Report: Governing Council - February 25, 2021

-
Via Virtual Meeting

THE GOVERNING COUNCIL
FEBRUARY 25, 2021


MINUTES OF THE MEETING OF THE GOVERNING COUNCIL held on February 25, 2021 at 4:30 p.m. via virtual meeting.


Pursuant to section 28 (e) and 38 of By-Law Number 2,
consideration of item 12 will take place in camera.

Present:
Claire Kennedy (Chair), Brian D. Lawson (Vice-Chair), Rose Patten (Chancellor), Meric S. Gertler, (President), Cheryl Regehr, (Vice-President and Provost), Harvey T. Botting, David N. Bowden, Adanna Chigbo, P.C. Choo, Janet Cloud, Ann Curran, Teodora Dechev, Stark Draper, Janet L. Ecker, Susan Froom, K. Sonu Gaind, Avrum I. Gotlieb, Sandra Hanington, Maureen Harquail, Sarosh Jamal, Joan Johnston, Amin Kamaleddin, Shashi Kant, Anna Kennedy, Paul Kingston, Sameer Lal, Ernest W.N. Lam, Mark Lautens, Kikelomo Lawal, Ron Levi, Jiazhen (Diana) Li, Jan K. Mahrt-Smith, Stephane Martin Demers, Rajiv Mathur, Douglas E. McDougall, Joanne Jean McNamara, , Danielle Skipp, Salvatore M. Spadafora; Andrew Szende, Nicholas Terpstra, Ryan Teschner, Wisdom J. Tettey, Marium Vahed, Grace Westcott, Bruce Winter, Samra Zafar, Lara Zink, Sheree Drummond (Secretary of the Governing Council)

Regrets: Olivia Batt, Andrew Padmos, VisharYaghoubian

In Attendance:
David Estok (Vice-President, Communications), Scott Mabury (Vice-President, University Operations & Real Estate Partnerships), David Palmer (Vice-President, Advancement), Nadina Jamison (Assistant Vice-President, Strategic Initiatives, Office of the President), Bryn MacPherson (Assistant Vice-President, Office of the President and Chief of Protocol), Anthony Gray (Director, Strategic Research, Office of the President), Steve Moate (Senior Legal Counsel, Office of the President), Archana Sridhar (Assistant Provost), Rachel Tennant (Special Projects Officer, Office of the President)

Guests:
Professor Adalsteinn (Steini) Brown, Dean, Dalla Lana School of Public Health and Co-Chair of the COVID-19 Advisory for Ontario, Dr. Isaac Bogoch, Associate Professor, Temerty Faculty of Medicine, Lorraine (Lori) Ferris, Associate Vice-President, Research Oversight and Compliance and member of the COVID-19 Response and Adaptation Committee, Ron Saporta, Chief Operating Officer and member of the COVID-19 Response and Adaptation Committee, Meredith Strong, Director, Office of the Vice-Provost Students and Student Policy Advisor and Senior Lead on Student Matters, COVID-19 Response and Adaptation Committee, Karima Hashmani, Executive Director, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, Ben Poynton, Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) Officer

Secretariat:
Anwar Kazimi, Kristi Gourlay, Samantha Frost, Tracey Gameiro, Emma Thacker


  1. Chair’s Remarks

    The Chair welcomed members and guests to the meeting.

    The Chair began her remarks with several election-related announcements. She noted that, in preparation for the 2021-2022 governance year, the Chief Returning Officer and Deputy Returning Officers had been overseeing the 2021 Governing Council elections process and that the winners would be announced on Friday, February 26. She also stated for the record the following:
  • The College of Electors, at its meeting held on Tuesday, February 23, had re-elected Dr. Rose Patten, for a second three-year term as Chancellor, effective July 1, 2021, and had elected the following two individuals as Alumni Governors for three-year terms effective July 1, 2021:
  • Paul Huyer, Bachelor of Commerce, Victoria College, 1981.
  • Geeta Yadav, Honours Bachelor of Science, University College, 2003.
  • The Governing Council had elected by acclamation Brian Lawson as Chair of the Governing Council and Janet Ecker as Vice-Chair for the period from July 1, 2021 to June 30, 2022.

