STL Moved to Online Teaching for New Semester During Covid-19 Outbreak

As the fight against the novel coronavirus epidemic continues, Peking University School of Transnational Law began the new semester with online teaching on March 2nd.

STL courses are offered using both synchronous (students and instructor simultaneously online) and asynchronous instruction (students and instructor not simultaneously online). Some courses combined synchronous and asynchronous instruction. Considering the current situation under Covid-19, online teaching will last for at least the first several weeks of the quarter.

The success of the transition to online teaching  required a level of energy, innovation and cooperation between all the different STL factions: staff, faculty and students. Dean McConnaughay emphasized that the transition would not have been possible were it not for “Dean Pangilinan and his colleagues in Academic Affairs, the efforts of our faculty in reconfiguring their courses to adapt to an online format, and the efforts of all STL students to participate in remote instruction with the same serious engagement characteristic of their participation when classes are taught in person”. The Dean further stated that “our goal is to continue to offer the highest quality J.D. and J.M. educational experience possible despite the challenges presented by Covid-19”.

Professor Campbell, whose current research specially concentrates on the changing nature of the legal services marketplace in light of technological and economic innovations, has long been fascinated by the possibilities of online teaching.

After one-week of experimenting with online teaching, he has flurry of ideas based on his experience. There are both advantages and disadvantages for online teaching, For example, internet could be unstable, especially because students are positioned all cross China, some of them may experience issues with audio quality or dropped connections. “To ameliorate, we are recording all classes, and students can download and listen to any difficult portions at their leisure”, said professor Campbell.

Some advantages become very obvious. “Zoom allows students to ask questions anonymously in the Q&A. This allows students to put things out there without losing face or seeming stupid, and it actually generates way more student commentary and questions than I get in a live class”.

Professor Mao Shaowei is using both synchronous and asynchronous instruction for his Advance Legal Research and Writing Class. Students should listen to his recorded classes before participating in online small group discussions with teaching assistants.  “It’s not easy to keep focused and be diligent in thinking when taking online courses in a totally different study and working environment from the campus. Students should take this challenge as an opportunity, because those qualities online courses require, such as concentrating, self-discipline and self-motivation, are also what a professional lawyer requires”.

For many STL students, this is also a very unique school experience. Xie from Class 2019 said, “professors are currently in different places, Thailand, Washington, and Shenzhen … especially for those in the United States, we have 13-hour time difference. When they deliver day-time classes for us, it could be late nights for them. However, professors never stop trying their best to give the most high-quality classes despite all those difficulties. Although it is online teaching, some professors still adhere to Socratic teaching and cold call students.”

All in all, the school’s administration along with its faculty and, of course, the students are all doing to their best to cope with this unpredictable environment created by the incursion of Covid-19 and everyone is determined to turn it into a fulfilling educational experience.

Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Vermont Geoffrey W. Crawford Visits STL

In October 2019, Chief Judge Geoffrey W. Crawford was invited to deliver a lecture and hold a discussion at STL. Judge Crawford used to be a partner at O’Neil, Crawford & Green law firm. In 2014, he was nominated by President Obama as the Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Vermont. He has a close relationship with STL.

On October 10th, Judge Crawford delivered the lecture on Marbury v. Madison and the Judicial Review. The lecture was moderated by Dean Philip McConnaughay and was attended by STL students and faculty.

Judge Crawford launched the lecture by providing the historical context of Marbury v. Madison—the fourth presidential election in America. President John Adams appointed nearly 60 “midnight judges” on the last day of his presidency. However, James Madison, the Secretary of State refused to deliver the commission letters for many of these judges, without which the appointment would not have officially been concluded. Marbury was one of the appointed judges who never received their official commission. Consequently, Marbury sued Madison before the Supreme Court of the United States by filing a writ of Mandamus to compel the delivery of his commission.

Judge Crawford then discussed how Judge John Marshall approached this case wisely. Judge Marshall first affirmed that Marbury was indeed entitled to the commission, that the Secretary of State’s conduct can be sued, and that Mandamus would be the correct remedy. However, he dismissed Marbury’s claim on the ground that the Constitution did not authorize original jurisdiction to the Supreme Court of the United States in issuing Mandamus. The Judiciary Act of 1789, which authorized the original jurisdiction, was unconstitutional. With that, Marshall’s holding established the US Supreme Court’s power of judicial review.

