You be the judge: Maclean's survy put on trial
By Sandra Dimitrakopoulos
When a special survey of Canadian law schools by Maclean's magazine hit the stands yesterday, Western law students and educators were left debating some puzzling results.
Although Western took top ranking in a section regarding computer access, the university placed last in quality of teaching based on a survey of 3,997 law graduates recently called to the bar.
The over 5,000 judges, lawyers and law academics surveyed also reported Western low in rank, placing the faculty 15th out of 16 in regards to innovation and 11th out of 16 in quality.
Despite some disappointing results, Eileen Gillese, dean of the faculty of law, said she is delighted with the survey which shows Western has a strong student body overall.
"Out of all the schools in Ontario, we generally placed second with schools like Queen's and Ottawa following behind," she said, adding this can only positively affect the number of applications to the school.
Gillese responded to possible concerns of Western law students in an open meeting yesterday and said she intends to conduct her own survey.
"I would like to take a look at some of the questions asked because teaching appraisals collected by us don't match figures published by Maclean's," she said, adding over 90 per cent of the student body reported they would recommend the Western law program to friends.
Janet King, a first-year Western law student, said she is not very concerned about the results because it is difficult to look at the data without knowing what questions were asked.
"People look at many factors when they consider accepting admission to a school," King said, adding it would be impossible for people surveyed such as judges to know everything about every university.
Peter Mercer, Western's VP-administration, said the survey results of former students show Western has a very critical student body.
"Western ranks in the top half and is really only behind the University of Toronto based on the standings in the province," he said.
Yet Mercer said he was disappointed by the angle taken in an article by The London Free Press which focused on one main negative aspect of quality of teaching while ignoring positive data.
Mercer, a dean of Western's law school from 1989 to 1995, said the article should have included the faculty-student ratio which was ranked seventh, as well as entrance grades and Law School Admission Test scores which also ranked seventh.
"We are building on a good tradition and the data supports this," he said, adding in 1995 Western received more applications than Harvard University.
Victor Dwyer, education editor at Maclean's, said this first-ever survey of a professional program was implemented due to reader demand and was only ever meant as a tool to be used in conjunction with other information.
"Most people know more about programming their VCR than they do about the school they are applying to," Dwyer said, adding they simply wanted to provide people with more information.