Chapter One: Who We Are and the Difference We Have Made – Building on “Experience Osgoode”

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This new strategic plan aims at progressive, future-oriented goals and aspirations, as well as a commitment to Osgoode’s rich history and tradition. As elaborated on below and throughout the Plan, the Access Osgoode Plan commits the Law School to advancing five specific themes and goals:

  • Accessibility;
  • Community Engagement;
  • Experiential Education;
  • Reconciliation; and
  • Research Intensification.

Osgoode’s mission statement commits the Law School to the pursuit of academic and professional excellence and justice through law. To that end, we remain dedicated to these equally vital goals: contributing to new knowledge about the law and the legal system by being a centre for thoughtful and creative legal scholarship; the provision of an outstanding and professional liberal education to our students so that they can assume positions of leadership in the legal profession, among legal academics, and in all aspects of public life; and service to Canadian society in a manner that furthers social justice. Between 2011 and 2016, our mission was advanced through three areas of focus in the Law School’s Plan, Experience Osgoode:

  • Experiential Education and the exploration of law in action;
  • Research Intensification and pushing the bounds of legal knowledge, including new and innovative ways to access that knowledge; and
  • Community Engagement, both in our backyard and throughout our city, province, country and

Experiential Education

Osgoode advanced its engagement in the community in a number of ways during the Experience Osgoode Plan. The launch of Osgoode’s partnership with the Law in Action within Schools (LAWS) program, the establishment of the Access to Law and Learning (ALL) free LSAT prep program, hosting the Success Beyond Limits (SBL) youth leadership camp, and new partnerships with Indigenous communities all reflect new approaches to the Law School’s relationship to our communities.

A significant component of Osgoode’s commitment to community engagement supports access to justice, whether through the Osgoode Public Interest Requirement (OPIR), Osgoode’s 18 clinical and intensive programs, and our faculty’s many research contributions to the access to justice  field.

Osgoode’s continuing commitment to York University’s motto, The Way Must Be Tried,— as expressed through the pillars of experiential learning, research intensification and community engagement — will continue to animate this new Plan, together with a renewed commitment to accessibility in all of its    many forms and a more express engagement with the journey toward Reconciliation with Indigenous communities. For this reason, this new Plan will be known as the Access Osgoode Plan.

In the summer of 2015, as we moved into the final phase of the Experience Osgoode Plan, we launched a new strategic planning process, intended to be inclusive, consultative, and coordinated. In creating this new Plan, Osgoode has built upon a series of planning initiatives, including:

  • The Digital Initiative in 2013-2014;
  • JD and Graduate program Cyclical Reviews in 2014-2015 (including self-study, survey and data gathering and external review and recommendation phases);
  • Annual Integrated Resource Planning (IRP);
  • The Academic and Administrative Program Review (AARP) and Institutional Integrated Resource Plan (IIRP) in 2014-2015;
  • Osgoode Professional Development’s Business and Strategic Plan;
  • Several rolling Faculty Complement Plans;
  • A LSSSE survey on law student experience in 2016;
  • An evaluative exercise on the previous Plan seeking to assess which goals have been achieved and which remain to be achieved; and
  • A series of roundtables, retreats and reports from Faculty Council Committees, Law School administrative units and Working

The Access Osgoode Plan also builds on York’s 2015-2020 University Academic Plan (UAP). The UAP sets out a number of key themes which are also embedded in this Plan, including three core areas of focus: 1) experiential education, 2) research intensification, and 3) community engagement. The UAP both informs and reinforces the goals set out in this Plan. As a result of our shared desire to align Osgoode and York planning, and in light of a rapidly changing external environment in legal education (discussed further below), we are embarking on a three-year (2017-2020) rather than a five-year Plan.

In addition to an ongoing commitment to the three areas of focus detailed under the Experience Osgoode Plan, this planning process disclosed a growing consensus within our community to highlight accessibility as a cross-cutting goal. Accessibility may be seen through multiple lenses. It includes, importantly, a concern for financial accessibility in the face of rising tuition and unsustainable levels of student debt, and a concern for inclusion among Osgoode’s diverse student body, including students from equity-seeking groups and students living with disabilities and mental health challenges, and  who experience other barriers to full participation in the life of the Law School. We are especially mindful of the need to ensure inclusive and accessible clinical and intensive programs.

