Report: Governing Council - May 14, 2020

Via Virtual Meeting Room

The Governing Council

May 14, 2020

MINUTES OF THE MEETING OF THE GOVERNING COUNCIL held on May 14, 2020 at 4:30 p.m. via virtual meeting.


​Claire Kennedy (Chair), N. Jane Pepino (Vice-Chair), Rose Patten (Chancellor), Meric S. Gertler (President), Cheryl Regehr (Vice-President and Provost), Preet Banerjee, Olivia Batt, Harvey T. Botting, David Bowden, Catherine Bragg, P.C. Choo, Janet L. Ecker, K. Sonu Gaind, Gary D. Goldberg, Avrum I. Gotlieb, Mallory Estelle Jackman, Sarosh Jamal, Joan Johnston, Amin Kamaleddin, Anna Kennedy, Paul Kingston, Ernest W.N. Lam, Mark Lautens, Brian D. Lawson, Jan K. Mahrt-Smith, Rajiv Mathur, Mohan Matthen, Joanne McNamara, John Paul Morgan, Douglas E. McDougall, Jun Nogami, Andrew Padmos, Mark Rowswell, Daneilla Skipp, Salvatore M. Spadafora, Andrew Szende, Wisdom Tettey, Nicholas Terpstra, W. Keith Thomas, Laurent-Philippe Veilleux, Bruce Winter, Samra Zafar

Sheree Drummond (Secretary of the Governing Council)

Alexandra DiBlasio, Tracey Gamiero, Kristi Gourlay, Anwar Kazimi, Patrick McNeill, Samantha Puran, Christina da Rocha Feeley, Kata Skoko, Emma Thacker, David Walders​

Susan Froom, Yining (Elin) Gu, Anna Kennedy, Apefa Advijon

In Attendance:
David Estok (Vice-President, Communications), Kelly Hannah-Moffat (Vice-President, Human Resources and Equity), Vivek Goel (Vice-President, Research and Innovation, and Strategic Initiatives), David Palmer (Vice-President, Advancement), Scott Mabury (Vice-President, Operations and Real Estate Partnerships), Edward Sargent (Vice-President, International), Amrita Daniere (Vice-Principal and Dean, UTM), Anthony Gray (Director, Strategic Research, Office of the President), Nadina Jamison (Chief Strategy Officer, Office of the President), Bryn MacPherson (Assistant Vice-President, Office of the President & Chief of Protocol), Susan McCahan (Vice-Provost, Academic Programs), Steve Moate (Senior Legal Counsel), Jay Pratt (Vice-Dean, Research and Infrastructure, Faculty of Arts and Science), Simon Pratt (Director of Policy and Analysis), Archana Sridhar (Assistant Provost), Sandy Welsh (Vice-Provost, Students), Joe Wong (Associate Vice-President and Vice-Provost, International Student Experience)

1. Chair’s Remarks

The Chair welcomed members and guests to the virtual meeting. The Chair noted that she had asked the President, as part of his remarks, to address the University's ongoing COVID-19 response and planning, with a focus on students, research, academic continuity, and business continuity.

2. Report of the President

The President began his address expressing his shock and sadness at the horrific shootings in Nova Scotia in mid-March. He expressed heartfelt sorrow for the victims’ families and friends, the injured, the RCMP, and everyone affected. Professor Gertler reported that the University’s flags flew at half-mast, in line with federal protocols, and that he had spoken personally with a number of his counterparts at Nova Scotia universities to express sympathies on behalf of the University.

The President reported that the World Academic Summit 2020, which was to have been hosted by U of T this summer, had been postponed until 2021; further information would be provided as it became available. He expected that the announcement of 2020 THE-World University Rankings would occur in the early Fall, accompanied by an online event.

COVID-19 Update

The President began his update by expressing gratitude to the University governors for their leadership and dedication to University governance during the COVID-19 situation. He said he was reminded of how fortunate U of T was to have such a remarkable cohort of volunteer governors to help it navigate these uncharted waters. The President noted that he had been involved in a great deal of government advocacy related to the response to COVID-19, and had been in frequent contact with cabinet ministers, Members of Parliament, senior government officials, and with representatives of U15, Universities Canada, and the Council of Ontario Universities (COU). The President then offered an update on four key areas: students, research, academic continuity and business continuity.