By way of comparison, Judge Crawford then analyzed the judicial review system in China and the UK. In China, the court does not have the power of judicial review. Instead, power to correct governmental action that violates the constitutional norms is vested to the National People’s Congress Standing Committee. In the UK, under the principle of “Parliamentary Sovereignty,” the courts have authority to determine whether an administrative act is against parliament, but they generally do not have the power to strike down a legislation directly. As an example to demonstrate the scope of the courts’ jurisdiction, Judge Crawford discussed the recent R (Miller) v. Prime Minister case, where the UK Supreme Court struck down the Prime Minister’s prorogation of Parliament. Finally, Judge Crawfordrevisited the issue of judicial review in the US by sharing his own experience as a judge engaging in judicial review.

The lecture concluded with a Q & A session where Judge Crawford gave patient and detailed answers to the questions posed from the students and faculty. The questions ranged from the personal to the professional. On one end, for example, when asked about how to determine whether a law is good or bad, Judge Crawford said that he would adopt an economic analysis. On the other end, when asked about his transition from an appellate court judge to a trial court judge, he said that his personality contributed to the transition because the trial court was more fun.

The students and faculty were impressed by Judge Crawford’s excellent, informative and humorous lecture. Chen Xin, a 1L student, said, “I’m grateful for the first-hand experiences Judge Crawford showed us. His explanation of different ways of legal interpretation is also illuminating.” Guo Qianru, a 2L student, expressed her feelings after joining in the discussion, “Judge Crawford and Professor Campbell shared with us their very interesting work experience and touching life stories. Judge Crawford said that personality matters when choosing a future job.”

All in all, the lecture was deemed to be a memorable one that left a deep impression on students.

STL LL.M. Graduate Awarded 2019 PKU International Students Academic Award

The review of the Peking University Academic Award for 2019 was finished last December and Marius Stucki, an LL.M graduate from STL, was recognized as one of its recipients. The award was accorded to a total of 12 PKU students, two of which were law students. PKU International Students Academic Award is offered by Peking University to international students at PKU who are not only outstanding in virtue but also in their academic field. Marius Stucki is the first student of PKUSZ to receive this award.

Marius Stucki pursued his bachelor, master and Ph.D. degrees at the Universities of Bern and Geneva. During his time as a law student and as an intern in different areas of the Swiss judicial system, he became aware of the growing importance of Swiss-Chinese business relations in recent years. At the same time, he developed an interest in better understanding the Chinese perspective on cultural, political and economic issues.

In 2017, his increasing curiosity toward China led him to attend a language summer school at the University of Wuhan. Later in the same year, he applied to STL’s LL.M program and was admitted.

Talking about his life at STL, Marius says that “what I liked a lot about my classes at STL is the fact that we were always foreign and Chinese students together. This led to interesting discussions in and outside the classroom, particularly in the classes on western or Chinese legal theory. It was also quite an experience to see first-hand the discipline and dedication of many Chinese students, but also the pressure many are under to perform well.”

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His two-year time studying at STL also gave him more insight into non-academic aspects of China: “Outside the classroom, some of my fondest memories are the language exchanges with fellow Chinese students. In those meetings, we would talk casually in English and (very basic) Chinese about whatever came to mind. Through the talks, I got to know my classmates and China a lot better, with memorable insights into traditional Chinese medicine, the origin of Chinese characters, the most recent TV dramas and so on. It was a huge pleasure to discuss all the small similarities and differences between everyday life in our countries for hours and hours and, through that, to find what will hopefully be long lasting friendships.”

In March, 2020, Marius started working on the China Desk of Altenburger Ltd legal + tax, a Swiss law firm. “Working as a lawyer on China-related matters, I frequently use what I learned at STL, including the structure of China’s legal system, rules on foreign investment or contract drafting”. Asked on his wishes for the development of STL, he states that “for future years, I’m hoping that STL can provide more support to foreign students who, during or after finishing the program, also wish to get some practical legal experience within China.” “Overall,” he says, “I’m hugely grateful for the experience”.

