When the Governing Council was established in 1972, the Office of the Governing Council was created as the successor to the offices of the Board of Governors and the Senate. The primary functions of the Office are to:
- act as the corporate office of the University;
- provide support services for the Governing Council, its Boards and Committees;
- maintain historical records of University ceremonies and provide support to such ceremonies, particularly convocation;
- support the judicial processes of the University; and
- serve as an impartial resource for the members of the Governing Council and members of the University community who are involved in the governance process.
The Office has a tri-campus mandate, supporting governance bodies on the St. George, University of Toronto Mississauga and University of Toronto Scarborough campuses. The Office also acts as a liaison between the members of the Governing Council and the administration, University constituent groups and the outside community. Members of the Office provide support and advice in a way that serves the needs of the University community while preserving the principles of neutrality and objectivity.
Corporate Office (Secretariat)
The Secretariat is responsible for the use of the academic and corporate seals of the University, and maintains a record of each application of the seals. It also executes contracts on behalf of the University.
Board, campus council, and Committee Support
The specific functions and responsibilities of the Secretariat staff relate to the preparation for meetings, advice on their conduct, and the preparation of the official record.
The Office of the Governing Council is responsible for scheduling meetings and, working with the administrative assessors, preparing an annual calendar of business for the Governing Council and each Board, Campus Council, and Committee.
The agenda for the Governing Council is set by the Executive Committee. The agenda for each Board, Campus Council, and Committee meeting is determined at a preliminary agenda planning meeting attended by the Board/Campus Council/Committee chair, vice-chair, administrative assessors and secretary. In the case of the Academic Board, this planning function is the task of the Agenda Committee, and for the UTM and UTSC Campus Councils, this is the task of the UTM and UTSC Agenda Committees.
The agenda planning group usually meets two weeks before the Board/Campus Council/Committee meeting. In addition to establishing the agenda, the agenda planning group reviews draft documentation:
- (i) to ensure that it is complete and that the proposal is ready to proceed,
- (ii) to identify any issues that should be addressed in advance of the meeting, and
- (iii) to identify those individuals who should be invited to the meeting to answer questions that members might have on the item.
Prior to the agenda planning meeting, the Board/Campus Council/Committee secretary prepares a first draft of the agenda and co-ordinates and distributes the supporting documentation provided by the administrative assessors. At the agenda planning meeting, the secretary advises the chair and administrative assessor(s) on the level of approval appropriate for each item, Board/Campus Council/Committee procedures, relevant policies, and other governance issues, as appropriate.
In order to provide background information for discussion, the Board/Campus Council/Committee secretary, when necessary, undertakes historical or other research projects on policy issues and prepares a précis of relevant documents or decisions.
Meeting Preparation and Documentation
After the agenda planning meeting, documentation is finalized by the administrative assessors and assembled for distribution. A target date for distribution of meeting documentation is set for seven days prior to a regular meeting. Meeting materials (with the exception of certain confidential material), are posted to the governance portal. Non-confidential meeting material is posted on the Governing Council website.
Members are informed by email when material has been posted to the governance portal and the website.
Some confidential material, for example, documentation for senior appointments, is distributed to members at the meeting, and time is provided for members to review the material before it is presented and discussed.
During Governing Council, Board, Campus Council, and Committee meetings, the secretary is responsible for providing advice concerning parliamentary procedures. The secretary takes careful notes at meetings and then prepares and circulates the minutes / report of the meeting with details of decisions and discussion.
On some matters, the Governing Council has delegated authority to its Boards, Campus Councils, or Committees, and it is important that members of Council be able to know not only the decisions taken but also the matters considered in making those decisions. In other cases, the Boards, and in some cases the Campus Councils, make recommendations to the Governing Council.
Decisions taken by the Council, its Boards, Campus Councils, and Committees are transmitted to the appropriate administrative officers for action.
An organization chart of the Governing Council and its bodies is available at here.
The Office of the Governing Council facilitates communication between the members of the Governing Council and the administration, and members of the University and outside communities.
The Office receives inquiries concerning all aspects of the University from academic divisions and departments, individual members of the University community, alumni and the media. Depending on the nature of the inquiry and the person seeking information or advice, the enquiry is answered or is referred to the appropriate University officer, the University of Toronto Communications Office, the appropriate chair, or another resource person. For example, general queries about approved policies are usually answered by the Office of the Governing Council, whereas questions concerning specific interpretation or implementation of policies are referred to the University officer responsible for the specific policy area.
Members of the Governing Council seeking information about current policies or wishing to initiate consideration of a particular matter would be advised by the Office of the status of the issue or about the proper procedures to initiate consideration of the matter.
From time to time, the media contacts the Office of the Governing Council to obtain information concerning items of business that are under consideration by the Governing Council, or to request interviews with persons involved in the governance process. The Office will provide procedural or historical information, or will refer the inquirer to the appropriate officer, the University of Toronto Communications Office, the Chair of the Governing Council, or the appropriate Board or Committee Chair.
Policies and reports that have been considered by the Governing Council and its Boards and Committees are on file in the Office and are available for public perusal. Meeting minutes, reports, agendas and non-confidential agenda items, as well as approved policies, can also be viewed on the Governing Council website.