‘New’ law dean goes cookie for her students

Above: From left, students Joey Hoffman, Alison Carr, Osgoode Interim Dean Jinyan Li, Dean for a Day Alexandra Kirschbaum, Essien Udokang and Jonathan Giraldi put the bite on a good idea

First-year law student Alexandra Kirschbaum (BA Hons. ’07) wasted no time in fulfilling one of her commitments upon appointment as this year’s Dean for a Day of York’s Osgoode Hall Law School.

In her winning essay for the annual contest, Kirschbaum promised she would do something to support Osgoode students who are suffering inconveniences as their building undergoes a major renovation. Interim Dean Jinyan Li had already continued the tradition of a regular “coffee with the dean” event, designed to save students the trouble of having to walk across campus to get their caffeine hit. Kirschbaum upped the ante by insisting on cookies with the coffee on her day in office last Thursday.

“I was interested in boosting student life,” said Kirschbaum. “They need more support right now.”

But her plans for the day weren’t all sweetness and light. Kirschbaum also planned to meet with York and Osgoode staff to discuss possible changes of a more substantive but less caloric nature. For example, Osgoode students who must renew their GO Bus student cards each term had their case argued for them when Kirschbaum met Nicole Arsenault, manager of Transportation & Student Services, Campus Services & Business Operations. Because of the way Osgoode courses are semestered, GO Transit officials consider law students as part-timers who must renew their cards each term. It’s just one example, Kirschbaum said, of the difficulties that arise out of Osgoode being somewhat distinct from York, a theme in her winning essay.

“On the whole, there isn’t enough communication and coordination between York and Osgoode,” Kirschbaum wrote. “I would work towards simplifying the administrative processes that Osgoode students have to undertake in order to get themselves set up for the year.”

During her day in office, Kirschbaum also met with staff at the Schulich Executive Dining Room and Peter Lee, facilities and business manager in Osgoode’s Office of the Executive Officer.

“This is a good tradition and one that should be continued,” said Li, dressed in blue jeans for her day attending Kirschbaum’s first-year classes. “The first reason is that it is very refreshing to be in the student’s seat again. Secondly, it’s important for the dean to be out among the students during this renovation period and get closer to them. Thirdly, I’ve learned a lot [about other areas of law] – it’s been 20 years since I was a student.”

Among the other ideas Kirschbaum proposed were a shuttle bus for Osgoode residence students to a local mall, increased locker space in the new building and improvements to Osgoode’s Web site. She also recommended improved landscaping for the exterior of the law school.

The contest judges, Osgoode Associate Dean Janet Mosher and Assistant Dean Gina Alexandris, were most persuaded by Kirschbaum’s submission, which they said “balanced an enthusiasm and pride in the law school with some constructive suggestions to help Osgoode be (in Alexandra’s words) totally outstanding.”

Born in Kingston and raised in Toronto, Kirschbaum obtained her Honours BA in history with a minor in creative writing from York’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies in 2007. In the course of her degree, she won a 2005-2006 Killam Fellowship, which enabled her to study for a year at Wellesley College in Wellesley, Massachusetts.

Kirschbaum credits both York and Wellesley for fostering in her a sense of personal empowerment and a strong social conscience. She decided to study law at Osgoode to satisfy a deep personal curiosity about the law and issues of social justice. She says she has been “very happy with the decision so far.”