Report: UTSC Academic Affairs Committee - October 22, 2020

Via Virtual Meeting Room


October 22, 2020

To the Campus Council,
University of Toronto Scarborough,

Your Committee reports that it met on October 22, 2020 at 3:10 p.m. in a virtual meeting, with the following members present:

Present: Sonja Nikkila (Chair), Shadi Dalili (Vice-Chair), William Gough (Vice-Principal Academic & Dean), Jamie Donaldson (Vice-Dean, Recruitment, Enrolment and Student Success), Katie Larson (Vice-Dean, Teaching, Learning & Undergraduate Programs), Mary Silcox (Vice-Dean, Graduate & Postdoctoral Studies), Grace Skogstad (Interim Associate Vice-Principal, Research - Strategic Initiatives), Rakiya Abdullahi, George Arhonditsis, Glenn Brauen, Shelley Brunt, Christine Bolus-Reichert, Radhapriya Chawla, Curtis Cole, George Cree, Suzanne Erb, Jessica Fields, April Franco, Sarah Guay, Alen Hadzovic, John Hannigan, Paula Hastings, Angela Hamilton, Margaret Kohn, Neil ten Kortenaar, Jacob Koudys, Patricia Landolt, Brenda Librecz, Daniel Lysak, Parsa Mahmud, Gillian Mason, Karen McCrindle, Laura Risk, Silma Roddau, Paulina Rousseau, Larry Sawchuk, Phil Triadafilopoulos, Liana Williams, Betel Woldu, Xiaoyu Yuan

Non-Voting Assessors: Annette Knott, Hugh Laurence, Shelby Verboven

In Attendance: Genevieve Dewar, Tarun Dewan, Karina Vernon

Regrets: Wisdom Tettey (Vice-President & Principal), Bernie Kraatz (Vice-Principal, Research), Syed Ahmed, Sandra Bamford, Corinne Beauquis, Barry Freeman, Thembela Kepe, Andrew Mason, Michael Molloy, Karen McCrindle, Natalie Rothman, Sonja Sedivy, Michael Souza, Jessica Wilson, Varsha Patel, Changmiao Yu

Secretariat: Emma Thacker (Secretary), David Walders


  1. Chair’s Remarks

    The Chair, Professor Sonja Nikkila, welcomed members and guests to the virtual meeting. She welcomed and congratulated Professor John Hannigan (Department of Sociology). As a result of the Fall by-election, Professor Hannigan had filled the vacant Sociology teaching staff seat on the committee, for a three year term.
  2. Presentation: Curricular and Pedagogical Priorities in 2020-21

    The Chair invited Professor Katie Larson, Vice-Dean, Teaching, Learning and Undergraduate Programs, to share some highlights of the curricular and pedagogical initiatives for the 2020-21 year. She began by providing an overview of her new role, within the restructured decanal structure at UTSC. She noted that her role holds responsibility for undergraduate curriculum development and pedagogical innovation. Professor Larson explained that an explicit part of the role was to think about curriculum and pedagogy through an inclusive and equity-based lens, with particular attention to Indigenous ways of knowing, racialized perspectives, and international and intercultural experiences. Professor Larson reported on the challenges and opportunities provided by the COVID-19 pandemic, and acknowledged the critical role of the Centre for Teaching & Learning.

    Professor Larson reported on several initiatives responding to the UTSC Strategic Plan, Inspiring Inclusive Excellence: A Strategic Vision for the University of Toronto Scarborough (2020-2025). One priority initiative was a campus wide curriculum review to ensure UTSC’s commitment to inclusion, Indigeneity, and anti-racism across programs and within pedagogical approaches and supports. A Working Circle was under development. The membership would begin its work in the fall, with recommendations to be developed by the summer of 2021. She added that the AAC would receive an update at the January 2021 meeting. A writing support task force, co-chaired by Hugh Laurence (Acting Associate Dean Undergraduate Programs & Curriculum) and Karen McCrindle (Associate Dean Teaching & Learning and Director, Centre for Teaching & Learning), was also established to support student writing. In addition, Corinne Beauquis (Associate Professor, Teaching Stream in the Department of Language Studies) has been appointed for a one-year term as Special Advisor on Experiential Education in the Office of the Dean, and was Co-Chair to the Experiential Learning Steering Committee. Professor Larson discussed some of the new academic programming that would be considered by the AAC over the coming year. Members had no questions.
  3. Undergraduate Minor Modifications: 2020-21 Out of Cycle Courses

    The Chair invited Professor Katie Larson, Vice-Dean, Teaching, Learning and Undergraduate Programs, to present the undergraduate minor modifications. Professor Larson explained that the new courses were proposed to be taught in Winter 2021. The courses were from the Departments of English, Health & Society, Management, and Sociology. She thanked and acknowledged the faculty representatives present at the meeting to support the new courses: Professors Neil ten Kortenaar, Karina Vernon, Jessica Fields, Tarun Dewan, and Patricia Landolt.

