Broderick-Villa, left, says he regrets controversy over Colombian leader Uribe, right.William Broderick-Villa is officially a former SBA president. After a tenure that saw Georgetown undergo significant changes—including the arrival of a new dean and the expansion of the university’s externship program—Broderick-Villa, 3L, left office on Mar. 29.
“After working with William for the previous year, I know that he always tried to approach the SBA presidency with dedication and integrity,” said Elizabeth Farrar, 2L. Farrar served as SBA Day Vice President during Broderick-Villa’s term and has succeeded him as SBA president.
She added, “William actively advocated for students in important decisions, especially in relation to next year’s restructuring of the Law Center’s evening program through his work on the Committee for Academic Standards.”
The Law Weekly also asked Broderick-Villa to assess his work as SBA president and review what he did well and what he wished he had done differently.
Regarding his regrets, he mentioned a computer glitch that destroyed much of the SBA’s historical archives, and his failure to bring visiting professor and former Colombian leader Alvaro Uribe to the Law Center amid student protests (more on Broderick-Villa’s regrets later in this article).
As for his accomplishments, he offered a list of his February 2010 campaign promises and addressed his work to fulfill each pledge.
He pointed to seven major promises: first, working to “get grades faster, and get all professors to return exams.”
Many students have complained about the lag time between exam completion and the return of grades from the Registrar. In a sparsely attended open house meeting between the visiting accreditation team and students earlier this month, multiple students complained about the wait time.
One student, a 3L, said, “Faculty members need to realize how important it is that grades are submitted on time.”
Broderick-Villa said he made this subject a regular priority in his interactions with school administration, including the Curriculum, Academic Standards and Teaching Committee, and experienced some success. “With regard to grades, the CAST Committee just voted to change the deadline for professors to submit grades and to eliminate any grace period for missing the deadline.
He also said that Dean Wendy Perdue “stepped up her reminders to professors” and acted as a “very good sheriff.”
Broderick-Villa also acknowledged that a compromise led to the date of grade submission being pushed back by three days, but said, “I think this will be more than made up for by the complete elimination of a grace period (which actually makes the de facto grade submission date earlier).”
Finally, the former SBA leader said, “As for returning all exams, Dean Perdue similarly agreed to inform professors of their duty (if they do not return exams to the registrar) to keep copies of exams for one year per ABA regulations. Before this I had professors who did not send exams to the registrar and did not keep them either. I have not been made aware of any professors violating the policy in the last two semesters, but if any student has trouble getting an exam back, I want to know about it.
Campaign Pledge #2: Expanding Externships
His second campaign promise was to pursue “a more sensible Externship policy, with expanded credit limits, flexibility in geographic offerings and more administrative support.”
Last spring, the SBA drafted and submitted a measure to the faculty that would have expanded the school’s externship program, but the faculty tabled the proposal amid heated debate over its wisdom.
“While it was disappointing not to have this in place for the Fall semester,” Broderick-Villa said, “we decided to redouble our efforts. We appointed an unprecedented four students to the committee and engaged in hours of meetings with Deans, professors and students.”
That fall, the faculty approved an updated version of the externship proposal.
“In the end we got a better proposal, with a possibility of 6 externship credits (from two 3-credit externships) and an expansion in the pass/fail cap to 7 credits.”
He thanked the student members of the drafting committee and committee chair Professor Jane Aiken for their “hard work,” and also expressed gratitude to Dean Treanor, who expressed support for an externship expansion after joining the Law Center last summer.
Still, Broderick-Villa hopes that a future SBA president will manage to further expand the externship program. “I think 8 to 12 is a good range, and in keeping with our peers. I would also like to see externships extended to those who volunteer at for profit enterprises (this is currently the third rail among faculty, but I believe with respectful discussion and dialogue we will get there). Still, tripling the number of externship credits is more than anyone thought possible last year, and I’m happy for the win.”
Searching for a New Dean
His third campaign promise was that he would ensure student views reached the search committee that eventually selected William Treanor as the new Law Center dean.
“Accordingly,” he said, “I worked with the Dean Search Committee and was on the student committee that vetted the three decanal finalists. I also analyzed a student survey and conveyed the results to the Dean Search Committee.”
Broderick-Villa expressed strong support for the committee’s decision to ultimately choose Treanor. “I was very pleased with the choice of Dean Treanor to lead Georgetown Law, and I have been continually impressed by his willingness to listen to student concerns.”
Broderick-Villa’s fourth campaign promise was to “strengthen the Office of Career Services so that we can make finding a job in this economy as easy as possible.”
“One of my first meetings as SBA President was with Dean Fernando,” he said. “I expressed student frustration that OCS was not doing enough to help students get jobs. SBA then appointed one of our toughest negotiators, David Yellin, to head the committee charged with evaluating and revamping OCS procedures. This has paid dividends in a number of new initiatives, including the “Jobs Bootcamp,” designed to get students jobs.”
