Women and the Law Student Group

Polly Dondy-Kaplan '06 and Candice Suter '06

From the Spring/Summer 2006 issue of Nexus.

Over the past two years, Women and the Law has become a much more visible and active presence in the law school community. We are often asked what sparked this revitalization. We can point to a few factors. First, few women professors were teaching first year students in 2003-2004. This meant that it was possible for students to go through their first year and be taught only by men.

Second, many women did not speak in class because they did not know if their comments were relevant to the law. Could we ask whether the reasonable person was in fact just the reasonable man in disguise? Was there space in legal analysis of sexual assault to express shock over how the male members of the Supreme Court viewed consent? Or were these questions and reactions to cases not legal enough to express out loud? Many first year women voiced concerns and frustrations in small groups after classes, but never in class.

By a series of coincidences, four of us (Polly Dondy-Kaplan, Candice Suter, Urszula Wojtyra and Saba Zarghami) found ourselves leading Women and the Law in our second year, an organization we did not know existed in our first. The goal in our first year of running Women and the Law was to make our presence known. We organized informal get togethers and more formal speaker events. We initiated a women professor and student lunch which enabled students and professors to learn that each were concerned about gender issues. We continued the annual women student and professional pub. We began amassing an email list which grew larger at each event. We used a bulletin board to put up information and statistics on differences between women and men in law school and the legal profession. We formed an ongoing working relationship with the Career Development Office and the Alumni Office. We began networking with other student groups and became informed and involved with internal school politics around hiring, curriculum and financial aid. Now, issues of gender are discussed and debated in the law school.We have made our presence known.

Women and the Law Co-Chairs for 2005-2006 were: Alexis Alyea, Kathryn Bird, Andi Chow, Polly Dondy-Kaplan, Carina Kwan, Sunita Chowdhury, Darshana Patel, Candice Suter, and Zimra Yetnikoff. If you have ideas for Women and the Law or would like to be on their alumni mailing list, send a note to women.law@utoronto.ca.