    A member expressed concern about consultation with the Department of Biological Sciences for the course HLTB44H3 (Introduction to Pathophysiology and the Etiology of Diseases). Professor Jessica Fields, (Chair, Department of Health & Society), responded that she was unsure about any consultation with the Department of Biological Sciences, however she would take the queries back for discussion. She also responded that she was not concerned about potential student advantage (due to similarity with another course) given the different disciplinary perspective on the course content.

    On motion duly made, seconded, and carried,


    THAT the minor modifications to undergraduate programs, submitted by UTSC undergraduate academic units, as described in Undergraduate Minor Curriculum Modifications for Approval, Report: Winter 2021 Out-of-Cycle New Courses, dated October 21, 2020, and recommended by the Vice-Principal Academic and Dean, Professor William Gough, be approved to be effective as of Winter 2021 for the academic year 2020-21.
  4. Report of the Presidential Assessors

    The Chair invited Professor William A. Gough, Vice-Principal Academic & Dean to present his Report. He provided an update regarding the ongoing campus response to the pandemic. Professor Gough reported on the additional measures announced by the Province and the resulting changes to in person courses, which are now largely in remote mode. The timing of UTSC Fall reading week provided a buffer for the transition to online.

    Campus had returned to a mode of operation that was similar to the summer session, for example, campus check-in points and spaces set up for students to access resources such as computers and Wi-Fi, with COVID protocols in effect. UCheck, an online self-assessment tool, had also come into effect. The Office of Student Experience and Wellbeing, (e.g. Academic Advising & Career Centre, AccessAbility Services, International Student Centre) continued to provide the full range of services, both online and in person. Professor Gough commented that planning for the Winter and Summer sessions was well underway. It was hoped that some in-person offerings would be offered, however community safety was a priority.

    Professor Gough provided an enrolment update and he reported that compared to last year (2019-20), there were 252 more students. Distribution among various groups differed from targets, such as lower domestic enrolment, however this was consistent with other Toronto based universities. Retention rates also continued to improve. Faculty hiring (new and replacement) was underway and he noted that the Provost had provided a diversity fund to support the hiring of under-represented groups.

    A student member asked about how the inconsistency of quality in some online courses was being addressed. Professor Gough acknowledged that delivery of courses may be uneven with the rapid change to a new mode of teaching and learning. Feedback was being monitored from students and faculty. He invited Karen McCrindle, Director, Centre for Teaching & Learning, to provide an overview of the work to support faculty in online course delivery. Professor McCrindle reported that staff had been increased to meet the needs of faculty, for example with support around education technology tools.

    A member asked about mental health supports for students. Professor Gough responded that mental health was a key priority of Mr. Desmond Pouyat’s (Dean, Student Experience & Wellness) portfolio of services, and that both on campus and online supports were available.

    A member noted an inclusive hiring initiative regarding construction projects, to support various employment pathways into the UTSC community. The member also provided her community perspective on the various anti-black racism initiatives underway, including communications to the community of real shifts resulting from action. Professor Gough responded that efforts to support students seeing themselves at the university were underway in a variety of initiatives and projects. Professor Larson acknowledged the moment in time to act, and agreed that action was needed not only the conversation. She also acknowledged that curriculum and pedagogy played a role in student access and retention.
  5. Report of the Previous Meeting: Report Number 46 – September 14, 2020

    The report of the previous meeting was approved.
  6. Business Arising from the Report of the Previous Meeting

    There was no business arising from the report of the previous meeting.
  7. Date of Next Meeting - Wednesday, January 6, 2021 at 3:10 p.m.

    The Chair advised members that the Committee would meet again on Wednesday, January 6, 2021 at 3:10 p.m.
  8. Other Business

    Members had no questions.

The meeting adjourned at 4:14 p.m.

November 4, 2020