Still, Broderick-Villa said, work remains. “While the progress is promising, I still think we could be doing more. We need to keep real time data of which students have jobs and which students don’t so we can vigorously target unemployed students with personalized strategies (and not just wait for students to go to OCS). I would like to see OCS keep best practices lists of what other universities are doing.”
Campus Facilities Improved?
Broderick-Villa’s fifth campaign promise was to “make sure our campus facilities and gym reflect a clean, professional atmosphere.”
Here, the SBA leader pointed to his work to address trash overflow in campus bathrooms. “It used to be that the trash can by the second floor stairs in McDonough would overflow daily in the late afternoon, and by evening classes it would look like a frat house trash pyramid. This was embarrassing. We got extra attention for problem restrooms and extra collections for waste receptacles. We worked with our facilities committee to get more garbage cans installed in the second floor McDonough by the stairs.”
The SBA also had certain recycling and garbage receptacles renamed to make more room for trash disposal. “There are still some bathrooms that could use a lick and a prayer, but overall I think the situation has improved greatly.”
Improving Professor Evaluations
Sixth, “make sure best practices [of teachers] get discussed, recognized and emulated schoolwide.”
“I am currently working with the Curriculum, Academic Standards and Teaching Committee to revamp the end of semester teaching evaluation instrument we use at Georgetown Law,” Broderick-Villa explained, adding that his pre-law school work training teachers leads him to believe that the current post-course evaluation questions are too “vague” to be helpful.
He continued, “With the support of CAST, we are beginning a discussion on what makes good teaching, and how can we measure and better encourage good instruction. The gold standard would be to have professors sit in on each other’s classes regularly… this was a hard practice to get instituted at the high school where I used to teach (teachers tend to be extremely protective of their fiefdoms) but once we did, the dividends were enormous. That will have to wait for a future SBA. For now we will have to be content with getting the conversation about instruction started and getting a more streamlined and useful evaluation instrument implemented.
Regarding his work to reduce classroom sizes, Broderick-Villa said, “I am pleased to have been part of the committee whose proposal will make all first year class sizes smaller next year by adding a section (§ 5) while at the same time reducing the size and 1E credit load of our Evening program (thus making our #1 ranked part time program even stronger, more intimate and more user-friendly for those who work full time).”
Disappointments & Regrets
When asked if he had any regrets, or wishes that he had done something differently, Broderick-Villa pointed to two things: first, his failure to improve SBA archives.
“This goal encountered a major setback when the SBA computer (a dinosaur that even in its better days processed slowly) completely crashed over the summer, erasing several years’ worth of documents, minutes, past budgets and files from several previous E-Board members. The historian in me found this tragic.”
Some records, he said, remain, but much of the recent SBA history was lost. “I’ve been able on our website to post names of many previous Presidents and E-Boards, but I’m still not happy with the amount of gaps we have in the record, and after I leave office I plan to continue the task of going through the library’s archives of past Law Weekly Articles (which I’ve begun to do) and past yearbooks to reconstruct the record of SBA.”
Broderick-Villa considers his other regret his failure to bring former Colombian president Alvaro Uribe—a visiting professor at Georgetown University—to the Law Center. Dozens of students, led by a Law Center 3L, fiercely criticized Georgetown for hiring Uribe, who they accuse of committing human rights violations during his tenure. The controversy peaked when Georgetown main campus security detained that Law Center student on suspicion of assaulting Uribe during a protest last Spring.
“I was fortunate enough to meet [Uribe] in the fall (a point of great pride for the Colombian side of my family),” Broderick-Villa said, “and he had originally agreed to speak at the law center, until an unfortunate incident with one of our students convinced him otherwise. I can’t help but think our law school lost out from this opportunity to engage a unique and transformative world leader.”
Of the controversy, he said, “I understand many hold strongly differing opinions about President Uribe (as does Uribe, who when I met him said he welcomed an opportunity to engage his opponents in respectful discussion and debate). I regret we were unable to have that respectful debate at Georgetown Law and that behind-the-scenes negotiations fell through.”
“But other than that, I’d say on the whole it’s been an overwhelmingly positive experience. Public service is a noble calling and I am honored to have been given a chance to serve as Georgetown Law’s Student Bar Association President for 2010-2011.
Broderick-Villa’s Successor Looks Ahead
As for his successor, new SBA leader Elizabeth Farrar, she says she is looking to build and improve upon the past year. “The outgoing SBA produced real results for students, including a stronger externship program and a class registration schedule that no longer conflicts with the 1L LRW exam. Although those positive changes are the result of the work of several SBA members, I plan to focus on making next year’s SBA more productive by engaging more of SBA’s membership and pursuing more initiatives.”