Ultra Vires


Behind Closed Doors

Ella Henry (3L)

Dean selection process remains a covert operation

The current decanal selection process, by design, ensures that meaningful student input is precluded. The almost complete lack of transparency, coupled with the insular nature of the committee, is making for a process that feels more like a coronation than anything else. Let’s recap.

When the Provost announced the process, it looked like it might be collaborative and consultative. In addition to the Provost, the committee would include: three to five faculty members, one to three students, the Dean of the School of Graduate Studies, one librarian, two to three scholars (internal or external), plus alumni and other members of the legal profession.

Students immediately sought to ensure students’ voices would be adequately represented in this process. Although the Provost would make the final decision on who to appoint, students overwhelmingly agreed that their representatives on the committee should be selected based on a democratic vote. The SLS asked the Provost to extend the nomination deadline to allow it to hold a vote. The Provost refused.

Students were not deterred. The SLS ran an email vote, with large turnout from the student body, and informed the Provost of students’ choices. The response was to snub our democratic process. None of the students we selected were appointed.

To be clear, this is not to discredit the students who were chosen. Natalie and Aaron have been doing a great job – organizing consultations during the summer, and working with the SLS to organize the upcoming town hall – but their hands are tied by the process.

At other universities, it’s common for a dean selection process to include a public shortlist, and an opportunity for students, faculty, and staff to hear from candidates and provide feedback to the committee. This could include public talks, roundtable discussions, a reception, etc., followed by an opportunity to provide written feedback to the committee on the candidates who have made the list.

A transparent and collaborative process would make for a better Faculty of Law. Our classmates are a brilliant group of people, with impressive and diverse backgrounds. We have an accomplished and renowned group of alumni. The administration likes to point this out in recruitment materials. Instead, the Provost has sought to keep these voices as far away from the process as possible.

The committee is incredibly insular, with only one person external to the University of Toronto (an alumna). Otherwise, the only members of the committee from outside the Faculty of Law are the Deans of the School of Graduate Studies, Arts and Science, and Rotman.

It is a committee designed to pick an internal candidate, even if the best choice for U of T Law might be an external candidate willing to shake things up a little.

A perceived “front-runner” is on everyone’s mind, despite the fact that this process isn’t supposed to be an election.

I would bet good money that when the new Dean is announced this fall, it will be Professor Edward Iaccobucci, and while his colleagues on the committee can interact with him every day, students have had no chance to learn about his vision for the Faculty and hear why he should be Dean. My point is not about whether Professor Iaccobucci should or should not be dean. It is about the process that will get us there. Complete disregard for the principles of shared governance, where students and faculty—not only the Provost—have a say in how the institution is run, will in the long term lead to a dysfunctional institution.

Without space for meaningful input from students, faculty, and staff in how the Faculty of Law is governed, that is where we are headed.

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