Faculty Affairs: Mental Health Action Plan, GPLLM Modification, and Library SNAILS

Shari Nathan (2L) and Amani Rauff (2L)

The first Faculty Council meeting of the Winter term was held on January 18. After opening remarks from Dean Iacobucci, the SLS and GLSA presented updates from their respective constituencies.

SLS President Sarah Bittman (3L) pointed out that, although exams are over, the upcoming stretch of school is often high-stress for both 1Ls and upper years. Both groups are quickly immersed in mooting preparation, tryouts, and recruitment as soon as the semester began.

GLSA President Catherine Dunmore revisited the continuing efforts of the GLSA to encourage a sense of community, and pointed specifically to a number of upcoming social events.

Mental Health & Wellness Committee Interim Report

Professor Anver Emon, who co-chairs the Mental Health & Wellness Committee with Alexis Archbold, presented an interim report from the Committee. He briefly outlined the draft of the Faculty’s new Mental Health & Wellness Strategic Action Plan, specifically noting the significant role that previously solicited feedback played in informing the development of the draft Action Plan. The Committee has scheduled a Town Hall on January 26 to seek additional feedback on the draft Action Plan, so that they can review and address students’ comments and concerns.

GPLLM Program Modifications

Associate Dean of Graduate Studies Mariana Prado tabled a proposal for major modifications to the GPLLM program.

Specifically, the proposal would create three new areas of study: (1) Canadian Law in a Global Context, (2) Innovation, Law, and Technology, and (3) Law of Leadership. The proposed changes intend to evolve the program from its current focus on business law to a more robust multi-disciplinary program. The goal is to produce dynamic graduates acquainted with legal methodology and substance in a global context.

The new concentrations were proposed in response to the purportedly unmet need for graduate legal studies specializing in those areas. The Faculty identified this deficiency in current graduate legal programs through consultation with members of the legal community. Implementation of these modifications include significant curriculum and structural development of the GPLLM. The program was described as an innovation in legal education, providing a unique opportunity to specialize in these areas.

Graduate students raised concerns about the distribution of added revenue from these programs. A portion of the graduate program’s tuition revenue is currently allotted to the JD program. The introduction of the new areas of study would increase the total number of graduate students and resulting revenue. The disbursement of these new funds was not addressed in Associate Dean Prado’s proposal, and the question did not receive a concrete response.

Professor Trudo Lemmens criticized the administration for its lack of consultation with faculty members in the development process. Information about the consultation was disseminated less than a week before the presentation at Faculty Council, arguably an insufficient window for faculty to provide meaningful insight. Prof. Lemmens’ frustration at the abrupt release of a proposal with an already well-developed curriculum and structure was aimed squarely at the Administration’s lack of transparency. Associate Dean Prado conceded that there had been minimal faculty consultation prior to the presentation. However, she said, given that the program modification was only in the initial stages of approval and would undergo subsequent evaluation and review, there would later be adequate opportunity for faculty input.

The proposal was ultimately approved, with Prof. Lemmens abstaining from the vote.

Library Update & Restricting “Students Not Actually in Law School” (SNAILS)

Finally, Interim Chief Law Librarian Gian Medves gave the Council an update on library operations. He reported an increase in library activity, citing significant growth in circulation statistics. Exam operations were also discussed in reference to the Law Library’s ongoing adjustments after joining the Central Library network.

SLS representative Stephanie Lewis (2L) asked for clarification of study room booking policies for law students and other U of T students. During exam season, there was considerable discussion of the presence of non-law UofT students in various areas of the library.

Medves stated that the library was operating under the assumption that the room booking policies were unaffected by its new membership in the Central Library System. He did not explain the details of the policy and what services are exclusive to students at the Faculty of Law. He described study room booking policies which would prioritize or exclusively grant access to law students, but didn’t say whether they have been implemented, directing students instead to the Faculty website. [Note: the Bora Laskin Law Library website states that study rooms may be booked and used only by current students at the Faculty of Law, but it is unclear whether this is enforced or proceeds on a good-faith basis.]