    She offered her congratulations to the successful candidates. She also thanked the College of Electors for their important work on the Chancellor's reappointment process and the election of the alumni governors. She expressed gratitude to the College's Chair, Mr. Corwin Cambray, for his outstanding leadership of the College and for overseeing these critical processes.

    The Chair went on to welcome four recently appointed Lieutenant Governor In Council (LGIC) members:
  • Ms Janet Cloud and Mr. Ryan Teschner had been appointed for three-year terms effective January 7, 2021.
  • Ms Ann Curran and Ms Maureen Harquail had been appointed for three-year terms effective January 21, 2021.

    The Chair closed her remarks by reporting that at its meeting on February 9, the Executive Committee had approved the appointment of Professor Dwayne Benjamin as Vice-Provost, Strategic Enrolment Management, for a five-year term effective July 1, 2021.
  1. Report of the President

    The President began his remarks by commenting briefly on the COVID-19 pandemic, and the recent announcement by Premier Ford that the lockdown that had been in place since January 12 would be continued until at least March 8. He noted there had been no significant changes to how the University had been operating since December 2020.

    US Election
    President Gertler commented on the January 20 inauguration of President Biden and Vice-President Harris and the many positive implications of the new administration for world affairs, the environment, and academic partnerships with American institutions. He also noted that, while welcome, the positive changes would likely present new challenges for the post-secondary education sector in Canada. Namely, it might soon become more difficult for Canadian universities to attract and retain talent in the global marketplace as the United States moved to become more welcoming to international talent and to reinvest in higher education and research.

    Referencing his recent op-ed in the Globe & Mail, the President spoke of Canada’s need to recognize this shift and develop a comprehensive Talent Strategy to serve the country’s needs as it contemplated its economic recovery from the pandemic. He stressed that this was not just for higher education and research, but for all talent-based organizations across the economy. The President noted that discussions were already under way at both the provincial and federal levels to explore options. He also noted that he had participated in the Toronto Region Board of Trade’s Reimagining Our Workforce summit earlier in the day, where he had raised these issues with leaders from business, higher-education, and government, and participated in productive discussion.

    Federal Matters
    The President also commented on the new travel measures announced by the Prime Minister in response to the pandemic including a more rigorous quarantine strategy. He reported that the University’s Government Relations team was working closely with federal and provincial agencies to advocate that the University’s approved safe corridor plans for international students, which had been successfully in place since October, continue to be recognized under the new measures.

    Ontario Universities
    The President made reference to Laurentian University’s recent application for court protection under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA) to address the significant financial challenges the university had been facing. He said that in response, the Provincial government had appointed Dr. Alan Harrison as a special advisor to advise the Minister of Colleges and Universities on options to support Laurentian’s return to financial sustainability. He reported that the government was considering legislation to give the province greater oversight over university finances. In response, the President said that the University had been working with the Council of Ontario Universities (COU) to communicate three key messages to the government:
    1. The pandemic and current tuition framework had strained universities’ finances, with varying effects across the sector;
    2. The government should be working in partnership with universities to ensure they have the tools they need to maintain financial stability, while at the same time addressing the financial aid requirements of their students; and
    3. There were already ample provisions in place to ensure accountability and transparency with respect to universities’ financial status and thus there was no need for further government intervention.


A member asked how the Laurentian case had arisen if universities already had tools in place to ensure financial sustainability. The President responded that this would be better understood after the Special Investigator’s report had been released. He said that there was a combination of longer and shorter-term issues that had likely contributed to Laurentian’s position. He noted that the tuition cut and freeze had impacted certain institutions more than others and may have compounded existing challenges, putting them in a more vulnerable position. The President reiterated that universities report their financial status to the provincial government annually, and there were existing tools to monitor institutional financial fitness. He reported that Moody’s Investor Service had announced in early February that it had reaffirmed the University’s Aa1 credit rating.

Convocation
The President reported that the University, along with six other Toronto universities and colleges, had announced that Spring Convocation ceremonies would be held virtually this year. The University of Toronto’s ceremony had been scheduled for June 23 with a similar format to last year’s Spring and Fall Convocations. He noted that the University would also be celebrating honorary degree recipients by creating unique videos of the conferral of each individual’s degree and in the two-week period preceding the ceremony, one recipient per day would be featured and celebrated. One of the honorary degree recipients would represent the cohort as the group’s Ambassador and would participate as the Convocation Speaker at the ceremony on June 23. He also reported that the call for honorary degree nominations for 2021-22 would occur in late June for a late September deadline. The president reiterated the value and importance of identifying eminent candidates from diverse communities.

