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Faculty Council Meeting Discusses JD and Graduate Admissions Reports

The second Faculty Council meeting of the year featured detailed discussion surrounding the JD Admissions and Graduate Admissions Reports.

On Wednesday, November 22, The Faculty Council met in the solarium of Falconer Hall for its second meeting of the 2023-2024 academic year. Dean Brunnée opened the meeting with two important agenda items for discussion: the JD Admissions Report and the Graduate Admissions Report. Dean Burnée then introduced Sandra Wisner, a new faculty member who joined the Faculty in 2022. Wisner teaches international law and acts as Director for the International Human Rights Program (IHRP). 

Dean Brunée next shared that the IHRP recently hosted an event to announce their relaunch by featuring new focus areas. Despite the poor weather, the turnout for the event was strong, with many program alumni, students, and faculty present. Dean Brunée also shared that the week earlier, there was a 15th anniversary event for the David Asper Centre for Constitutional Rights (Asper Centre). Many alumni were present at the event as panelists and attendees, some of them sharing how the Asper Centre had impacted their careers. Dean Brunée finished by announcing that the draft academic plan will be available either in January or February 2024. 

The president of the Students’ Law Society (SLS), Justin Kim (3L), spoke next. He shared that the Halloween party on October 27 had 380 law students and guests in attendance. Kim gave thanks to everyone who had been involved in the event. Next, Kim shared that funding had been secured to give students affordable subscriptions to Headspace, a mindfulness app. Kim then talked about students’ perspectives on the 2L recruit, sharing the troubling fact that many students had reported that various firms had once again breached the Law Society of Ontario (LSO) guidelines. Kim voiced concerns that law firms are not being held accountable, as students are afraid to report violations because of potential career implications. LSO guidelines only work if law firms follow them. Finally, Kim shared that the second annual mixer between students from the Faculties of Law and Medicine was recently held at a brewery downtown.

Graduate Law Student Association (GLSA) president Dimitrios Tsilikis then gave a brief update. On the academic initiative side, Tsilkis stated that the SJD weekly work-in-progress group has continued. This group allows students to present their work to their peers for comment. Based on the group’s success, the new cohort of LLM students plan to start their own work-in-progress group. On the social initiative side, Tsilikis noted that the GLSA is trying to bring graduate students back to in-person social events. GLSA organized a Halloween event this year and is planning a Christmas event. Their ultimate goal for the new year is to host simple weekly events. Tsilikis stated the cohort of LLM students this year appears to be more engaged this year than last year’s cohort.

JD Admissions Report

Professor Benjamin Alarie introduced the “JD First Year Class Profile 2019-2023 Report.” He explained that the JD Selection Committee is composed of both students and staff and is tasked with reviewing new applications. 

According to the statistics, the admitted class size has stayed reasonably consistent over the years, at about 210 students per year. Application quantities are now in line with pre-pandemic numbers. The demographic mix of applicants has also stayed fairly consistent year-over-year, with the Black Student Application Process (BSAP) getting around 130 applications yearly. Professor Alarie explained this optional admission stream gives applicants the ability to supplement their materials with an additional essay. Mature and Indigenous students also have similar initiatives available for their applications. 

The undergraduate grade point average (GPA) and Law School Admission Test (LSAT) scores of admitted students appear to be slowly increasing. However, Professor Alarie stressed that these numbers only tell part of the story. The goal of the committee is not to maximize these numbers. Instead, the Faculty aims to foster a community of strong and diverse candidates through a multi-dimensional exercise that is not based solely on GPA or LSAT score. The review process therefore emphasizes a holistic approach to admissions. 

Finally, the average age of students appears to be slightly younger this year. Female domination continues to be a trend in undergraduate programs and this trend continues in the JD Program.  

Graduate Admissions Report

Assistant Dean Emily Orchard discussed the Graduate Admissions Report. The graduate cohort consists of 187 students. The Global Professional Master of Laws (GPLLM) cohort represents 126 students. The Doctor of Juridical Science (SJD) cohort includes 5 incoming and 9 outgoing students, with continuing student numbers hovering around 30. The Master of Laws (LLM) cohort contains around 30 students. The Master of Studies in Law (MSL) cohort accepted no students this year. Assistant Dean Orchard sees this as an opportunity to rebrand the MSL program. 

The LLM class is split between coursework and written work. This year, there were 249 LLM applicants, 72 offers, and 25 students who ultimately registered. Assistant Dean Orchard noted that LLM students receive stipends for approximately CAD$12,000 if they are international students or CAD$9,000 if they are domestic. She acknowledged that the cost of living in Toronto is high and that a lack of funding may present a barrier to acceptance.

For the SJD program, there were 114 applications, 8 offers, and 6 students who ultimately accepted. Students appear motivated to accept offers for the SJD program. Assistant Dean Orchard stated this is likely due to an established record of success upon graduation in the program. 

For the GPLLM program, 126 students were accepted, which is equivalent to pre-pandemic levels. The Innovation Law and Tech Stream is growing, with the current stream including 23 students. Past years have had as few as nine students. Assistant Dean Orchard stated this shows clear interest and demand for the area. 

Dean Brunnée wrapped up the meeting by wishing students and faculty goodwill for the upcoming exams.The Faculty Council is the governing body of the law school and is responsible for making policy decisions relating to U of T Law, usually on recommendations from special and standing committees. The Faculty Council consists of all full-time faculty members and elected student representatives from the JD and graduate programs. If you are interested in viewing previous Faculty Council meeting agendas, minutes, reports, and schedules, check out the e.Legal Faculty Council page.

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