Interview with Professor Ray Campbell about Online Teaching

As coronavirus spreads across the world, many universities, including Harvard and Yale, have shifted to online classes. For China, the pandemic seems to have triggered great development in online teaching with so many educational institutions, from primary school to top universities, moving to online classes in the spring semester.

Peking University School of Transnational Law (STL) has conducted remote teaching for more than two weeks with class beginning on March 2. For the majority of STL students, taking online classes at home instead of their traditional onsite classes where they get to talk to professor and classmates face-to-face is certainly unusual. Online classes may bring more flexibility, but there are lots of challenges for STL with regards to time differences and bandwidth.

On 10th March, 2020, STL Office of Communications interviewed Professor Ray Campbell about his experience and comments on remote teaching. Professor Campbell teaches Civil Procedure as well as Law and innovation this quarter. Recently he wrote a blog about online teaching experiences called “The Faculty Lounge”, which attracted wide attention and was shared by the American Association of Law Schools.

1. How is your online-teaching experience so far?

It has been really great. It’s really kind of amazing that technologically the platform exists and students in China can be expected to have good enough bandwidth. All pretty amazing.

2. I know currently you are in South Asian countries and cannot come back to Shenzhen due to the pandemic, what difficulties are you facing teaching online while traveling?

This week in order to renew my Thai visa I took a side trip to Luang Prabang in Laos, where the internet just isn’t robust enough for online teaching. To deal with that, I went asynchronous for one class, recording a lecture before I came over. Students are also differently positioned, and some students experience issues with audio quality or dropped connections. To ameliorate, we are recording all classes, and students can download and listen to any difficult portions at their leisure.

3. You mentioned in your article about library reserve not available, is this problem being solved?

The library has done a good job and is being helpful.

We have the school invest and pay for books in the library that students can take for any classes, so they don’t have to buy casebook. The library has resources that are normally only available under our license if you are on campus. Some of the databases are not supposed to be accessed away from campus and that requires some adjustment. Our library staff work hard to solve the problem and now we can access them from anywhere in the world, which allows us to research easier and assign things to students.

4. STL adapts Socratic teaching method in J.D. classes. One concern about online teaching is whether STL ’s educational philosophies will still be well-practiced. Do you find any difficulties in terms of this aspect?

I think it works pretty well that way. I’ve been really pleasantly surprised at how well it works. For example, in Civil Procedure class, I am teaching a lot of students. I am doing it through a webinar, so I don’t have to teach the same class twice. And I notify a group of students in advance that they will be on call, so they can make sure they have good bandwidth and microphones. But I don’t tell them what questions they will be called on. When students get the question, their camera goes on, they answer the question and I can do follow-up questions. So the same Socratic method they will get in the classroom, I can do that very similarly.

5. You mentioned in another podcast that STL is the future of Law, what lessons you think STL as a law school can learn from this experience?

STL is doing a very different thing, there is no other law school that teaches two legal systems as different as the Chinese legal system and the American legal system and expects students to come out knowing both languages and both legal traditions.

Now we have experienced this online dimension and I am hoping that we will be able to continue to use some of these online platforms in figuring out how to bring out some of their capabilities to physical class rooms with monitors and so forth. For example, in my Law and Innovation class, I am setting up guest speakers to come in and talk on topics where they are really highly-expert. That’s something I think we can do a lot more. I think we can expand what we can pull in to the classroom and we can expand the ways with which we can enrich the students’ experience.

6. Any comments about STL’s performance facing this outbreak?

I think school support is very good. Dean Pangilinan obviously has put a lot of time and efforts, trying to figure out the best solution. The library has been helpful, they work hard to make sure that resources for students and faculties are available. And students are being great. We are all going through a hard time right now. They are locked in their apartment basically, away from their friends, but they have been really great.

7. It is the first time ever that online-teaching is implemented university-wide. It is inevitable that we meet some challenges. As a professor and also as one of the faculty that joined STL for more than 10 years, do you think there is anything that STL can do better?

I think we can do a better job bringing the faculty together, having a couple of faculty meetings through this technology so we see each other and talk to each other. But other than that, I think the school is great. Everyone has been really busy, it’s been really challenging for the Dean, really challenging for the associate deans and for the library and everyone else. But it would be good to try to maintain a sense of community as much as we can.

