Ultra Vires


Comment by Assistant Dean Faherty Prompts Questions About Systemic Racism

Students demand increased faculty commitment to anti-racism and accountability

On January 20, 1L students attended a mandatory joint professionalism training (JPT) session on Zoom led by Jodie Glean-Mitchell on critical race theory and racism within the justice sector. During the session, Glean-Mitchell asked for examples of intersectionality within the Black Lives Matter movement to which Assistant Dean Sara Faherty replied in the chat, “how about african american cops’ roles? (sic)” Within the chat, a student asked for her to clarify, but the question was allegedly ignored, despite multiple students typing their support for clarification. Near the end of the session, Assistant Dean Faherty wrote once more in the chat with a comment seemingly unrelated to the students’ requests for further elaboration (“you will be out before then!” assuring students that the session will end before their 2 p.m. classes begin). 

Ultra Vires reached out to Assistant Dean Faherty for comment. She replied: “I don’t usually stay in the chat, preferring to focus on the speaker, so I didn’t see the subsequent questions from students. I’m sorry if that conveyed the impression that I was intentionally refusing to answer questions.” 

In response to the incident, the Students’ Law Society’s Equity Officers Ryan Deshpande (3L) and Sherry Ghaly (3L) stressed the importance of sensitivity and building understanding when discussing anti-Black racism and police violence, especially in predominantly non-Black settings. 

The existence of Black police officers is often used to deny the existence of systemic racism and anti-Black racism in policing, where the identity of “cop” is treated as an immutable characteristic.

A group of 1L students have written an open letter petitioning for faculty dedication to anti-racism and accountability: “This incident speaks to a larger problem in the Faculty of Law where some faculty members contribute to systemic racism by inadequately addressing the law’s role in oppression, suppressing conversations critical of oppressive legal doctrine, neutrally presenting the white-supremacist history of the common law, and continuing to use out-dated language like ‘[A]frican-[A]merican’.”

The JPT is a series of training sessions for first-year students centred around anti-bias work. Previous facilitators include Justice Shaun Nakatsuru, Yamikami Msosa, and Samantha Peters. After the lunchtime sessions, students are asked to reflect on the experiences through short essays. 

Editor’s Note: This article was previously published as “Confusion During Recent JPT Session


Opinion: A Space to Have Tough Conversations or Another Cog in the Machine?Thoughts on Joint Professionalism Training and anti-racism in the legal profession

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