Matt Howe (3L)
From the construction of our new building, to the search for a new Dean, to the first-year curriculum changes, students at U of T’s Faculty of Law are used to things being in transition. The same must be true for the Faculty’s administrative staff, who have been playing occupational “musical chairs” over the past few months. (There were also several staffing changes last year.) Ultra Vires decided to look back at some the moves made by the administration and report on where everyone has landed.
Students learned in August of 2014 that Alexis Archbold (then Assistant Dean, Students) would be leaving the Faculty to take a position as Managing Director of the Commerce Program at the Rotman School of Management. Archbold told Ultra Vires at the time:
I got to a point where I started to feel like I had accomplished almost everything that I really wanted to accomplish here, and it was time for me to move on to the next place where I can apply my creativity and my talent to a new set of circumstances.
The Faculty posted the job opening on LinkedIn.
Nine months later, it was announced that Archbold would be returning to the Faculty of Law to essentially the same position, but with a new title: Assistant Dean, JD Program. The former job title “Assistant Dean, Students,” which had temporarily been filled by Judith McCormack, was discontinued.
When asked why she chose to return, Archbold said that while her experience at Rotman was a positive one, it also “confirmed that the law school is the place that most aligns with my interests and values.”
Her new title does not reflect a change in duties. When asked what inspired the change, Archbold explained that it was meant to “create greater clarity regarding our structure,” noting that in the past many assumed she was either responsible for all students, rather than JD students alone, or that she was only responsible for student services. The true role of the Assistant Dean, JD Program, according to Archbold is to oversee “academic accommodations, requests for leaves of absence, academic support programs, the Aboriginal Law Program, the [Career Development Office (CDO)], financial aid and admissions, student mental health and wellness initiatives, our diversity access programs, and all of our in house public interest program” as well as “student clubs, all other extra-curricular activities, and the [Students’ Law Society].”
Alexis Archbold is one of five Assistant Deans at the law school. Sara Faherty, Assistant Dean, Office of the Associate Deans, is responsible for administrative issues related to the curriculum, including course selection, exams, grades, and combined programs. Archbold stressed that she and Faherty are the two Assistant Deans most directly connected to the JD program.
The other assistant deans are Judith McCormack (Graduate Program), Chantelle Courtney (Advancement Office), and an Assistant Dean, Professional Legal Education. Until recently, this position was temporarily filled by Emily Orchard while Jane Kidner was on a leave of absence. However, Orchard recently returned to her role as Director of the CDO after the abrupt indefinite departure of interim CDO Director Jordana Laporte.
The organization of the associate deans has also recently undergone changes. Having completed a four-year term as Associate Dean, First Year Program, Professor Ben Alarie has returned to full-time research, and the position has been eliminated. The Associate Dean, JD Program which was recently filled by Professor Kerry Rittich is now the only Associate Dean responsible for the JD Program. When asked why the Associate Dean, First Year Program was eliminated, Archbold explained that “the law school decided that there isn’t enough to do in this role now that the review of and improvements to the 1L Program have been completed.”
Perhaps sensing confusion amongst the student body as to administrative staff’s various roles, the Faculty has recently added a page on their website titled “Meet your Student Services Team,” which introduces the staff most relevant to the JD experience, along with a picture and a brief explanation of their duties.