Overall Rating Silver
Overall Score 54.99
Liaison Denice Koljonen
Submission Date Feb. 6, 2019
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.1

Boston College
IN-27: Innovation D

Status Score Responsible Party
1.00 / 1.00 Jennifer Foley
Project Manager
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Name or title of the innovative policy, practice, program, or outcome:
The BC Environmental Law-Teaching Seminar Program

A brief description of the innovative policy, practice, program, or outcome that outlines how credit criteria are met and any positive measurable outcomes associated with the innovation:

Every year since 1991 Boston College Law School has implemented a program unique in the United States, and perhaps in the world, where senior law students are trained and then assigned in pairs, to teach a sophisticated law course—Environmental Law & Policy—to undergraduate students in the University curriculum. It is offered as both a University course and as a core course in the Environmental Studies program.

The program has provided an intensive three-credit law course in the mechanics
and doctrines of modern environmental law, and more generally the legal process itself, to more than 4500 Boston College undergraduate students (and a small number of graduate students).

The teachers now number more than 200 program alumni scattered around the nation and abroad. Through a very thorough and selective process, teachers are drawn from Boston College Law School, as well as Harvard (Harvard Law and Kennedy School) and Boston University Law School through a special agreement that allows students from each of the schools to receive credit. The selected teachers receive intensive training through the Fall up until the course starts in January. The teaching is 75-minute classes twice a week for 14 weeks, with video filming of classes and weekly teaching-cohort seminar sessions. The paired instructors are not “teaching assistants,” they are in effect the course’s “professors.” They design each section’s syllabus and all exercises and exams, doing all teaching and grading themselves. They hold weekly office hours, and often write recommendations and provide tutoring and counseling.

Every section of the environmental law course is different, designed by the section’s two paired teachers to emphasize themes and particular statutes according to their own experience and interests. Over the years various course sections have been designed with organizing themes focused upon science-in-law, legislative taxonomies, citizen enforcement, resource economics, law and economics, social justice and ethics, political realities, litigation strategies, and sustainability.

All course syllabi are required to give students a practical working
understanding of common law torts, which have formed the early basis of environmental law and provide a fundamental understanding of how legal mechanisms in courts and agencies receive and process the complicated facts of real life that are brought into legal process. All sections must also explore the elements of court trials and agency law enforcement, and go deeply into at least one statutory-regulatory system (most often chosen: clean air, clean water, or toxics), with taxonomic comparisons with at least four other statutory-regulatory systems. International environmental protection law is not mandatory but is typically at least a day’s unit in each section.

Environmental law offers a broad scope of relevant material. (The First
Law of Ecology holds that “Everything Is Connected to Everything Else.”) An
environmental law course can include subject matter from pollution and nuclear issues to parks, wildlife, urban lead poisoning, racial and demographic environmental injustices, wetlands, and of course climate—but the field also covers virtually the entire legal spectrum, from the tort law of neighbors and other common law remedies to statutory, regulatory, and constitutional issues of every shape and size in public and private law, ranging into the global law sphere, and beyond into space law, with process lessons in litigation and regulatory techniques as they apply in environmental protection controversies.

This environmental law course is generally regarded by its undergraduate students as demanding but rewarding. Sections are often over-subscribed and closed, and every year one or more students report (anonymously) that it was “the best course I’ve taken,” in part no doubt, to the energy and interest invested in their teaching by the teachers, in addition to the engaging importance of the subject matter.

Which of the following impact areas does the innovation most closely relate to? (select up to three):
Campus Engagement

A letter of affirmation from an individual with relevant expertise or a press release or publication featuring the innovation :

The website URL where information about the programs or initiatives is available:
Additional documentation to support the submission:

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