On the federal front, the President reported that the Federal Government had announced a $9 billion student aid package in support of over one million students across Canada. The centerpiece was a new subsidy program – the Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB) – for those students who were not eligible for the Canada Emergency Relief Benefit (CERB). In addition to a range of individual student financial support, the package also included the following:

  • changes to the Canada Student Loan program and Canada Student Grant program;

  • additional supports for summer jobs, volunteer work and work-integrated learning programs; and

  • funding to extend expiring graduate research scholarships and postdoctoral fellowships, and supplement existing federal research grants, to support students and post-doctoral fellows.

The President stated that the changes addressed some major gaps in existing relief programs, providing important measures to help students continue their studies and support domestic enrolment, while also supplementing research budgets at a time when this was badly needed. The President specifically acknowledged the important work of student leaders in contributing to these advocacy efforts.

At the invitation of the President, Professor Joseph Wong, Vice-Provost, International Student Experience and Professor Sandy Welsh, Vice-Provost, Students, offered an update on student supports at the University. Professor Wong reported that the Co-curricular Programming Continuity Group had been formed to support leaders and professionals who provided services to students in various capacities.

The Group’s work was informed by several guiding principles and priorities, including a commitment to:

  • Reaching all students, employing multiple platforms and modalities, and across time zones.

  • Equitable and differentiated service provision, putting student needs front and center, recognizing their myriad circumstances.

  • Looking ahead and transitioning from just-in-time services and supports now, to innovative programming through the summer and into the 2020-21 academic year.

  • Communicating opportunities to students and sharing stories with the broader U of T community and beyond.

Professor Welsh offered an overview of creative and supportive student activities, including quickly moving all student services to online delivery, including accessibility and mental health supports. Academic success workshops had been launched to assist students in staying motivated while working across time zones as well as gaining comfort speaking in online courses. On-line wellness and fitness options had been launched and other initiatives had included Indigenous beading sessions and LGBTQ chat sessions. For students in residences, there was continued focus on providing a welcoming home in residence. Additional supports had been added for students and for Residence staff, with a focus on building community and ensuring support for mental and physical health. Professor Welsh acknowledged the work of Academic Dons in supporting students in Residence.


On the research front, the President reported that additional federal funding in the amount of $1.1 billion to support medical research to address COVID-19 had been recently announced. It built on the $275 million for coronavirus research previously announced in March. It included, among other things: funding to support vaccine development and clinical trials; and the establishment of a COVID-19 Immunity Task Force co-led by President Emeritus David Naylor, with significant participation of other U of T faculty, including Vivek Goel, Vice-President, Research and Innovation, and Strategic Initiatives, and Professor in the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, and Allison McGeer, Professor of Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology and Public Health Sciences.

The President noted that it was remarkable to see so many of the University’s scholars, students, staff, and alumni making significant contributions. He highlighted the example of one of the University’s start-up firms, Blue Dot, an infectious disease surveillance company that uses huge amounts of data and artificial intelligence to forecast the spread of infectious diseases, that was recently featured on ‘60 Minutes’.

The President stated that all levels of government recognized that the university sector would be fundamental partners as the country moves towards economic recovery. The President also acknowledged the work being done by colleagues at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health (DLPSH); Faculty of Medicine; other health science divisions and the University’s affiliated hospitals; as well as the many other divisions/units across the university that had contributed to both the COVID-19 response and to ongoing research efforts.

Academic Continuity

At the invitation of the President, the Provost reported that Summer courses, which began last week, were being delivered online. She advised that the Academic Continuity Working Group and teaching support centres were working hard to provide resources for instructors who may be facing a first full-term of offering online teaching. As anticipated, term enrolments were currently significantly higher than last year, with enrolments as of this date 25% higher than they were last year.

With regard to the Fall term, she indicated that at this point there remained a number of unknowns. However, enrolment modeling capacity was sophisticated and assisted in modeling a variety of scenarios for the Fall term. Planning meeting and retreats would continue to be held over the coming weeks, to ensure that all of divisions had access to the latest data and modeling to assist them in their planning and ensure University-wide consistency was retained in major decision-making. The divisions were currently engaged in their own planning exercises, considering factors such as the number of students in courses, whether international travel would be permitted again, and whether workplace placements would again be allowed.

Compared to last year, Fall registration numbers to date reflected a significant increase in numbers of international students now completing high school in Ontario who had registered for the upcoming Fall term. While there was always some attrition in acceptances between peak points of the admissions cycle and final data, registration numbers were strong. The University would continue to work hard in limiting attrition in registration numbers over the summer.

The Provost reported that the University continued to work with public health authorities to determine how to safely deliver its academic programs in the fall, including a return to classrooms and remote teaching. Reopening would take time and would be unpredictable, but plans would continue to be flexible and accommodate a number of scenarios.

