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The Times They Are A-Changin’

Casting an amused look at how different a law student’s world was in 1968 compared to 2014.

Illustration by Jude Buffum

To find out how much law school has changed in the last half century, BC Law Magazine went on a research mission, scouring old records, surveying the innards of students’ backpacks, and, most notably, tapping the memories of Professor Sanford Katz. Why Professor Katz? Because he’s retiring after forty-six years at the Law School. What better authority than he to jumpstart our inquiry into BC Law, past and present? This visual representation of our findings, placed in the context of the social, cultural, political, and professional realities of 1968 and 2014, spans Katz’s tenure and alerts us to the impact of diversity and technology on learning.

When Professor Katz joined the law faculty at Boston College in 1968, he was thirty-five years old and a new dad. His office was in More Hall, he paid 35 cents a gallon to gas up his green Plymouth Valiant, wrote on a manual typewriter, used carbon paper to make copies, and generally found students to be more radical than they are today. In his legal specialty of family law, palimony, no fault divorce, and gay marriage were unheard of.

In today’s classroom, students expect more from their professors. “There’s no more going in and emoting with lofty thoughts,” Katz says. “You’ve got a syllabus to follow and you’d better follow it.” Students are graded on a curve. The curriculum is increasingly tailored to job opportunities, and professors must be responsive to market realities. The days of ivory tower academics are numbered, he says.

Still, he took his role on the appointments committee seriously. “My legacy is having added truly great scholars to our faculty,” he says. And some things remain fundamentally unchanged, he observes: “Our students have always been special, wonderful people.”

To view the infographic, click here.