Chairperson of the Law Student Council (LSC), Phesheya Duma, is currently in his fourth year of study. He, along with the rest of the 2014/2015 LSC, are managing this year’s council campaigning and elections. He spoke to Wits Vuvuzela about the challenges of his position and advised students on what they should be looking out for in the new leadership.
What does the chairperson do?
I represent the council. I take everything that the council says and I articulate it. I don’t have a personal opinion, just like the council has no opinion. They take what the students say and we put it in office, and I put it to management. I take what management says and I bring it back.
What are the three biggest challenges you face as chairperson of the LSC?
The first is managing expectations. The second is persuading, and the third is giving bad news. When students ask, for example, about supplementary exam issues, we try and we try and we try, and we exhaust all channels. It’s always difficult to go back to the students and say, ‘listen, we tried’. They don’t see the steps that we took, and they always think that it’s not good enough.
What should students be listening out for during LSC elections?
Students should be listening out for the substance, for example, continuous assessments. A lot of the time in the law school, we have subjects with 50% weighting for a test and 50% weighting for an exam, that’s a problem. We’ve addressed some of these issues with admin law and contract law, and we now have continuous multiple choice questions throughout the year. Those are the things that are important, because those put a lot of pressure on you when you’re writing an exam. If you fail the first exam, you only have one other chance. In other schools, you have continuous assessments, we don’t have that here.
How have you managed the transition from having an undergraduate LLB, to only having it offered at a postgraduate level?
We were actually quite involved in the planning. Law firms and the school itself feels that when you come out of high school, you are not fully equipped or well-equipped to actually deal with the content of the legal degree. So what they now want you to do, is something else first and then do the LLB.