The President concluded his remarks by noting that given the topic of the meeting’s strategic presentation, the Provost would not be giving her usual COVID update but would be available to answer questions.

The Chair thanked the President for his report.

The Chair noted that one question had been raised by a member in advance. With reference to a recent article in the Globe & Mail, the member asked whether the University shared the concerns of a number of its peer institutions about the involvement of the Chinese company Huawei in funding research initiatives at Canadian Universities. The President responded that Huawei Canada, as an industry partner that was recognized by NSERC as eligible for research funding, contributed approximately $2 million a year in sponsored research at the University across a number of different projects. He noted, for context, that this represented 0.2 per cent of the total externally sponsored research at the University. He noted also that the University retained ownership of any intellectual property generated from research funded by Huawei Canada, and that graduate students and post doctoral students retained the right to publish the results of their research. He confirmed that the University met regularly with federal government officials to ensure that its practices were in compliance with government policy and to seek advice, especially around the issue of corporate sponsors of research that have both Canadian and international operations. He noted that there had been no changes in direction with respect to Huawei Canada and, that if any changes were to arise, the University would comply with the government’s direction.

Another member asked whether there were plans to enhance the University’s recruitment strategy for American students in response to the recent change in administration. The President responded that this was a matter which the University was monitoring closely. He noted that the University had been laying the groundwork to increase US recruitment for many years, and that it had made a successful long-term investment in building relationships and strengthening recruitment networks in the United States. This, as well as the political climate, had contributed to an increase in applications in 2016, which had been maintained over the following years. He noted that applications for the upcoming year had increased again and, while he was confident that the recruitment strategy was serving the University well, the University was alert to any changes in enrollment patterns.

  1. COVID-19 – (a.) An overview from two U of T experts advising the province, (b.) Update on the University’s response  

    At the invitation of the Chair, Professor Salvatore Spadafora, teaching staff governor and Special Advisor to the President and Provost on COVID-19, introduced the next agenda item, a pair of presentations that highlighted the University’s significant contribution to the public discourse, policy, and research on COVID-19 during the pandemic.

    Professor Spadafora, with reference to the 1918 flu pandemic, noted that this was not the first time that the University had played a significant role in a global catastrophe. He said that the University, by being publicly supported, had a fiduciary responsibility to do what it could for the public which had given its trust and resources. He reported that countless members of the community had contributed in many ways over the last year, including those who were advising the province’s leaders and health authorities.

    Professor Spadafora introduced the speakers for the first presentation on their efforts to advise the province during the pandemic:
    • Professor Adalsteinn (Steini) Brown, Dean, Dalla Lana School of Public Health and Co-Chair of the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table and
    • Dr. Isaac Bogoch, Associate Professor, Temerty Faculty of Medicine, infectious disease specialist, and member of the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table

      Dr. Bogoch noted how well the province was currently doing in terms of case numbers. He advised that virus variants and getting through the next three or four months, as the population got access to vaccinations, were primary concerns. He predicted that by early April, vaccine programs would have massively expanded from their current limited capacity. He warned, however, that with inconsistent reopening strategies and variants of concern, there could be a third wave or wavelet. There was thus a need to be careful and respond swiftly to any developments. He forecasted that, regardless of what would happen in the spring, the longer-term outlook was promising, and it was possible that this summer would be better than last summer. He anticipated that the number of cases would be much lower over the summer due to mass vaccination campaigns and the weather which would support greater outdoor activity. Furthermore, he predicted that by the fall, there would be sufficient immunity in the general population for a return to in-person classes.

      Professor Brown reported that the University was home to much of the scientific apparatus advising the provincial and federal governments and had emerged as a leader in this role. He noted that the University was part of an advisory network that engaged more than six dozen scientists across the province and that almost every major University was represented along with the public agencies. He expressed pride in the scientific community, which was working cooperatively and collaboratively, and gratitude to the University for providing a space for work that had transparency, independence, and integrity.