8. Lastly, we know that this online-teaching situation may continue at least for the coming several weeks, do you have any advice for our students?

Firstly, I would say to maintain a positive attitude, it’s not easy being at home, but I would use the opportunity to study harder. Also, there is technology we use for classes, maybe we can get four or five of our friends, have a study group using the meeting software. We can get together for 40 minutes and talk through tomorrow’s class and be ready for it.

One of the things that are difficult right now, for faculty and students, is that people are isolated, they are living in their apartment, they are not going out a lot, the software may also be something we can use to maintain those important social connections.

STL Professor Minas Participates Virtually in EU-China Climate Justice Workshop

In March 2020, STL Assistant Professor Stephen Minas participated in an international workshop on the topic of ‘The EU and China in the Climate Regime: Exploring Different Pathways towards Climate Justice’. The workshop was hosted by the adelphi think-tank, GLOBUS (a Horizon 2020-funded project on ‘reconsidering European contributions to global justice’) and the University of Tübingen. While the multidisciplinary workshop was held in Berlin, Dr. Minas and other presenters participated remotely, due to the pandemic.

The workshop sessions focused on climate justice and China; global climate justice in between the EU and China; civil society perspectives on EU and China in the international climate regime; and foreign policy perspectives. The workshop participants included scholars and practitioners based in both Europe and China.

In his presentation, Dr. Minas addressed the issue of financing climate justice in the EU and China, and introduced recent and ongoing developments in sustainable finance law in both jurisdictions, including the proposed European Green Deal legislation and China’s ‘Green Financial System’ guidelines. STL student Loftus Zhang provided helpful research assistance.

Speaking after the workshop, Dr. Minas stated: ‘This workshop highlighted the complex interactions between EU and Chinese policymaking and the prospects for a just transition to the climate-neutral economy that the world needs. Thanks to the organisers for making remote participation possible. It’s not business as usual, but collaboration and dialogue on the great challenges of our time continue, as they must.’

Professor Nitzan Shilon Releases New Research on Stock Buybacks as an Executive Compensation Problem

STL associate professor Nitzan Shilon’s article “Stock Buybacks as an Executive Compensation Problem” was recently released and made SSRN top ten download list for “executive compensation and corporate governance”. This paper is the first academic endeavor to systematically analyze the overall ability of stock buybacks to enhance executive compensation. It reveals that buybacks can not only artificially improve accounting measures and annual bonuses, as current literature analyzes, but also stock price measures and long term incentive awards. Based on a comprehensive study of all CEOs included in the S&P 500 index the article reports that stock buybacks can enhance a record high amount that equals almost one third of total CEO compensation. It further discusses the incentives it creates for executives to conduct buybacks excessively and manipulatively, and proposes a novel remedy that would make executive composition protected from undue impact of stock buybacks.

Professor Shilon presented his research in the Canadian Law & Economics Annual Conference, Canada; Free University, Berlin and Tel Aviv University, Israel.

Professor Francis Snyder Received Interview from Peking University on Covid-19 Outbreak

In February 2020, STL C.V. Starr Professor of Law Francis Snyder received interview from Office of International Relations at Peking University regarding the novel coronavirus outbreak. In the interview, professor Snyder shared his experience during the pandemic. At the same time, he gave some professional advices from the standpoint of a professor specializing in international law and in regulation of food safety and of public health. Following is part of this interview:

1. Can you make a brief introduction about yourself?

I am Francis Snyder. I serve as C.V. Starr Professor of Law and EU Jean Monnet Chair at Peking University School of Transnational Law, Peking University Shenzhen Graduate School. I teach WTO Law, EU Law and Food Safety Law. My research areas are EU-China relations; EU and China’s Belt and Road Initiative; standardization and technical standards; international, Chinese and EU food safety law; public health law including pesticide residues and pesticide regulation.

2. What drives you to work for Peking University?

Outstanding faculty and students, international reputation, outstanding opportunities for teaching and research.

3. Can you share with us some of your memorable experiences at Peking University prior to the novel coronavirus outbreak?

Receiving the honors of China Friendship Award 2018 and Peking University Friendship Award 2018. Working with outstanding students on innovative research projects. Working with faculty and staff at PKU School of Transnational Law.