Business Continuity

The President advised that COU Executive Heads had recently released a joint statement confirming their collective plans for Ontario’s universities to be ‘open for business’ in September. This statement had been very well received. He also noted that three cross-functional working groups had been struck by COU to develop sector-wide positions in the following priority areas: financial sustainability; student support (OSAP); and technology-enabled learning.

The President reported that he had also participated in a Ministerial Advisory Council consultation during the previous week with COU colleagues. The University would continue to work with COU partners and through discussions with government, to press the case for provincial support to address the impacts of the crisis on the University. In addition, the University had been called upon to assist both in the response to the crisis, and also the recovery efforts. To that end, the Chancellor had agreed to participate in the recovery panel being assembled by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce. In addition, the President had recently joined a steering committee formed by the Toronto Region Board of Trade, the ‘TRBOT Recovery Framework Steering Cabinet’, which was focussed on recovery initiatives.

The Provost then reported that the University was currently transitioning from the crisis response stage of management to crisis recovery planning as the Summer academic term began and the Fall term is around the corner. The Provost further noted that decisions surrounding the reopening of the University would be more complex than the decision to close the University. The University was beginning to look ahead to resuming some in-person functions in the coming weeks. But the widely shared consensus was that it would not return to normal in one single step. She added that larger gatherings and activities where physical distancing was not feasible would not be permitted for many weeks or months. As a result, she expected that the impact on U of T’s operations would be uneven, with some services and functions returning sooner than others. The Provost commented that there was an important need to keep many factors in mind in making reopening decisions. Public health advice, and the safety and well-being of our community members would be front of mind in making these decisions.

In the discussion that followed, members asked questions about communication between the School of Graduate Students (SGS) and graduate students and advisors, supports for faculty transitioning to online and hybrid teaching models and collaboration between the University and the Toronto Academic Health Science Network regarding graduate students.

Regarding communication between SGS and graduate students and advisors, Professor Vivek Goel noted that the University was currently working on a protocol for re-entry into laboratories, including working with departments and units regarding social distancing protocols in lab. He noted that restarting research activities was outlined as a priority under Phase 1 of the provincial plan for reopening. He also noted that SGS would continue to communicate with graduate students on other types of activities that could be undertaken until laboratory work could be resumed.

Turning to faculty supports for online teaching, the Provost noted that the University would work closely with faculty in facilitating online learning as well as in assessing classroom capacity given the need for social distancing. Finally, regarding collaboration with the Toronto Academic Health Science Network, Professor Goel noted that collaboration between these partners and the University in the wake of the crisis had been unprecedented. Research meetings were held twice a week to develop common protocol and developing timelines for restarting graduate work in these partner institutions. In addition, the University was strongly advocating for private sector and foundation funding.

3. 2019 Performance Indicators for Governance

The Provost provided an overview of the Performance Indicators for Governance, highlighting the following matters:

  • The strength of the University’s international rankings, including successes in securing research funding, a breadth of publications and citations, and tremendous success in developing start-up companies.

  • The University’s commitment to student support, including financial support, investment in accessibility, and the commitment to student mental health.

The University would continue to focus on excellence across all areas, to promote student health and well-being, the high quality of the University’s education as well as community building.

In reply to a member’s question concerning increasing faculty diversity, the Provost noted that the University was devoting significant resources to addressing this. Recently, the University had dedicated funds from the University Fund to hire 100 outstanding new faculty members from diverse backgrounds. In addition, adjustments had been made to ensure pay equity existed within faculty. And unconscious bias training was being widely adopted by leaders and committees across the University to promote diversity both in faculty hires and in the promotion of faculty members.

The Chair thanked the Provost and noted that, across all three campuses, the University continued to be a huge asset in the city, the province and the country and continued to be a vector of inclusive prosperity.

4. Capital Project: Report of the Project Planning Committee for the Centre for Civilizations, Cultures, and Cities

Professor Mabury provided an overview of the Capital Project, noting that it provided a rare opportunity to provide much needed space to the Faculty of Arts and Science and, at the same time, have a significant impact on the architectural landscape of a key area of the city at University Avenue and Bloor Street. Professor Jay Pratt reiterated the benefits of the project for the Faculty of Arts and Science and the St. George Campus more generally/

Professor Nick Terpstra, Chair of the Academic Board, provided an overview of the discussion that occurred at that Board.

