Faculty Council: What’s Happened, and What’s Happening

Amani Rauff (2L)

Faculty Council puts on the best-catered meetings at the law school.  They’re also, almost as importantly, the law school’s governing body.

The Council is chaired by the Dean and attended by a mix of faculty, SLS representatives, students, assistant deans, associate deans, assistant deans of associate deans, associate assistant deans, and deans of the associate dean’s office. It is where the sausage (read: law school policy) is made.

Generally, the way this works is that the Dean strikes special and standing committees composed of faculty members and (sometimes) students. These committees then look into issues and make specific recommendations, which are eventually voted on by the Council.

Here’s a quick recap of some of what the Council did last year, and what it will likely address this year:

Truth & Reconciliation Committee

The Truth & Reconciliation Committee was struck last year in response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada report released last summer. A notable part of that report was Call to Action #28, which calls upon law schools in Canada to “require all law students to take a course in Aboriginal people and the law.”

The Committee had not produced a final report by the date of the final Faculty Council of last semester, but was consulting with various involved groups and exploring possibilities. It recommended, for now, that the school try to include more material relating to Aboriginal peoples in the first-year Legal Methods Intensive and ethics curriculum.

This Committee will likely come out with a report or further recommendations sometime this semester.

Report of the Financial Aid Committee

Last year, the Financial Aid Office developed an online financial aid calculator. Relatedly, the Financial Aid Office will no longer be providing provisional financial aid assessments as of this year, but will be providing students with their financial aid assessments earlier than before.

Also this year, the financial aid system will be changed to require new applicants to provide the previous three years of their parents’ tax information (previously, students submitted their parents’ tax information in upper years). This is meant to better reflect the use of parental income “as a proxy for general socioeconomic background” rather than as a representation of the actual amounts of financial assistance that law students receive from their parents.

The Committee agreed that the school should provide annual statistics on the Post-Graduation Debt Relief Program in the Financial Aid Booklet, the Post-Graduation Debt Relief Policy Booklet, and on the Faculty website.

Issues that the Committee decided that they will return to this school year include:

  • Whether the financial aid policy should be revised to include pre-law debts as part of the financial aid calculation;
  • Whether the financial aid policy should be revised to include parental assets in the financial aid calculation; and
  • Whether it is feasible for the law school to act as a guarantor for students who are otherwise ineligible for credit.

Deemed Days

The deemed days or ‘religious holidays’ policy, which is unique to the Faculty of Law, is set to come up for discussion on the Faculty Council Agenda sometime this year. This is the policy that moves some Monday and Wednesdays classes to Fridays, for Thanksgiving, Rosh Hashanah, and Yom Kippur. Last year, some students pointed out that this seems unfair to those from any religious background other than the Christian and Jewish faiths.

For the deemed days policy to be changed for the 2017-18 school year, Faculty Council will have to address it before the sessional dates for next year are finalized in February of 2017.

Report of the Mental Health & Wellness Committee

The Mental Health & Wellness Committee finished its inaugural school year in March 2015 with a report that mainly provided the results of a “listening posture.” The Committee, in its report, states that it reviewed relevant reports and documents, spoke with experts, and solicited views from students through meetings with a Student Advisory Committee and by hosting a town hall.

Select concerns raised by students include: a lack of clarity surrounding evaluation policy in the circumstances of a medical emergency; a lack of clarity regarding grading in 1L small groups; the perceived isolation of graduate students from the rest of the student body; and a lack of faculty awareness of student mental health issues at the school.

The Report states that the Committee “did not have the time or resources, or the mandate, to inquire into the student concerns outlined,” but that the Committee views these concerns as meriting full consideration by the Dean and relevant Faculty Council committees.

Finally, the Committee recommended that Yukimi Henry, the Faculty’s new Manager of Personal/Academic Counselling and Wellness, develop a “comprehensive mental health and wellness strategy and communications plan.” This plan has now been developed and will be considered by the Committee this semester.

Faculty Council meetings are held in the Solarium on Wednesdays from 12:30 to 2:00, and all students may attend. The next one is scheduled for October 5. Meeting minutes and documents are uploaded to E.Legal.

For those who cannot attend, UV will continue to brave the tables of smoked salmon sandwiches and delicious pita with hummus in order to keep our readers in the know.