      Professor Brown then expanded on some of Dr. Bogoch’s comments. He equated the evolving status of the pandemic to a minefield: it was possible to see the other side, and there was good reason to hope for a better summer if the population walked carefully and watched the data to get the map needed to understand the path through the minefield. He agreed with Dr. Bogoch that the next several months could be challenging and the government and public health agencies would need to act quickly in response to the new, more transmissible, variants of concern. He predicted that after a better summer, if vigilance was maintained through the fall, it was possible that by the winter, COVID-19 would be referred to as endemic, similar to the seasonal flu, rather than as a global pandemic. He cautioned that, even with vaccinations and strong public health controls, there would be occasional flare ups in areas in which pre-existing risk factors made populations vulnerable.

      A member asked why the provincial and federal governments were experiencing such challenges with effective communication about the pandemic. Dr. Bogoch agreed that communication was a significant and systemic problem across provincial and federal governments and public health agencies. He attributed this to politics, leadership issues, and knowledge gaps or expertise that clouded some of the messaging about the pandemic.

      In response to another member’s request for an update on any University research that could lead to the development of a COVID vaccine, Professor Spadafora confirmed that there were hundreds of University researchers and clinicians who were directing their activities to overcoming COVID-19 through a variety of approaches.

      Another member asked if in-person classes were a likelihood in the fall. Dr. Bogoch responded that, while this would be easier to assess towards the end of the summer, he was confident that there would likely be a return to in-person classes in the fall, although protective measures could still be in place. He reported that Canada had enough vaccines available to vaccinate anyone of age 16 and older by the late summer or early September, and that in spite of the variants of concern, which might reduce the efficacy of the vaccine, it would still work in terms of reducing the chances of severe infection and death. Professor Brown added that, while the spread of the virus might be under better control by the end of the summer, there would be differing opinions among students and faculty about whether they wanted to be back in in-person classes.

      A member asked how the provincial leadership managed a pandemic response in terms of the impact on the economy, schools, universities, and students, given the very low number of ICU beds for such a large population. Professor Brown responded by noting that in the early stages of the pandemic, decision makers had had to chose between strict responses to suppress the pandemic or waiting to see how it progressed before deciding how to proceed. He observed that the latter approach had not proven as successful as there had been very little change in economic growth at a high cost of human life. He further observed that the pandemic had confirmed that the already overstrained medical system was unable to cope with the new realities of the pandemic.

      In response to another member’s question about why the presenters predicted that the upcoming summer would be better than last summer, both Dr. Bogoch and Professor Brown confirmed that it was a combination of vaccines and the weather which provided more opportunities for outdoor activities at a safe distance.

      The President conveyed his gratitude to the speakers and expressed how proud he was to have colleagues who were making such an important contribution to the health, safety, and well-being of Ontarians. He reported that earlier in the month, to express gratitude on behalf of the University, he had written to 1,745 essential workers within the community who had continued to work on the three campuses through out the pandemic. He noted that it was easy to overlook the contributions of this group because they were not visible or in the news, but that it was important to recognize and acknowledge their vital contributions.

      The second presentation focused on the University’s response to the pandemic and was led by three members of the University’s COVID-19 Response and Adaptation Committee:
    • Mr. Ron Saporta, Chief Operating Officer and Lead of the Planning and Entry Advisory Group,
    • Ms Meredith Strong, Director, Office of the Vice-Provost Students, Student Policy Advisor, and Senior Lead on Student Matters for the Response and Adaptations committee, and
    • Professor Lorraine Ferris, Associate Vice-President, Research Oversight and Compliance.

      Mr. Saporta spoke about the great efforts of the tri-campus operations team to ensure University preparedness, including:
    • Building preparedness – including signage, space demarcation, and repositioning of furniture to ensure distancing.
    • Water systems – ensuring that they remained safe while buildings were unoccupied.
    • Robust caretaking strategy – the provision of hand sanitizers, wipes, and electrostatic spray disinfectors which were used to disinfect public and classroom spaces on a daily basis.
    • Personal Protective Equipment – the distribution of non-medical masks and the development of departmental procedures and processes to ensure a safe environment.
    • Tri-campus collaborations with local hospitals and public health authorities to establish vaccine clinics.
    • Ventilation strategy – upgrading filters, ensuring appropriate air flow in classrooms, and adding local air filters in areas of concern.
    • Wastewater Surveillance Pilot Project – a partnership and collaboration with the Department of Chemistry, the Faculty of Chemical Engineering, Ryerson University, Ontario’s Ministry of Environment and Conservation of Parks, and Toronto Public Health – monitoring two of the most popular residences to confirm if waster water could be used as an early surveillance tool to detect COVID-19.
    • Online self assessment tool for entire community – allowed individuals to do health screening before leaving their home.
    • Dashboards that provided real time updates and piloting QR codes to monitor who came in/out of buildings for contact tracing.

