Jackman Law Building: Moving On Up

by Shari Nathan (2L)

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Finally, the doors have opened at the Jackman Law Building. You’ve had classes in new lecture halls, visited the newly unified Student Services Hub, and probably picked your favourite sponsorship. Stikeman Elliott LLP Locker Room, I’m looking at you.

While there are a number of valid criticisms of the new space, the building does boast a lot of great features.

The J wing of Jackman was all part of the new build, while the Pavilion merely underwent renovation, as is observable by the appearance of J classrooms in comparison to P classrooms. J wing classrooms all feature entry at the front of the room rather than the back, so students with disabilities can sit at the front. These classrooms are also equipped with height-changeable desks in the front row to accommodate wheelchairs and other mobility aids. Furthermore, the AV systems in these rooms have a feature in place for hearing-impaired students, although its use is contingent on professors using the mics located at the podiums.

The new building also features twelve single-stall washrooms which are gender-neutral and wheelchair-accessible. While none of these washrooms are in the basement, which contains the majority of classrooms in the new building, they can be found in the library, moot court area, and faculty wings. Most of these washrooms meet the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) standards. The washroom located in the moot court area abides by the higher Facilities Accessibility Design Standards (FADS). FADS includes guidelines for the inclusion of an adult-sized change table, a larger space, and more room around toilets to accommodate a lift, if needed.

The Aboriginal Law Students’ Association Office, in P327A, has been retrofitted with adequate ventilation systems so that it may be used as a smudging room, which is a unique feature on the wider University of Toronto campus. Access can be requested from the Co-Presidents of the Aboriginal Law Students’ Association.

In addition, the building features a multi-faith room in the basement of Flavelle, which the faculty intends to furnish for use for silent meditation or prayer. This room is also located next to a shower room for those students who require it for ablution. Although currently unlocked, it is likely that it will later be limited to students who request access for religious reasons.

There are at least two faculty showers in the new building, on the third and fourth floors in the faculty office hallways. You may not have stumbled across them because they are both labelled as bathrooms, and the third floor shower has an “Out of Order” sign on the door, despite working fine.

The aesthetics of the building have been a point of concern for students. Several students remarked that while the building is beautiful, it could use some colour or artwork on the walls to make it feel more welcoming. This issue is already in the process of being resolved; walkthroughs of the building to select and determine locations for pieces have already taken place. Indeed, some works have already been installed on the third floor and in the library.

There are also a number of features that, according to Assistant Dean Alexis Archbold, should be completed by the end of October and that will hopefully quell some of the current student concerns. Between thirty and forty bike racks are to be added outside the north-facing wall of the Bora Laskin Law Library. The lift currently under construction to connect the basement of the Jackman building to the basement of Flavelle should also be completed. The currently amusing, but increasingly infuriating, empty space labelled “Goodmans LLP Café” should be a completed café by the end of October.

Despite all of these great elements, there are several things that might give students pause. High up on that list, if not the entire content of it, is the clear lack of priority given to student life and space in the building students have waited for since 2013.

The two conceivably “social” spaces for students—the kitchen and lounge—are both located in the old side of the building and have serious deficiencies. The student kitchen is small and inaccessible, and sits immediately below the student lounge in the Rowell Room. This lounge is a beautiful space, but it is also incredibly open due to the sheer volume of windows and perpetually open sets of double doors.  This makes the room temperature very difficult to control—it is often noticeably colder than the Norton Rose Fulbright Canada LLP Lobby and the rest of the building, and we’re only in September.  In addition, this lack of privacy may not be suitable for the type of socializing that promotes honest student engagement. The risk of faculty, admin, and visiting lawyers, judges, and professionals walking by and overhearing your impassioned debate about which professor reminds you most of Lord Voldemort is all too real.

The green space, which is helpfully indicated on the maps of the new building, is completely inaccessible. I do not mean that it has three stairs in front of it; I mean that there is no way to get out onto it. According to Alexis Archbold, its purpose is to regulate the temperature of the building and irrigate the landscaping below. These are great, environmentally-friendly pursuits, but the lack of access is somewhat disappointing.

Furthermore, there are several pending repairs that require attention. There is a large pane of broken glass above the doorway of the Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP Lobby, an exposed outlet in the first floor women’s washroom, and many broken or missing tactile indicators at the top of several different flights of stairs.

Physical issues aside, the atmosphere of the new building is markedly different than it was before the law school had a unified space. In the words of Chantal Ma (2L), “We were a bit scattered last year. It’s amazing having everyone under one roof! I run into people I know so much more often!”  The social benefits of having one building are clear given the amount of time that many students are now spending at the Faculty.

As with any new build, there are a certain number of flaws are to be expected during our transition into the new building.  One hopes that as the space is lived in, components are finished, and repairs are completed, most of these issues will be dealt with.

If you have questions, comments, or input on the new building, email SLS at jackmanlawbuilding@gmail.com, or let the Faculty know by tweeting with the hashtag #JLB.