Honghu Wang (1L)
Winter Intersession Unveiled
Assistant Dean Kerry Rittich unveiled plans to release the Curriculum Committee’s proposal for the Winter Intersession. While a report was not available in time for the Faculty Council meeting, the full recommendation has since been released [see “Students Give Feedback on Proposed Intersession Ahead of January Vote”].
Students’ Law Society (SLS) President Katie Longo expressed concern that there would be inadequate time for student consultation, given the proposal was released in late November, before exams, and voting has been scheduled for mid-January. She was worried that the decision was being made unilaterally. She claimed that the SLS had been operating under the assumption that concrete proposals would first have been made available for student consultation before the final proposal went before Faculty Council.
Dean Ed Iacobucci seemed unfazed that there would be inadequate time for student consultation. Rather, he was concerned that if a vote were not scheduled in January, changes to the program could not be made in time for the 2018–19 academic year. He reiterated that the decision was ultimately Faculty Council’s to make.
SLS President Longo, when reached for comment, provided:
The SLS has two priorities in navigating the possible implementation of an intersession. First, that students are properly informed about this matter and have their opinions taken into account and, second, that a fair and transparent process is undertaken by the Committee and Faculty Council.
To those ends, we have been sharing all information that we have received respecting the potential intersession and are available for students’ comments, questions, and concerns. Shaun Parsons, Jamie Parker, and Brendan Cassidy are the SLS members on the Curriculum Committee and will be ensuring that student opinions are given voice at Committee meetings. We will be hosting a Town Hall in early January to get widespread feedback on this matter. As ever, we strongly encourage students to engage with this information and to contact us with their thoughts.
The SLS will take no position on the intersession until we receive feedback from students, but we do have concerns about the process that has been undertaken. For the past two years, our understanding has been that there will be a point of widespread consultation with all stakeholders (including students and faculty). This need for extensive consultation was recognized by the Dean at a Faculty Council meeting last year. However, it seems that in a rush to implement this intersession by next year, the Committee is prepared to forego this level of consultation. We are deeply concerned by this development, as our advocacy and outreach on this issue over the past two years would have taken a different form had we been aware that the Committee would eventually decline to engage in the expected consultations.
We are concerned that the Curriculum Committee did not meet until November, and now relies on the tight timeframe as a justification for foregoing the extensive consultation that we believe is required for changes of this magnitude. We remain committed to representing student voices on this matter and to ensuring the decisions that are made are in the best interest of this Faculty.
Moot Court Committee (MCC) member Stephanie Lewis asked how the winter intersession would impact the upper year non-competitive moot, the bulk of which happens in January. The response was that all the dates would be adjusted accordingly.* In a statement later provided to Ultra Vires, the MCC said:
None of these [draft proposal] documents examine or address the potential impact of an intersession on the competitive mooting program. We have a number of concerns and hope that there will be time for robust consultation amongst the mooting community and between the MCC, the SLS, and the Faculty.
Faculty Council plans to vote on the intersession recommendation in January.
Financial Aid Update
Dean Iacobucci opened the meeting by announcing that the Faculty would be able to increase the financial aid pot by 10%, up from the 7.5% increase promised at the last Faculty Council meeting.
Assistant Dean Alexis Archbold provided an interim update to the ongoing work of the Financial Aid Committee. No final recommendations or reports were put forward.
The Council approved $475,000 in financial endowments to support financial aid, with one award earmarked for a JD/MBA student, and approved a separate $25,000 endowment, from which a prize for a top JD student paper applying economic analysis of law to a legal topic will be awarded.
SLS and GLSA Update
SLS President Longo spoke to the success of the SLS Halloween Party, the planned Coffee House (now past), and the Library survey (now published). The SLS organized “stories of success” from previous students who were unsuccessful in the Fall Recruit, but received jobs regardless. Study groups for 1Ls were also organized.
Graduate Law Students’ Association (GLSA) President Haim Abraham spoke to the success of the GLSA Pumpkin Carving and Board Games Night, a recent Food Law Conference organized by SJD Candidate Nadia Lambed [see “Food Law and Policy Takes Root”], and an upcoming LGBTQ+ Workshop on Religious Faith vs Gay Wedding Cakes in the United States, with Professor Anna Su.
Graduate Admissions Report Unveiled, Graduate Students Express Concerns Over Funding
Professor Jutta Brunnée presented the Graduate Admissions Report. Forty new LLM students and seven new SJD students were admitted; total applications were slightly up from last year. Graduate students’ funding was increasingly reliant on external sources. Of the doctoral students last surveyed, in 2012, 76% were placed in academic positions in Canada and internationally (80% of the doctoral students participated in the survey). No report of doctoral student outcomes has been conducted since.
A graduate student expressed concern that graduate funding, or a lack thereof, negatively impacted yield rates into the SJD program. She claimed that graduate students received less funding per year and for fewer years than other graduate students at the University of Toronto. While she expressed gratitude for Dean Iacobucci’s promise to top up graduate funding to the university level for the next two or three years, she remained concerned that this was only a short-term measure. In particular, she spoke to the University funding being only available for three years despite the average time to complete a doctoral degree being 4.7 years.
* Editors’ Note: The characterization of Stephanie’s comment has been corrected from the print version to better represent the exchange.