The University of Toronto Faculty of Law is forging ahead with plans to decamp to Victoria College from 2013 until 2015 as its existing facilities undergo extensive renovation and expansion.
According to a December 2012 report released by the Project Planning Committee for the Faculty of Law Expansion, $33.1 million has been raised through private donors for the renovation. The committee is confident it will attain its private fundraising goal of $36 million. A combination of loans and university funds will cover the remainder of the expected $54 million cost of the project.
On Wednesday, at a student information session, the faculty provided updates about the move and addressed issues raised at a town hall meeting last year. Students were concerned about the availability of study rooms and access to library resources during the transitional period.
Challenges around accessing library resources have now been mostly resolved. Of the approximately 220,000 print volumes currently in the library, chief law librarian John Papadopoulos has identified a core of about 20,000 to 30,000 that are in high demand. These volumes will be moved to Birge-Carnegie, where the existing Wymilwood Café will be renovated to become the new law library.
Library resource offices will be relocated to the ground floor. Given that the bulk of case law and legislation is available online, the loss of the Bora Laskin Law Library is not expected to substantially affect students’ ability to complete coursework.
Concerns about a lack of study space have not yet been fully addressed. The Students’ Law Society (SLS) anticipates consulting with students to assess needs. Similarly, Papadopoulos is identifying current usage amongst both Victoria College and law students.
Sean Ingram, senior development officer at the Faculty of Law, said that the law school is also looking at leasing additional space for faculty and students.
However, limited meeting space may be available at Flavelle House, one of the current law buildings, which is expected to remain more accessible during construction than had been previously anticipated. With the exception of the Bora Laskin Law Library complex, lockers, a kitchen and the offices of faculty members and the student society will remain mostly untouched. Although the extent of the disruption is unclear, classes, mostly those taught in the evenings, will continue to be held at Flavelle House.
Falconer Hall will remain open. A reserved space for graduate students, a kitchen, and a reading room will be also added to Birge-Carnegie. As for classrooms, the Office of Space Management will oversee their allocation between law and Victoria College students.
The identification of space needs will be an ongoing project for the faculty over the next few months as it prepares to move into Victoria College over the summer, after students have finished their exams. When asked about how the move might affect Victoria College students, Ingram explained that the law faculty will be leasing space that Victoria College will be vacating. He stated that the college’s student union would move into the Goldring Student Centre that will be completed in March, which would be an improvement over its current facilities. (For more on the delay in the Goldring Student Centre construction, see “Refunds” on pg 3).
Ruta Rudminaite, vusac’s communications commissioner, agrees. In an email, Rudminaite said that “with the incoming Goldring Student Centre, Vic students will have as much bookable space at Victoria College as they need (which is our first priority), so we’re excited to see the relationship between the Faculty of Law and Victoria College evolve naturally.”
Law students have equally been concerned about maintaining a strong community. To mitigate the move’s impact, the ground floor of Birge-Carnegie will be renovated to create an exclusive student lounge to replicate the Rowell room, a popular space where law students often convene to mingle and to hold events. “The administration has always been animated by the primary concern that the law student experience be as contained and as cohesive as possible,” said Kate Hilton, assistant dean of the advancement office. To this end, Bora’s Head, the bust of the late Supreme Court Justice Bora Laskin, will be relocated to the new student lounge.
Hilton is confident that the incoming first year class will have as a good of an experience as current students. The faculty plans to hold orientation events to ease the transition.