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Justin Quaintance

U of C law students raise concerns over other faculties using library

By Scott Strasser, November 17 2015 —

There’s a problem with SNAILS in the Bennett Jones Law Library in Murray Fraser Hall — but not the kind you’re probably thinking of.

According to Students’ Union law representative Mark Shearer, some University of Calgary law students have recently complained about a high number of “Students Not Actually In Law School” (SNAILS) studying in the Bennett Jones library.

In Canada and the United States, “SNAILS” is a popular term used by law students to describe non-law students.

“It’s kind of an unfortunate term but the acronym seems to work quite well,” Shearer said.

Shearer first brought up the SNAILS problem at Students’ Legislative Council on Nov. 1. He said multiple law students have raised the issue.

“Since my first year it’s been a very common complaint among law students, it seems to be a unifying thing in law school,” Shearer said. “For the students who study in the law library, it’s a big issue for them.”

Shearer said the main gripe isn’t that non-law students are studying in the Bennett Jones library, but that study space in general is at a premium — perhaps due to a 3.3 per cent increase in undergraduate student enrolment at the U of C this year. 

“Everyone understands it’s a public space. It’s a big library and students need a place to study,” he said. “I think this year it feels space is way more limited. I went to TFDL once and I had never seen it like that before.”

With the demanding exam and class schedule of a law degree, Shearer said many law students feel it’s important to have study space available near their classrooms.

Third-year law student Yasmine Al-Zaman said she witnessed a recent incident in the Bennett Jones library that may highlight why law students complain about SNAILS.

“There were about five students, I’m sure they were from an undergraduate program on the main floor of the law library,” Al-Zaman said. “They were socializing, laughing a lot and not really reading or discussing course material. They were being very inconsiderate of how loud they were being and didn’t seem to care that there were a lot of people giving them looks.”

Al-Zaman said she doesn’t think the Bennett Jones Law Library should be exclusively for law students, but said it would be nice if it was prioritized for them, as it’s located in the faculty’s building.

“But I’m also against discrimination in general, so I’m torn,” she said.

The SU last performed a study space audit in 2013. The audit recognized the law library as a viable study area, with a quiet, bright location and 150 study spaces.

At 3:00 p.m. on Nov. 16, the Gauntlet performed an anonymous random survey in the Bennett Jones Law Library, asking students which faculty they were in. Out of 40 respondents, 17 said they were law students, while 23 said they were enrolled in another faculty.

“It has good size tables in the basement and it’s silent, so it’s perfect for studying in,” fifth-year business student Dominic Russo said.

Our survey asked 20 students on the lowest floor and 20 on the second floor mezzanine, which is reserved for law students. The majority of students on the bottom floor were not in law.

The most common non-law faculty was business.


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