      Ms Strong then updated members on the work being done to support students, including:
    • The UofT Quarantine Program which supported students coming to campus from international destinations in completing quarantine requirements.
      • Almost 2,500 students from 90 countries had registered for the program and the majority had completed it.
      • Two programs were available: both provided assistance to students with their quarantine plans, health and wellness checks, and connections with their registrars.
        • Full program provided transportation to the quarantine space, dedicated quarantine living space, three daily meals, testing, and programming by onsite staff.
        • At home program allowed students to use their own off campus space – resources were provided to assist with quarantine plans, food and medication delivery, and information on testing.
      • Resources and supports were provided for students arriving by air who now must quarantine in hotels while waiting for the result of their COVID test, and upon receipt of negative result, transportation to University quarantine space or their own space to complete the quarantine period.
    • Emergency funding: $8.9 million had been provided to 6,800 students to assist them with unexpected expenses related to the pandemic.
    • Virtual Programming of activities.

      Professor Ferris concluded the second part of the presentation with an update on the research activities of the University. She confirmed that as of October 2021, all offices in the Vice Provost Research and Innovation portfolio were busy, and described the ways in which the University had supported researchers in adapting to the pandemic including:
    • Creation of the Research Restart Steering Committee which was instrumental to research recovery efforts.
    • Facilitation of the closure of laboratories after the provincial state of emergency was announced in March 2020.
    • Facilitation of the successful reopening of laboratories in May 2020 while adhering to restrictions and public health guidelines.
    • Support of recovery and adaption planning at the divisional level.
    • Facilitation of the continuation of human participant research by pivoting to virtual platforms and ensuring safety protocols for research which required face-to-face contact.
    • Assistance to off-campus researchers in pivoting to a virtual platform or developing safety protocols if field work was required.

      Professor Ferris concluded her remarks by confirming that, since the start of the pandemic, the University had gained vast experience in supporting researchers and was ready for whatever comes next.

      A member asked whether the University intended to make any long-term pivots based on experience gained during the pandemic. The Provost, Professor Cheryl Regehr, confirmed that enormous creativity had been demonstrated by members of the community in response to the pandemic. Opportunities existed to continue some of these initiatives post-pandemic to supplement the University’s in-person services and pedagogical process. She highlighted the following successful initiatives which would be continued:
    • On-line student mental health and supports which had proven more accessible.
    • Virtual recruitment and enrollment strategies which resulted in reaching a much broader group than would have been reached by face-to-face practices.
    • Online technology to supplement in-person classes.
    • Innovations in online teaching that allowed the blending of online and in-person learning experiences, such as inverted classrooms in which some materials were provided online, and classes were used for discussions.
    • Increased number of online courses which would respond to student preferences for increased flexibility.
    • Partnerships with international universities and the expansion of the global classroom model in which students from across the world were brought into one virtual classroom.

      The Provost concluded her remarks by acknowledging that the community was anxious to get back to the in-person experience, treasured by students and faculty as part of the richness of obtaining a University of Toronto degree, and would do so including ideas and strategies learned during the pandemic.

      The Chair thanked Professor Spadafora and the presenters for their interesting and informative presentations which had provided insight into the valuable contributions of the University to responding to the pandemic, both inside and outside of the community.
  2. Capital Project: Report of the Project Planning Committee for the Instructional Centre 2 (IC2) at the UTSC

    Professor Scott Mabury, Vice-President, Operations and Real Estate Partnerships, provided a brief overview of the project, highlighting the following points:
    • IC2 would be a prominent addition to the UTSC campus, anchoring the northern part of the campus.
    • IC2 would accommodate the growth and expansion of the units that would inhabit the space: four student services departments and the Department of Computer and Mathematical Sciences (CMS).
    • IC2 would provide 24 new classrooms which would support different approaches to teaching (e.g. an inverted classroom style).


