Law Students’ Association maintains UAlberta Law’s close-knit spirit despite remote learning

President Tony Basu planning creative social events, more 1L mentorship

Helen Metella - 27 August 2020

Every student at the Faculty of Law knows that campus life in the fall of 2020 will be different than last year due to remote learning, but not everyone knows how hard the Law Students’ Association is working to close the gaps that social distancing has created.

“I won’t lie, it’s not going to look the same,” said Tony Basu, the LSA’s president for 2020-21. “But our core message hasn’t changed — we’re all friends here, and we’re going to have fun.”

Ensuring that every student, and in particular the incoming 1Ls, experiences the camaraderie of law school and the supportive spirit that UAlberta Law is renowned for is of paramount importance to Basu.

“As much as I value the legal credentials I’ll receive when I graduate, it’s the friendships I’ve made that are the real defining factor for me,” he said. “Everyone really is collegial and I think the LSA plays a central role in perpetuating that.”

The association is responsible for several prongs of student life: welcoming 1L students, staging social events and intramural sports, providing services that assist with studying, and advocating on behalf of students. This year, delivering on each of those responsibilities demands creative problem-solving and some new focus.

“Right now, we’re trying to provide as many options for students to meet each other as possible, and to make sure that 1Ls feel safe and comfortable and don’t feel alone,” said Basu.

Although typical events, such as the Orientation barbecue, sharing drinks at a bar and even the drop-in distribution of Faculty swag can’t take place as normal, the LSA isn’t abandoning any of them.

While planning is still underway, the executive team is hoping to produce some safely distanced in-person gatherings, such as the beloved El Hacko golf tournament in September and outdoor FABS (Friday Afternoon Beer Socials). It also hopes to mail out “LSA care bags” containing swag.

For 1Ls, Basu and the LSA are making sure that 100 per cent of the incoming students are enrolled in the LSA mentorship program, which matches students with both an upper-year student and an instructor.

Basu is also intent on making more robust the bedrock LSA services, which include CANS (Condensed Annotated Notes, written and donated by students for every course) and the PASS sessions that help students prepare for exams.

“PASS sessions are essentially pre-finals meetings where people can learn about what their professors are like and what kinds of exams they hand out,” said Basu. “We’re looking at expanding the sessions, so they’re more of a regular thing throughout the semester.”

With the entire university currently involved in an academic restructuring that will reduce the number of overall Faculties by next spring, Basu is also working closely with Dean Barbara Billingsley to formulate law student responses to any proposed changes.

At age 24 Basu already has a background that has prepared him for the unique demands of leadership in 2020.

With experience as both a stand-up comedian and a debater under his belt, he’s accustomed to expressing himself memorably. Last spring, as a vice-president of the LSA when COVID-19 suddenly shut everything down he learned not to freeze with indecision but to adapt and carry on. Previously, as a vice-president of Business Students’ Association when he was an undergraduate in the Alberta School of Business, he learned the value of collaboration.

“My philosophy is that we’re friends first. To deliver any of your priorities you have to accept feedback and constructive criticism, consult others on the team, and communicate effectively. If you’re friends with all the people in the room, it’s easier to do that.”