4. In face of the epidemic, how did you spend your winter holiday/Lunar New Year in 2020? How was it different from the same period of time in previous years?

Yes, very different from previous years. Currently I am in Europe for lectures and meetings. Some engagements were cancelled due to the epidemic.

5. To what extent does the epidemic affect your work and daily life? How do you cope with the inconvenience?

Some previous engagements in Europe had to be cancelled. Otherwise I am able to continue my research and contacts with research assistants in China via Internet. The next months are uncertain, so it is important to remain calm and be patient.

6. Will you return to China and resume your work at Peking University when the epidemic ends?

I am looking forward to returning to China and resuming my work at Peking University. I am deeply committed to Peking University and China and it is my pleasure and honor to teach and do research there.

7. What’s your view on e-learning? Is it an effective move in times of the novel coronavirus outbreak? Is it challenging for you to teach online?

E-learning is a very good solution to the current crisis. It should also be encouraged as part (but not all) of regular teaching activities. I am not teaching this quarter so I have not made preparations for teaching online. However, I am in constant contact with my research assistants, who are scattered in different places in China, and so far this has worked effectively. I think students can adapt to online education, and in fact the experience should help us learn more about face-to-face teaching as well as how to make online education more effective in the future, in case it is necessary for example for guest professors or other circumstances.

8. What else do you want to share with us regarding the novel coronavirus outbreak?

From the standpoint of a professor specializing in international law and in regulation of food safety and of public health, there seem to be at least three lessons we can take away from this outbreak.

First, more medical research and other scientific research and more public education are needed on possible connections between bats, wild animals and human beings.  Much has been done, but not enough. Universities, schools, media, market participants, and all social organizations can play an important role here. They can contribute to our capacity to identify and analyze these risks.

Second, we need stricter legal and non-legal (soft law) regulation of food production and distribution and other public facilities, such as markets. This must include products which potentially may serve as both food and for medical purposes. The outbreak teaches us that it is necessary to control food markets strictly, for example separating wild animals from regular food products and imposing severe sanctions of breaches of key food safety rules. This involves legislation and administrative regulations concerning food safety, food quality and public health, but it goes much farther, including non-legally-binding codes of conduct, basic rules of business practice and even public morals and sense of responsibility for others.

Third, the outbreak also teaches us the importance of appropriate transparency in the management and communication of public health crises. This is a difficult, complex and sensitive issue which now will certainly be given more consideration throughout the world. It requires agreed standards, which ideally should be agreed voluntarily by consensus in relevant regional and international standards-setting bodies. China is a leader in making national and international standards, for example in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), International Organization for Standardization (ISO), and many other standards bodies. It may be suggested that China, including PKU, should also take the lead in developing new standards to deal with future threats to public health, such as Covid-19. The analysis of risks includes the assessment of risks, the management of risks, and the communication of risks. China has an invaluable leading role to play in these important fields.

Professor Nitzan Shilon Publishes an Op-Ed in Agenda

In February 2020, Professor Nitzan Shilon published an Op-Ed in Agenda, a Financial Times’ boardroom resource. The article is entitled “The Pay Incentives That Failed Boeing’s CEO”. In his article, professor Shilon analyzes the pay incentives that the directors provided for Boeing’s CEO and how that may have contributed to the 737 Max crisis.

According to the piece, Boeing’s board members tried to restore confidence amid the 737 Max crisis by firing the chief executive Dennis Muilenburg. However, “they missed one big contributor to their crisis: the pay incentives they provided to the CEO they fired”. Professor Shilon argues that “the change Boeing directors made in 2017 to Muilenburg’s pay arrangement motivated him to cut corners, overlook safety concerns, and boost the immediate bottom line at all costs”.

Professor Shilon also analyzes how that decision damaged Boeing’s business concluding that “for Boeing, these incentives contributed to airplane accidents. For the U.S. economy, they can lead to a systemic crash”.

Agenda is a boardroom resource platform that gives subscribers an in-depth look into the most relevant issues hitting corporate boardrooms across the country and it provides the most influential source of intelligence for today’s corporate directors.

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Peking University School of Transnational Law

Room 410, School of Transnational Law
Peking University Shenzhen Graduate School,
University Town, Xili, Nanshan District,
Shenzhen, China 518055