September 18, 2020

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U of M silent on recent leave of law dean



THE University of Manitoba is being mum about the circumstances surrounding the faculty of law dean’s recent leave, deeming it a personnel matter.

According to Jonathan Black-Branch’s automatic email response, the dean — who was appointed to oversee Robson Hall operations in 2016 — is currently on leave. The notice provides no explanation about his departure, nor when or if he will resume his position.

Faculty employees told the Free Press that Black-Branch left his post suddenly in early May, and it remains unclear why.

When contacted about his leave Monday, the university’s communications team did not answer questions about the circumstances of Black-Branch’s leave or when it occurred. In a response, Sean Moore, a communications officer for the Winnipeg-based university, did not even state Black-Branch’s name.

"The university cannot comment on personnel matters related to leaves or absences," Moore wrote.

He said Bruce Curran, associate dean in the faculty, has assumed the role as acting dean until July 1.

Effective July 1, David Asper, lawyer, businessman and chairman of the Manitoba Police Commission, will become acting dean at Robson Hall, Moore added, noting Asper’s previous academic appointments within the faculty.

Meantime, on the university’s website, Black-Branch remained listed as the faculty of law’s dean and a professor with expertise in topics including the art of the deal, nuclear non-proliferation in international law and human rights law, as of Monday evening. (Curran is currently still listed as the associate dean.)

Neither Black-Branch nor Curran responded to a request for comment in time for publication Monday. When contacted Monday, Asper directed the Free Press to the U of M communications team.

Prior to Black-Branch’s dean appointment at the Winnipeg university, he worked in various academic leadership positions in schools in the United Kingdom and Denmark. He is also a barrister who is both a lawyer and justice of the peace serving as a magistrate in Oxford, according to his U of M bio.

Black-Branch is currently the chairman of the International Law Association’s committee on nuclear weapons, non-proliferation and contemporary international law. He is also a co-director of the International Society of Law and Nuclear Disarmament, which was incorporated in Winnipeg in 2019.

In mid-May, after going on leave from his dean post, Black-Branch led the U of M team that provided multi-pronged anti-racism education for Sen. Lynn Beyak, who has been under fire since posting racist letters about Indigenous people online. He committed to leading the education program in late April.

His term as dean of law ends June 30, 2021.

Twitter: @macintoshmaggie

Maggie Macintosh

Maggie Macintosh

Maggie Macintosh reports on education for the Winnipeg Free Press. Funding for the Free Press education reporter comes from the Government of Canada through the Local Journalism Initiative.

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