Students say their input is not being taken seriously
The University of Toronto announced the composition of its Advisory Committee for the Appointment of the Dean of the Faculty of Law on Friday. None of the appointees were from among the students selected through the Students’ Law Society’s (SLS) open nomination process.
The Committee will include three students from the Faculty of Law: Aaron Hunt, Natalie Lum-Tai, and Jennifer Raso, an SJD student.
The Provost has the power to appoint the Advisory Committee at her discretion, and was not bound by the results of the SLS’ nomination. Still, many students were disappointed that the university would disregard students’ input into the selection of the Faculty of Law’s new dean.
In a letter to Cheryl Regehr, Vice-President and Provost of the University of Toronto, SLS President Brendan Stevens and Vice-President Peter Flynn expressed their disappointment with the university’s decision to ignore the outcome of the process.
“Not selecting a single one of the SLS’ official nominees – without an accompanying explanation – leaves us feeling that student input has not been, and will not be, taken seriously,” they wrote.
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On March 6th the SLS convened an open-nomination process, whereby student submitted names of classmates they wanted representing them on the Advisory Committee. The Vice-Provost had declined a request from the SLS to delay the appointment of the Advisory Committee so that students would have a chance to hold a proper election.
On March 10th, the SLS announced the results of its open nomination process. Sarah Beamish received the most nominations, followed by Padraigin Murphy and Simon Gooding-Townsend. Lum-Tai also participated, but did not receive enough nominations to crack the top three.
Hunt did not participate in the SLS nomination process, although he had previously expressed an interest in serving on the Advisory Committee when the Provost was soliciting suggestions.
“The students who have been chosen are, to my knowledge, excellent leaders,” said Murphy (1L), who got the second-most nominations. “My concern is that disregard for the student voice at the selection stage of the committee’s work is a red flag for how student input is going to be treated throughout the process.”
“Look, I’m skeptical that the students on this committee are going to have much influence over the dean’s selection, if the admin’s treatment of this vote is any indication,” said Marcus McCann (3L). “And so I would think maintaining the integrity of the SLS at this point is the paramount concern for Natalie and Aaron. We’ll see what they decide to do.”
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Lum-Tai and Hunt both say they were surprised to be appointed to the Committee, given that neither of them were chosen by their fellow students.
Lum-Tai is an SLS Student Affairs and Governance Representative (StAG). She voted in favour of the SLS holding an open nomination, and submitting the winning names to the Provost.
“I am personally disappointed that the process we decided to adopt was not respected insofar as the Provost did not choose any of the three candidates that the SLS officially endorsed,” Lum-Tai said.
Both Lum-Tai and Hunt say they will withdraw from the Advisory Committee if the student body asks them to.
“I would think the way forward would be for the SLS to canvass students and then make a submission to the committee,” said McCann.
“On the other hand, I don’t see how ethically, Natalie – who as a StAG member voted for the SLS election process and then actively campaigned to get herself elected and lost – can sit on that committee without compromising the position of the SLS. Accepting this position would show that when the administration disrespects students, the SLS isn’t going to stand up for them. And so I certainly hope that isn’t the case.”
The SLS Student Affairs and Governance Committee will be meeting after the end of the exam period on April 24th.
Vice-President and Provost Cheryl Regehr did not respond to a request for comment.