Professor Paul Kingston, Chair, UTSC Campus Council, then reported on the discussion of that body on January 27, 2021. Mr. Andrew Arifuzzaman (Chief Administrative Officer, UTSC) had shared the purpose and building features of the Instructional Centre with members, noting the planned location at the North Campus and the anticipated schedule for construction. He also had highlighted some of pedagogical benefits of the building.  

In response to a member’s question about community benefits of the space, Mr. Arifuzzaman had responded that the project would create opportunities for pre-apprentice trainees.  

Another member had asked about the closed municipal waste site near the proposed building site and the HOLD referenced in the report. Mr. Arifuzzaman had responded that the ‘HOLD’ in the report spoke to a routine City by-law provision. He had further explained that the proposed site was a former parking lot, and as such salt contamination would be removed prior to building. He had reported that there were no environmental issues that caused any concern, and they anticipated no issues with the release of the HOLD. He had clarified that the building site was not a previous landfill site; it was the site adjacent to the proposed location that had been a landfill site.   

Professor Nicholas Terpstra, Chair of the Academic Board, then reported that the project had been well received by that body, there had been no questions, and the Board had supported the recommendation.

A member asked whether this was the appropriate time for the University to be spending on the expansion of classroom spaces in light of possible changes to pedagogy brought about by COVID and the increasing transition to on-line learning. Professor Mabury confirmed that the need for space on the UTSC campus was acute and immediate and was likely a significant element of UTSC’s ability to deliver on its academic programing. He predicted that by the time the project was completed in two and a half or three years, enrolment growth would have exceeded the campus’ ability to deliver an on-campus experience. He assured members that the planning and design of the project had been deeply informed by the modern realities of pandemics, public health measures, and evolving ways of thinking about the classroom experience. He stated that the building was resilient and would be responsive in adapting to how the University will use its spaces in the future.

On motion duly moved, seconded, and carried

IT WAS RESOLVED

THAT the Report of the Project Planning Committee for the New Classroom, Academic, and Administrative Building (Instructional Centre 2 or IC-2) at the University of Toronto Scarborough (UTSC), dated November 17, 2020, be approved in principle; and,

THAT the project totaling 9,915 net assignable square metres (nasm) and 19,646 gross square metres (gsm), be approved in principle, to be funded by Future Major Capital Project Reserves, Borrowing and UTSC Major Capital Construction.

  1. Proposed Revisions: Statement of Commitment Regarding Persons with Disabilities

    The Chair introduced the item, noting that the update was administrative in nature. The changes were intended to clarify and fully conform to the technical language of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) and were not substantive changes in terms of the requirements that the University needed to fulfil.

    Mr. Andrew Szende, Chair of the University Affairs Board, reported on the discussion at that body. Professor Kelly Hannah-Moffat, Vice-President, Human Resources & Equity, had provided an overview of the proposed administrative changes. In response to a question submitted in advance of the meeting, Professor Hannah-Moffat had reported that the term “timely manner” was language taken directly from the AODA which referred to the process by which accessibility needs should be met. While the particular timeframe would depend on the nature of the request being made, it was generally expected that accessibility needs would be met in a timeframe that did not directly impede a student’s ability to access and take part in the curriculum, or an employee’s ability to participate in their role, irrespective of the complexity of the request. He noted that the proposal received the full support of the Committee.

    A member asked whether the proposed changes would have an impact on the service delivery the University was already providing. Ms Karima Hashmani, Executive Director, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, responded that the University already had processes and structures in place to meet the accessibility needs of persons with disabilities in a timely manner. She confirmed that the changes were intended to affirm and reflect the work of members of the community including services like Accessibility Services for students, and Health and Wellbeing for faculty, librarians, and staff.

    On motion duly moved, seconded, and carried

    IT WAS RESOLVED

    THAT the proposed revisions to the Statement of Commitment Regarding Persons with Disabilities, dated November 1, 2004, be approved, effective February 25, 2021. 

CONSENT AGENDA

On motion duly made, seconded, and carried

IT WAS RESOLVED

THAT the consent agenda be adopted and Item 6 approved.

