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Faculty Council Discusses IHRP and Admissions

Council meeting discusses IHRP controversy, changing 1L demographics, and postponement of budget and tuition details

On October 21, the Faculty Council met for the second time this academic year. 

Addressing IHRP Director Hiring Controversy, again

Since mid-September, allegations have circulated that the Faculty of Law rescinded an offer to Valentina Azarova to become the Staff Director of the International Human Rights Program (IHRP). The Faculty was allegedly influenced by a sitting Tax Court judge to not hire Azarova, based on her work on the Israeli-Palestenian conflict.  

At the meeting, Dean Iacobucci reiterated the announcements made in his October 14 and 15 emails to the law school community. He stated that he is concerned with the “incomplete and incorrect information about the search [for the director of the IHRP]” disseminated publicly. He further stated that upon his request weeks ago, the University has established an impartial review to assess what happened. In the meantime, Professor Emerita Rebecca Cook will serve as Interim Director of the IHRP, and she will be developing the next steps for the program. 

Dean Iacobucci also cited two reasons for his initial reluctance to comment on the IHRP matter at the Octobery 7 Faculty Council meeting. First, he could not comment on how the University was processing his request to establish a review. Second, Dean Iacobucci wished to wait for the establishment of a review to comment because it would enable Professor Cook the “freedom to think about the present and the future.”  

Dean Iacobucci is confident that the IHRP’s volunteer work and support for summer externships will continue as planned. However, whether the clinical course will still run depends on Faculty teaching capacity. If the course does not continue, Dean Iacobucci said he would ensure that the five students currently enrolled would be accommodated, to the extent feasible.

Dean Iacobucci emphasized that “the IHRP is and will continue to be a critically important program for the Faculty.” 

Admissions Statistics 

Professor Ben Alarie presented the JD Admissions Committee Report. For the 2020-21 year, there were 2204 JD applications, 371 offers made, and 212 students registered, representing an offer rate (offers over applications) of 17 percent. The yield rate (acceptances over offers) of 57 percent is down by two percentage points from last year. 

Notably, more offers were made this year compared to last year’s 347 offers. Professor Alarie stated that this was in anticipation of an unusually high number of deferrals; there were 32 deferrals of admission this year, whereas the long-term average is around 20 deferrals each year. This is roughly a 60 percent increase in deferrals. 

Professor Alarie also summarized the 1L class profile statistics. The median GPA on the best three years of undergraduate study increased from the year prior to 3.86 on the OLSAS 4.0 scale. The median LSAT remains 166. Interestingly, Professor Alarie noted that while Admissions can focus on having the highest scoring LSAT takers as possible, they know empirically that “once you get to a 165, 167 LSAT score, any additional points aren’t really indicative of stronger law school performance or stronger professional results.” 

There were not many substantial changes in the demographics of the class compared to last year. The median age was 23 and the average age was 24. Forty-two percent of the class self-identified as students of colour, a significant increase from the previous two years of 35 percent. Seven students self-identified as Black, an increase from the two to three Black students in previous years. Professor Alarie attributes this increase to the prominence of Black Future Lawyers. He anticipates this number to grow, especially with the launch of the Black Students Application Process for the 2020 application cycle. 

Six offers were made to Indigenous students, with four recruited into the class. Professor Alarie stated that the Admissions Committee is hoping to increase this number with the support of Indigenous Initiatives Manager Amanda Carling. 

SLS Updates

Students’ Law Society (SLS) President Robert Nanni (4L JD/MBA) received concerns from faculty members regarding virtually replicating the in-person experience. He noted that students find it effective when professors encourage class participation, attend to questions raised in the chat, and are open to feedback. 

Nanni also discussed the successful launch of the first SLS lunchtime trivia of the academic year on October 13 with 84 sign-ups. These virtual sessions will be held bi-weekly for the remainder of the semester. The SLS also plans to host a new virtual contest series this year, the first of which being the Baby Photo Guessing Contest

GLSA Updates

Newly appointed Graduate Law Students’ Association (GLSA) President Anil Nair (GPLLM candidate) briefly expressed concerns over the ability of international graduate students in different time zones to write exams synchronously. He also expressed that the lack of in-person learning has made many graduate students feel disconnected from the rest of the law school community. 

Postponed Budget and Tuition Details

Around this time of year, Dean Iacobucci ordinarily gives a budget presentation at Faculty Council. He stated that “this year, unusually, I have no idea what tuition is going to be for next year.” This is due to uncertainty at both the provincial and university level.

Ontario’s Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities mandated a 10 percent tuition fee reduction in 2019-20 and a tuition fee freeze in 2020-21, but Dean Iacobucci indicated that the government has provided no framework for the upcoming academic year. 

Dean Iacobucci stated that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there is also uncertainty surrounding the University’s finances which impact the law school’s budget. Dean Iacobucci hopes for greater clarity by November, but regardless, he plans to deliver a budget at the November Faculty Council meeting. 

For more information on the IHRP controversy, see UV’s Resource Page.

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