Dean for a day boosts environmental awareness at Osgoode


Above: Dean Patrick Monahan tries to defend his parking spot at Osgoode Hall Law School as Tamara Maurer, winner of the annual Dean for a Day contest, pulls in for her day in his office

She wasn’t on the job for more than two hours when Tamara Maurer had a crisis to deal with in her first – and only – day (for now at least) as dean of York’s Osgoode Hall Law School. Winner of this year’s contest to swap places with Osgoode Dean Patrick Monahan, first-year student Maurer was sitting in her new office, when all of a sudden the lights went out. Word quickly went out along Osgoode’s administration row to “get the dean to fix it!” After the power came back on in a few minutes she was congratulated for passing her first test of leadership.

Maurer’s essay “‘Beefing Up’ Osgoode’s Environmental Program” won her the right to raise issues with Osgoode faculty and contractors, do lunch, and park her vibrant yellow car in the dean’s reserved parking spot. The prize package also included a pair of tickets to see the Dixie Chicks in concert and a $100 gift certificate.

In her winning 500-word essay, Maurer said she would work to raise awareness about the importance of environmental concerns among the majority of students heading for corporate law and encourage Osgoode staff to adopt more environmentally friendly practices. In her first meeting of the day, Maurer spoke with Mark Heutschi of Cosmos Catering and congratulated him on Osgoode’s vegetarian menu items but took him to task, gently, for using non-reusable plastic utensils. She also asked if he served fair trade coffee (he does) and learned about the need for a larger kitchen area so staff could wash reusable dishes.

Maurer’s first controversial meeting of the day involved a discussion with some representatives of Osgoode’s Legal & Literary Society who were upset with the pub in the Junior Common Room for serving beer in plastic cups. After meeting with the pub manager, an agreement was reached to try serving the beer in its original bottles for a trial period and dispense with the cups. She later met with Stepan Wood, coordinator of York’s LLB/MES combined program and a professor of environmental law, to discuss students’ questions about the program.

Meanwhile, dressed in jeans and a pullover sweater, Monahan attended Maurer’s classes, taking full notes but lamenting the fact that he couldn’t do the required readings for the course in public law because he didn’t have her text books. Observing his own environmentally friendly policy, Monahan used a pencil to take notes, instead of Maurer’s laptop. For his part, Monahan said the Dean for a Day contest is a great way to meet students and see different faculty members teach.

Despite being a member of Osgoode’s Environmental Law Society with an interest in York’s joint bachelor of law and master of environmental studies program, Maurer thinks her background in theatre and psychology would also suit her for a career as a criminal defence lawyer. “I always enjoy reading the criminal law cases,” she said. She is currently participating in Osgoode’s Community and Legal Aid Services Program (CLASP) and is gaining hands-on lawyering experience working in Small Claims Court.

A native of Baden, in southwestern Ontario, and a graduate of the University of Waterloo, Maurer said she once visited Osgoode for Welcome Day and chose the school because of  its reputation, “of course,” but also because she immediately felt at home while visiting. “It was a wonderful experience, I love it here,” she said.