  1. Minutes of the Previous Meeting of the Governing Council – December 17, 2020

    The minutes of the previous meeting of the Governing Council were approved.
  2. Business Arising from the Report of the Previous Meeting

    There was no business arising from the report of the previous meeting.
  3. Reports for Information

    Members received the following reports for information:
    1. Report Number 221 of the University Affairs Board (January 19, 2021)
    2. Report Number 45 of the University of Toronto Mississauga Campus Council (January 26, 2021)
    3. Report Number 45 of the University of Toronto Scarborough Campus Council (January 27, 2021)
    4. Report Number 231 of the Academic Board (January 28, 2021)
    5. Report Number 256 of the Business Board (February 3, 2021)
    6. Report Number 519 of the Executive Committee (February 9, 2021)

END OF CONSENT AGENDA

  1. Date of Next Meeting – Tuesday, April 6, 2021 from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.

    The Chair advised that the next meeting of the Governing Council was scheduled for Tuesday, April 6 and that it would be held virtually.
  2. Question Period

    There were no questions for the administration.
  3. Other Business

    A member had asked to speak about sustainability commitments in connection with fossil fuel divestment. The member reported that since the fall, she had held a number of engagement sessions with students, and that one of the most recent had considered the issue of fossil fuel divestment and the possibility for a greener post-COVID world. After summarizing the University’s actions since 2015 with respect to this issue, the member focussed her remarks around propositions to address what students had identified as key issues.
    1. She expressed concern that there was a lack of clarity in the University’s position on fossil fuel divestment. She recommended that the University collect all information and reports related to the ongoing discussions about fossil fuel divestment in an easily accessible central location. She further suggested that it would be useful to have a summary of the different steps that had been taken by the University with respect to the management of its investments and the rationale and overarching strategy guiding its approach.
    2. She recommended that unless there was a legal impediment for doing so, the University should be more transparent about the companies that it invests in through the University of Toronto Asset Management Corporation (UTAM). She noted the inconsistency of available information and suggested that if the University shared information about some companies in which it would not invest, it should be consistent and share information about all companies.
    3. She suggested that the University be more transparent about how it measured carbon emissions connected to its investment portfolio.
    4. She suggested that there might be fundraising opportunities to explore related to fossil fuel divestment.|

The President thanked the member for her consultations with fellow students and for articulating these points in such a compelling and useful way. He addressed her points as follows:

  1. He acknowledged that the University and UTAM had issued a succession of statements, decisions, and commitments regarding fossil fuel divestment and its alternatives, and agreed that it was an excellent suggestion to collect and present this information in an accessible and integrated way.
  2. He confirmed that UTAM’s practice was not to make direct investments in companies on behalf of the University, but rather to invest in funds. He noted that the composition of funds might change frequently as investment managers adjusted and rebalanced their portfolios in response to changing conditions of the market. These changes made it difficult to report on the exact composition of funds. He also confirmed that there was some resistance among fund managers to disclosing the full composition of their funds for reasons related to competitive advantage, but clarified that this did not prevent the University from answering specific question about investments in a particular company.
  3. With respect to metrics used to measure carbon emissions connected with the University’s investment portfolio, the President noted that the University was striving to report as clearly and consistently as possible. He said that standards were evolving, and the University looked to leaders in the field for best practices. He noted that thanks to feedback from colleagues, the University was now reporting both the absolute carbon footprint reductions as well as reductions in carbon emissions per millions of dollars invested. The University would continue to respond to constructive suggestions and incorporate them into reporting methodologies as possible and appropriate.
  4. He concluded his response by confirming that investors and donors were showing increasing interest in initiatives that had explicit sustainability goals and that the University was already pursuing some related fundraising opportunities.

The Chair offered her thanks to the President, and to the member for her thoughtful set of questions which followed from the discussion at the December Governing Council meeting as well as her engagement with students across the University.

In Camera Session

The Governing Council moved in camera.

  1. Capital Project: Report of the Project Planning Committee for the UTSC Instructional Centre (IC2) – Total Project Costs and Sources of Funding

    On motion duly made, seconded. and carried

    IT WAS RESOLVED

    THAT the Total Project Costs and Sources of Funding for of the New Classroom, Academic, and Administrative Building (IC-2), as outlined in the memorandum from Professor Scott Mabury, dated February 18, 2021, be approved in principle.

The meeting returned to open session.

The meeting adjourned at 6:15 p.m.

March 9, 2021