Faculty affairs: Admissions, Dean Iacobucci’s four priorities

Matt Howe (3L)

Attendance was high and the mood seemed optimistic at the first Faculty Council meeting of the academic year, which dealt mainly with the latest admissions report and, in broad strokes, Dean Iacobucci’s priorities for the near future.

Professor Ben Alarie, chair of the Admissions Committee, began by providing an overview of this year’s Admission and Enrollment Report. Alarie stressed the positive aspects, pointing out that applications to U of T Law have gone up for the past three years, in spite of an overall decrease in applications to Ontario law schools.

Alarie also claimed that U of T Law’s yield rate (percentage of students who accept their offer), at around 65%, is the second or third highest among North American law schools. He said he thinks the rate is a function of U of T’s excellent reputation, pointing out that only three students chose Osgoode over U of T, fewer than in past years. He also noted that the plurality of students who rejected U of T’s offer (14) chose Harvard Law School.

Alarie made no mention of the diversity of the 1L class. There are a few interesting data points. For example, the number of Aboriginal students enrolling has decreased over the past three years, from eight in 2013, to five in 2014, to only two this year.

Non-white students make up about 35% of the current 1L class, with “Mixed-Race” and “Asian” the only two listed categories which make up more than 2% of the class. These numbers are consistent with recent years.

Dean Iacobucci spent the remainder of Faculty Council laying out four main priorities which will guide his Deanship in the near future.

First, he wants to “enhance the student experience” through a heightened focus on experiential education—integrating classroom learning with hands on experiences—as well as increased support for students. The Faculty is hiring a “Manager, Academic and Personal Counselling” who will help students navigate the accommodations process and serve as a counsellor to students.

Second, the new Dean wants to strengthen the school’s “partnerships” with local institutions and the global legal community. Iacobucci hopes to enhance our intensive visitor program to attract more scholars, and raised the possibility of an “intersession,” akin to Western and Osgoode. This would mean suspending regular classes for some period in which students would take an intensive course with a visiting lecturer.

Iacobucci’s third priority is to improve the Faculty’s “financial outlook.”  Money is tight at the Faculty, especially with the construction of our new building, and options will be looked at to generate additional revenue.

Iacobucci reiterated that his fundraising efforts will be centered on financial aid. However, he said that a broad campaign will have to wait until funding for the Jackman Law Building is secured. For now, the Faculty will focus on “quieter” ways to fundraise for financial aid while Jackman Hall remains the first priority.

Asked if he had plans to account for the growing gap between tuition and financial aid until the fundraising kicks into high gear—freezing salaries or tuition, for example—Iacobucci said that he has no control over Faculty salaries and would address tuition at the next Faculty Council meeting. (At the next meeting, he announced that tuition would increase 5% again next year, and did not announce any interim measures to reduce the gap.)

Fourth and finally, Iacobucci will strike a committee to respond to the recent Truth and Reconciliation Commission report, which contains a number of “Calls to Action” for law schools and the legal profession. The committee will explore what more the Faculty can do to address these Calls to Action, both within the curriculum and more generally.