Osgoode’s goal is not just to accommodate specific needs in the fullest way we can, but to incorporate “universal design” principles wherever possible into the student experience at Osgoode, so that the academic program and services are designed from the outset to be accessible to all.

Accessibility may also be seen through the lens of how students will obtain legal education at Osgoode, whether using digital tools or through Faculty Council’s exploration of flex-time options for the JD program. Yet another perspective on accessibility relates to ensuring Osgoode’s research is freely available to wider communities (for example, through our Digital Commons institutional repository), enhancing the impact of Osgoode’s thought-leadership across many areas of law.

Accessibility also captures our aspiration for Osgoode’s buildings and IT  infrastructure.

Osgoode is committed to continuing to invest in the Accessibility Fund to advance the goals set out in this Plan.

Beyond accessibility and inclusion, our consultations and input from students, staff, faculty, and alumni also make clear that Reconciliation with Indigenous communities must be a further cross- cutting priority for this Plan:

  • We held a specific faculty retreat in May of 2016 on the issue of responding to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Call to Action for Law Schools and the goal of deepening Indigenization at Osgoode. We are grateful to all those who shared their thoughts, offered their suggestions, and urged us to be realistic and ambitious, clear and imaginative.
  • At a session facilitated by Marilyn Poitras of the University of Saskatchewan involving various staff and Faculty Council Committee representatives in March of 2016, we spoke of what it means to “prepare our bundle” to capture existing experiences of Indigenous and non-Indigenous community members and to be ready to deepen our commitment to Reconciliation. In April of 2016, with Ontario Court of Appeal Justice Harry LaForme and MP Romeo Saganash among those sharing their knowledge, we explored the Anishinaabe idea of “Nandagikend,” or what it means to “seek to ”
  • Osgoode will seek out and support ways to deepen our commitment to Reconciliation and to Indigenous engagement in a way that is reflected in the Law School curriculum and research strategies, including a First-Year Curriculum Review being undertaken by the Academic Planning and Policy Committee (APPC).
  • Osgoode’s Indigenization strategy will also focus on Law School spaces and community life – including Osgoode’s support for the renovated and re-imagined Hart House as a new home for Indigenous life at Osgoode and York University, and the development of appropriate ways to acknowledge treaties, Indigenous land and

To assist in advancing this priority under this strategic plan, Osgoode will establish a new Reconciliation Fund.

This new Plan will not only continue to chart Osgoode’s academic direction, but also help to define Osgoode’s values at a time of rapid and significant change in legal education and the legal profession, including:

  • The rise of technological innovation in legal education and legal service delivery;
  • The emergence of new law schools in Canada and internationally- based law programs for Canadians;
  • More internationally- trained lawyers seeking to practise in Canada;
  • Far-reaching regulatory initiatives including the Law Society of Upper Canada’s Pathways to Practice reforms; and
  • The Federation of Law Societies national competency requirements and proposed national admission

Over the life of this Plan, Osgoode will be navigating uncertain budgetary contexts as York moves to a new budget model, and will do so in a transparent and clear way. Additionally, Osgoode must adapt to planned initiatives from the Province of Ontario for changes to the funding models of Postsecondary and Professional programs.

Just as we need to focus on innovation, we also need to be attentive to supporting the broad range of new projects and programs which Osgoode has launched over the past few years, and to assessing pilot initiatives in order to ensure their long-term health and vitality. For this reason, the thrust of the Access Osgoode Plan is not further growth, but rather ensuring the sustainability of Osgoode’s many new programs and initiatives, and that as many as possible benefit from these innovations. For this reason, Osgoode’s Experiential Education Fund will be directed to enhancing and sustaining existing experiential programs.

A key foundation for Osgoode’s ability to realize the goals in this Plan is the strength and revitalization of its full-time faculty complement. In our previous Plan, we set a goal of at least 15% growth of full- time faculty, a goal we have not yet reached and so remain committed to achieving over the life of this Plan. Continuing growth of Osgoode’s full-time faculty complement is essential to the success of many other goals set out in this Plan. The breadth and depth of Osgoode’s curriculum also will continue to be enriched by our excellent Adjunct and Visiting Professors, and the many others who contribute to the Law School’s academic community.

Over the next three years, we intend to rededicate ourselves to these core goals, to the support needed to achieve them, and to Osgoode continuing to demonstrate national and international leadership in law teaching and learning, in the production of research that shapes the public debate and drives law reform, and in service to the broader community and to the justice system.