Brett Hughes (3L)
Hello and welcome, or welcome back, to law school! By now, you have probably finalised your extracurriculars and course selection, and started to settle into a routine. I hope that reading, and contributing to, Ultra Vires becomes a part of that routine. We will continue to work hard every month to keep you informed about the goings-on at the Faculty, foster discussion on a diverse range of issues, bring you interesting interviews and long-form pieces, and make you laugh.
So what’s on Ultra Vires’ radar for this year?
Ed Iacobucci is beginning his first full academic year as Dean, having started his term in January, 2015. Iacobucci initially emphasised that he wished to consult a variety of stakeholders before setting out specific goals and plans for his mandate. With eight months under his belt, we are now hoping to see some specifics.
Ultra Vires will, of course, continue to focus on tuition and financial aid. The Faculty of Law has been increasing tuition at the maximum legally allowable amount each year—currently 5% over the prior year—for over a decade, and seems intent on continuing to do so. It has also failed utterly at ensuring that financial aid keeps pace. Tuition increased 90% from 2004-2005 to 2014-2015, while total financial aid funds increased only 30%. Dean Iacobucci’s plan is to fundraise our way out of this mess. What will that look like? Will he sell naming rights to the Faculty, like UBC’s “Allard Hall” law school? You can expect Ultra Vires to provide some background and context for how we got here, coverage of new developments, and a range of views on what we should do about it.
Diversity. The legal profession is notoriously unrepresentative of the populations it is meant to serve, and the U of T Faculty of Law is especially bad on this front. Alexis Archbold (Assistant Dean, JD Program) greeted first-year students at orientation week with the almost farcical assertion that the Class of 2018 contains one of the most diverse groups of students one could meet in terms of “backgrounds, experiences, and identities.” Although the Faculty has a large number of visible minority students overall, several groups remain underrepresented, and socioeconomic diversity ranges primarily from upper-middle class to upper class.
We will also make sure to follow the activities of your Students’ Law Society (SLS). The SLS plays an important role in the student experience, advocating to the administration on your behalf, participating in Faculty Council committees—e.g. financial aid, curriculum—and leading community-building initiatives. We will endeavor to keep them accountable.
Relatedly, following the recent SLS first-year representative elections, your SLS now has a Student Affairs and Governance (StAG) team comprised of nine men and three women—one for each year. The SLS President and VP StAG are also men. Nine out of ten of our Faculty’s deans have been men, including the current Dean (and there is no indication that any women were seriously considered for the position). Precedent Magazine recently reported that “second-year male lawyers make $5,500 more than their female counterparts.” At the same time, Precedent tells us “It’s never been better to be a woman in the law.” Let’s all see if we can find something new and meaningful to say about this.
This list barely scratches the surface; we will certainly cover much, much more. These are just some of the issues that have been on my mind lately, but this paper is for you, dear reader. I encourage you to write for us, send us story ideas, and contribute in other ways (photography, statistics, and more). Until then, allow me to conclude by endorsing Rona Ghanbari’s sage advice in this month’s Opinion section: You Do You, Boo.