On motion duly made, seconded and carried

It was Resolved

THAT the Report of the Project Planning Committee for the Centre for Civilizations, Cultures and Cities, dated March 10, 2020, be approved in principle; and,  

THAT the project totaling 7,139 net assignable square metres (nasm) 17,790 gross square metres (gsm), be approved in principle, to be funded by Future Major Capital Project Reserves, Divisional Operating Reserves, Fundraising (Divisional), Divisional Borrowing, Fundraising (Institutional), Institutional Borrowing (ROM) and Institutional Borrowing (University). 

5. Establishment of an Extra-Departmental Unit A (EDU:A): Institute for Management & Innovation (IMI)

The Provost provided an overview of the proposal, noting that it provided an opportunity for IMI to extend interdisciplinary and trans-disciplinary work it was engaged in.

Professor Mohan Matthen, Chair of the UTM Campus Council and Professor Nick Terpstra, Chair of the Academic Board, provided an overview of the discussion that had occurred at those bodies.

On motion duly made, seconded and carried

It was Resolved

THAT the proposal to establish the Institute for Management & Innovation (IMI) (Extra-Departmental Unit B (EDU:B)), at the University of Toronto Mississauga, as an EDU: A, as described in the Proposal for the Establishment of an EDU:A, Institute for Management & Innovation (IMI), University of Toronto Mississauga (UTM), dated March 24, 2020, be approved, effective July 1, 2020. 

6. Minutes of the Previous Meeting of the Governing Council – April 2, 2020

The minutes of the Previous Meeting were approved.

7. Business Arising from the Report of the Previous Meeting 

There was no business arising from the Report of the Previous Meeting.

8. Reports for Information

The following reports were received for information.

  1. Report Number 41 of the University of Toronto Mississauga Campus Council (April 21, 2020)

  2. Report Number 41 of the University of Toronto Scarborough Campus Council (April 22, 2020)

  3. Report Number 227 of the Academic Board (April 23, 2020)

  4. Report Number 217 of the University Affairs Board (April 27, 2020)

  5. Report Number 252 of the Business Board (April 28, 2020)

  6. Report Number 513 of the Executive Committee (May 5, 2020)

9. Date of Next Meeting – Thursday, June 25, 2020 from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.  

The Chair confirmed that the next meeting would be held on June 25, 2020 at 4:30 pm and would likely be held via virtual meeting.

10. Question Period 

There were no questions from members.

11. Other Business 

The Chair notes that a request had been received in advance of the meeting to raise comments under other business, and invited that member to offer comments.

The member offered comments related to the investment reports provided by the University of Toronto Asset Management Corporation at the previous meeting of the Business Board, held April 28, 2020. Those comments emphasized the need for greater transparency related to the investment of University funds, particularly with respect to responsible investing and the ways in which Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) considerations factored into investment strategy. Emphasis was placed on ensuring the University was a leader in responsible investing across the public sector, not simply in relation to other comparator universities, and that investment strategy be reevaluated on an ongoing basis.

The Chair thanked the member for their comments and noted that in her view UTAM could be both a leader in responsible investing while also engaged in continuous improvement. The President echoed that view and noted that the University was seized with setting a very high standard for responsible investing. He reported that UTAM had been doing an excellent job in this respect, and that the University would continue to work towards further improving its communications in this area.

The Governing Council moved in camera

12. Capital Project: Report of the Project Planning Committee for the Centre for Civilizations, Cultures, and Cities —Total Project Cost and Sources of Funding

On motion duly made seconded and carried

It was Resolved that the

THAT the recommendations concerning the Total Project Cost and Sources of Funding for the Centre for Civilizations, Cultures, as outlined in the memorandum from Professor Scott Mabury, Vice-President, Operations and Real Estate Partnerships, dated May 7, 2020, be approved.

13. Members of the Governing Council to Governance Bodies – 2020-21+

On motion duly made seconded and carried

It was Resolved that the

THAT the recommendations concerning the members of the Governing Council to Governance bodies for 2020-21, as outlined in the memorandum from Sheree Drummond, Secretary of the Governing Council, dated May 7, 2020, be approved.

14. Senior Appointment

On motion duly made seconded and carried

It was Resolved

THAT Professor Alexandra Gillespie be appointed as Vice-President, University of Toronto, concurrent with her appointment as Principal, University of Toronto Mississauga (subject to the approval of the Agenda Committee), effective July 1, 2020 to December 31, 2025 (including six months of administrative leave).

Before concluding, the Chair acknowledged the profound sense of loss that would accompany our memories of COVID- 19 given all the suffering that had occurred, but that she was hopeful there would be room for gratitude for the opportunity to discover how resilient we are as individuals, as an institution and as a community.

The meeting adjourned at 6:26 p.m.

May 15, 2020