Last week I was reminded of the great work done by the Academic Services office at BC Law School. February 16th started the new semester at Renda. On Tuesday of that week I was preparing intently for my Wednesday afternoon class on Business and Constitutional Torts. Ding, my faculty liaison and now friend, checked on enrollment and discovered that no one (!) had signed up. It turns out that scheduling is done by the central administration and they did not realize that this elective class conflicted with a required course on Marxism and Deng Xiaoping Studies. In a Communist country, even with its market economy, it doesn’t work to conflict with a required Marxist studies course. Wednesday morning I received word that the class was moved to Friday evening from 6-9 pm. (That was much better than the proposed Sat. morning 8 am time!) With my Western mindset, I wondered how many students would show up to a Friday evening 3 hour course, after their schedule was already set and with only 2 days notice. To my surprise, 25 people were in the classroom. The majority of students are auditing, but they were intensely interested and active.
At BC Law School, Academic Services would have flagged this issue soon after registration. But we have learned that in China plans are made much closer to the event. Almost every US professor on the Fulbright program has a similar story of learning when classes were scheduled only a few days (or hours) before the class started. Large events get planned with only a few weeks notice. So a last minute change in schedule is par for the course. You need to stay flexible in China! Here’s a big “Thank You” to Academic Services for not requiring the BC professors to be as flexible.
The semester runs 18-20 weeks (depending on the informal understanding of when classes should end.) I have refocused my teaching for the spring in a way that will likely have lasting benefits when I return. The goal of each course this semester is to use this topic to teach the art of building an analysis. Business and Constitutional Torts will run for 9 weeks. The second half of the semester I will switch to Introduction to US Legal Reasoning and Research and co-teach a course with Lord Capulet (um, Rick) on US Alternative Dispute Resolution.