Monday, March 22, 2010

How Many Credits For First-Year Property?

How many credits should the first-year Property course have?  I was recently asked whether we've taken on this topic here before, and much to my surprise I don't think we have.  I recall it coming up a few years ago on the propertyprof listserv, and from what I recall, the opinions varied widely.

I've taught Property both as a four-credit, one-semester course (at Catholic U.) and as a six-credit, two-semester course (at Widener, both as 3-3 and 4-2).  I might get kicked out of the PropertyProf's union for saying this out loud, but I think that Property can be taught well as a four-credit class.  Sure, I like having six credits, and I can usefully fill the time.  A four-credit Property course is a bit superficial, but to me that's okay.  I view the first-year Property course as an introduction to the subject, and I would rather give my students an overview of a wide-range of topics than go into great depth on everything.  For example, I think it is educational malpractice to teach Property without doing at least the basics of recording (the indexes, how the different kind of statutes work, the shelter rule, inquiry notice), but I don't think there is great value in going into depth on difficult and obscure recording problems.  The same point can be made for most of the other subjects that we teach in Property. 

Even though I like having six credits, and I think that the subject can be done well in four, the ideal is probably five.  Four seemed a bit too rushed, and six seems like a bit too much.  The big problem with five credits is that it doesn't help with the Associate Dean's scheduling problems -- most five credit courses would be taught as 2/3 or 3/2 over two semesters, taking up two teaching slots for a professor.  As far as the other option that I've seen at some schools - three credits - there comes a point where the superficiality of an intro course reaches a point of absurdity.

So, what do you think?  Three, four, five, or six?  Anonymous posts are okay, but not preferred.

Ben Barros

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Having taught Property twice as a four-credit class, and enjoyed it, I can say that I think it should be the same size that, in my view, every other 1L required course should be, i.e., a three-credit class. Everything else is, so far as I can tell, myth and special pleading.

Posted by: Joe Miller | Mar 22, 2010 1:32:28 PM

Hi Ben --

Here at William Mitchell, we have a required two semester, 6-credit course. It probably is a bit more than they need, but I (naturally) like it.

At Wisconsin (at least as of a few years ago) they had a required one-semester, 5-credit course.

Posted by: Mark Edwards | Mar 22, 2010 2:13:15 PM

I think whether we should go with four or six might depend on how one views the function of the first-year curriculum generally. If we think of the 1L property course as an "introduction," then four is sufficient; if we think of it as a "survey" course, then six might be more appropriate.

So on the one hand, it would be nice to introduce property in four credits and then be able to offer more follow-on courses in land use, real estate transactions, etc. I think I might prefer that scenario. But on the other hand, assuming that many students will never take an upper-level property elective, I can see the benefit of a six-credit survey course for those students . . . at least they're getting *some* exposure, however minimal, to the wider range of concepts in the field.

Posted by: Matt Festa | Mar 24, 2010 11:32:44 PM

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