in Sioux Falls often lures students more easily than in Vermillion.

On the other hand, we must consider what the purpose of the law school is. Plainly put, USD law is meant to supply South Dakota with attorneys. If the law school were to move, the impacts would be wide-ranging. It’s not as simple as pack up the bags and take a drive up I-29. Everyone will be affected.

The Law School Task Force has spent many hours mulling over the options. Multiple people have been brought in to present information, including Don Burnett, the University of Idaho College of Law’s former dean.

There is, however, an important element that’s been missing from this process: student input.

As it stands now, only two students sit on the task force. Only one is a law student. Morgan Nelson, a third-year law student, has been the only voice for law school students on the task force.

While it’s fantastic to see that some student input is being considered, the gravity of the decision ought to warrant more. No one will be impacted more severely than the law students themselves. Seeing that the decision directly impacts the lives of not just the law students, but also their families, special attention should’ve been made to ensure that those affected get a large say in what happens to their future.

Unfortunately, the task force seems to have relegated student input to the bottom of list. Thus far there’s only been one scheduled time for student input in the task force’s agenda.

While it’s true that Nelson does represent the law student body, and “has done a good job of trying to get a sense of what all students feel,” said third-year law student Alayna Holmstrom in a previous Volante article, she’s only one person. Representing an entire school of people with wide ranging opinions simply can’t be done by a single person.

As expressed by Holmstrom in the article, “If the task force was serious about students’ perspectives, they would’ve suggested also maybe having a representative from each class.”

Perhaps putting more seats on the task force for students or devoting more meeting time for student input, like a public forum, would help. Either way, law students should have a large say in what happens. As it stands, it’s not nearly large enough.

Now that the task force made the decision to keep the law school in Vermillion but open up facilities in Sioux Falls,  greater effort should be made to ensure that student voices are heard.