Saturday, October 6, 2018
I'm reporting from Penn State Law in University Park, PA, this year's home for the Society of American Law Teachers (SALT) conference.
Yesterday, I had the privilege of speaking on a panel with Mariela Olivares (Howard) and Kristina Campbell (UDC) about "Bringing Humanity into the Classroom: Using Experiential Techniques in Doctrinal Courses to Prepare the Well-Rounded Lawyer in an Era of Social Change."
Our launching point for conversation was a comment from Deborah Merritt (Ohio State) during the opening panel of the day: "Should we and can we teaching students empathy?" Questions that Debbie responded to with a resounding yes. We agree. But students don't need to know that's what we are doing!
I spoke in praise of field trips - taking students out of the classroom to get a different perspective on the material. I spoke about touring county jail with Criminal Law students (and hopefully Crimmigration students this Spring!), the port of entry with Immigration students, and sites along the U.S.-Mexico border in San Diego with students on the one-week Hofstra summer program (coming again this May!).
Mariela spoke about creating opportunities for students to engage in outside-the-classroom activity - creating time for students to go on solo forays to immigration court. She shared the sorts of questions that she asks students to contemplate, including: How many people had lawyers? Did it seem to matter? What was the quality of the lawyers? How you do you think the experience was for pro se individuals? What did "due process" look like? What would you wish to change and why? What aspects struck you positively and why? She also spoke about her numerous in-class exercises prompting students to think about litigation objectives and the students' own assumptions about controversial material.
Kristina spoke about Service Learning at UDC and how to bring the experience of working in family detention facilities into the classroom for those unable to participate in such an intense off-site program. She gives students facts, an NTA, and questions for credible/reasonable fear interviews. The exercise gives students a flavor of what it's like to help at a family detention facility.
I'm thoroughly inspired to try new things in my classes next year!