Ultra Vires


Inside the Faculty Council: Instruct the Immigrants and Love the Librarians

The solarium was less crowded for the second faculty meeting of the year, although attendance was still robust with only a few empty seats to be seen. Reduced as the attendance was, it was nothing compared to drop in food quality. The wraps provided (while certainly ample) were some of the least appealing I’ve yet had on campus.

Forgoing the usual feast of roasted vegetables, the vegetarian option was filled with a few paltry raw vegetables and an unappealing hummus. The meat wraps fared a bit better, but they too were a let down. Even the salad dressing showed a notable reduction in quality. The only saving grace were the desserts, moist and flavorful banana-bread and brownies, with plenty to go around. It remains to be seen which of the two meals (or number of attendees for that matter) was the norm, and which the aberration. One thing you can be sure of is that I’ll be writing about it next issue.

After everyone settled down with their food, the meeting followed much the same procedure as the previous week. A cursory approval of the minutes was followed by updates from the Dean, the SLS, and the GLSA. The most memorable moment was Professor Sanderson’s tradition abstention on the vote to approve last meeting’s minutes. So determined was he to abstain from the vote that, knowing his inability to attend the meeting, he emailed the Dean his abstention in advance so that it could be preserved for the record. Speaking of the minutes, it’s worth noting that while they provide a very good recounting of the Dean’s, the SLS’s, and the GLSA’s updates, they did little service to Ben Alarie’s presentation or the discussion that followed. While it would certainly be next to impossible to write down exactly what every speaker said, the minutes to my mind did not preserve the true nature of the meeting I attended. They focused too much on the procedural and informational elements, rather than the deliberative and substantive moments. Unfortunately this means they do little to inform any who weren’t able to attend what the concerns of students and faculty were around important issues.

On the agenda for this meeting were three substantive reports: updates from the Library and the Internationally Trained Lawyers Program, and a report on graduate admissions and funding.

Chief Librarian John Papadopoulos was the first to present, providing an overview of what was involved in moving the library to its temporary home, as well as some statistics on last year’s usage of library resources. The move included breaking the libraries extensive collection into 66 different categories, making hard decisions about where to house each part of the collection (especially the 35% of materials that are now in closed storage at OISE for the next 2 years), and many long nights of work.

It became clear that however troublesome students and professors might be finding the move to a temporary building, the librarians have had by far the hardest task, and they have done a bang-up job.

Two important notes for students. First, the reference librarians are enjoying their new location because it puts them much closer to you. Apparently they used to get lonely in the far away corner of the old building, and get excited when they get to help out students. So please go visit them.

Second, 92% of the faculty’s requests for help for finding resources end up being provided from U of T’s own collection, 42% from its online resources. Papadopoulos attributes this to the fact that there are lots of hard to use electronic resources that U of T has access to, which none-the-less contain some useful material. So seriously, if you are doing research, go visit the librarians! It will make your life, and theirs, much better.

The second report was from Jane Price, director of the Internationally Trained Lawyers Program. The ITLP is a program that U of T offers to (you guessed it) internationally trained lawyers who are looking for work in Canada.

Canada tends to be rather restrictive in its acknowledgment of foreign credentials, and law degrees are no different. In addition to having to pass a bar exam, foreign trained lawyers need to pass a number exams from the National Committee on Accreditation.

These exams are far from a rubber stamp, and the ITLP offers a number of programs to help prepare for them, as well as to learn and practice employment specific language skills, and providing internship placements to help provide avenues to articling positions.

After the presentation I was again pleasantly surprised to find student representatives asking the same questions that jumped into my mind: Who gets into the program? And how much does it cost them?

Applications are reviewed based on academic success, language skills, and the perceived likelihood of the student succeeding in the program. The most extensive program will run students around $8,000 in total, with the possibility of financial aid bursaries of up to $5,000, as well as professional loans.

Price noted that while the full program was certainly out of the range of some, its cost was still significantly lower than it might be, made possible only through substantial funding from the Ontario government. Even with concerns about the cost of the program the Dean noted, and I agree, that this is a phenomenal program and something U of T should be proud to offer.

Jutta Brunée gave the final report on Graduate admissions.. Unlike undergraduate admission, there haven’t been any substantial changes to graduate admissions policies, and it appears the administration is happy with the way things have been going. We continue to attract a diverse group of students to a variety of different graduate programs, and do well at getting them provincial funding.

The only area of concern raised during the presentation was about SSHRC funding (pronounced shirk, rhymes with clerk), which seems to have been dropping off recently. It was suggested that this was likely due to a more general shift in SSHRC funding priorities towards applied research, rather than any animus towards U of T law students, but it is something that is being looked into.

After the final presentation the meeting ended, 20 minutes ahead of time, and with lots of banana bread for savvy attendees to sneak home with them. Overall it was less exciting than the first meeting, but it remained an interesting and informative way to spend a lunch hour.

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