REPORT NUMBER 226 OF
THE UNIVERSITY AFFAIRS BOARD
November 23, 2021
To the Governing Council,
University of Toronto
Your Board reports that it met on Tuesday, November 23, 2021, at 4:30 p.m. via virtual meeting with the following members present:
Vikram Chadalawada (Chair), Geeta Yadav (Vice-Chair), Sandy Welsh (Vice-Provost, Students), David Newman (Executive Director, Student Experience), Neil Chakraborty, Dylan Archer Dingwell, Susan Froom, K. Sonu Gaind, Robert Gerlai, Syeda Hasan, Joan Johnston, Evan Kanter, Gretchen Kerr, Ron Levi, John Monahan, Ann Perry, Tayyab Rashid, Sherice Robertson, Veronica Wadey
Kelly Hannah-Moffat (Vice-President, People Services, Equity and Culture), Desmond Pouyat (Dean of Student Experience and Wellbeing), Melinda Scott (Director, Office of the Vice-Provost, Students & Student Policy Advisor)
Natalie Enriquez-Birch, Syeda Hasan, Joan Johnston, Kikelomo Lawal, Karen Ng, Mozynah Nofal, Avigail Rucker
Timothy Harlick (Secretary)
Guests in Attendance:
Angela Treglia, (Director, Sexual Violence Prevention and Support Centre), Donald Ainslie (Professor, Department of Philosophy), Jia Yao (Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Coordinator), Josh Hass (Coordinator, Student Policy Initiatives, Varsha Patel (Assistant Dean, Student Success & Career Support (UTSC)), Jaime Kearns (President, Association of Part-Time Undergraduate Students)
ITEM 5 WAS RECOMMNDED AND IN CAMERA ITEM 12 WAS APPROVED.
ALL OTHER ITEMS ARE REPORTED TO THE GOVERNING COUNCIL FOR INFORMATION
- Chair’s Opening Remarks
The Chair welcomed members and guests to the meeting. He advised members that the Board had received a speaking request from Ms Jaime Kearns, President, Association of Part-Time Undergraduate Students (APUS), regarding item 7 of the agenda and that the request had been granted.
- Report of the Senior Assessor
Professor Sandy Welsh, Vice-Provost, Students, offered updates on the following matters:
As of November 10, 2021, approximately 84% of courses for the Winter 2021 semester would be in-person and 16% would be remote. Divisions had been in ongoing communication with their respective constituents to ensure a smooth transition for those who would be returning to campus.
Vaccination continued to be a key aspect of return to campus planning and as of November 15, 2021, more than 93,000 members of the University community had declared their vaccination status on UCheck. Approximately 99% of that group reported either fully or partially completed vaccination status and approximately 98% had submitted proof of vaccination through UCheck.
Due to these high vaccination rates and other health and safety measures taken by the University, there had been no reported outbreaks or instances of transmission of COVID-19 on campus during the Fall 2021 semester.
The UCheck Ambassador program had been successfully implemented at all campuses. The program helped remind individuals to complete their UCheck status check and receive their “green screen” to be on campus.
Professor Welsh concluded her remarks on COVID-19 noting that the UTogether website had been updated to include indoor study and food services locations for individuals on campus. At the St. George Campus online tools had been added to assist students with finding available space. Limited event space had also been opened, and the University continued to ensure that activities in those spaces aligned with all public health orders.
Relaunch of Student Equity Census
In November 2020, the University launched the UofT Student Equity Census which was a demographic data collection initiative. Approximately 10,000 responses had been collected since its tri-campus launch.
In January 2021, an advisory group had been established to review the census questions and responses and provide guidance on how to use, share, and report on the data. As a result of the advisory group’s recommendations, census questions had been revised and the census would be relaunched on December 1, 2021.
In response to a question regarding how census data might be shared with divisions and departments within the University, Professor Welsh advised that the ability to share impactful data would depend on participation rates. She noted the length of time it had taken to achieve high enough response levels from the Faculty and Staff survey and advised that the focus for the student census this year would be on increasing participation with a lens on sharing and reporting on the data in the future.
In response to a question regarding plans to continue offering student services remotely, Professor Welsh advised that the University was considering a mix of both online and in person options as students had generally responded positively to student services offered online.
John Monahan, Warden of Hart House, commented on the potential for a hybrid model for student services noting that Hart House had seen an increase in student participation since moving to a virtual environment including commuter students and students from UTM and UTSC.
- Annual Report: Non-Academic Discipline
The Chair invited Professor Welsh to provide an overview of the Annual Report: Non-Academic Discipline.
Professor Welsh noted that the Report provided statistics regarding concluded cases resolved using the Code of Student Conduct (“the Code”) for the 2020-21 academic year and included five-year historical data for comparative purposes.
Professor Welsh discussed the impact COVID-19 had had on the application of the Code which had been adapted to allow investigating officers to conduct interviews remotely and for hearings to be conducted in a virtual environment. She noted that while the impact of COVID-19 had caused some delays, overall, investigations had been carried out as expected.
Professor Welsh also provided an overview of the purpose of the Code in addressing non-academic misconduct, processes used when a complaint is brought forward, and revisions to the Code that occurred in 2019.
There were no questions from members.
- Annual Report: Sexual Violence Prevention & Support Centre
The Chair invited Ms Angela Treglia, Director, Sexual Violence Prevention and Support, to provide a presentation on the Annual Report: Sexual Violence Prevention & Support Centre.
Ms Treglia’s presentation highlighted the Centre’s organizational structure, educational initiatives and the available supports it provided. It provided details about the Centre’s activities over the past year and activities that would be taking place during the following year, which included establishing regular community healing groups for survivors, an increase in public engagement through digital communications, and a refreshed website.
There were no questions from members and the Chair thanked Ms Treglia for her presentation.
- Proposed Revisions: Policy on Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment
The Chair invited the Vice-Provost, Students, to provide an overview of the proposed revisions to the Policy on Sexual Violence and Harassment.
Professor Welsh advised members that the proposed revisions consisted of technical changes mandated by the Ontario government. She explained that these revisions were the first step of a larger comprehensive review launched in October 2021. Professor Welsh indicated that this comprehensive review would include a broad consultative process expected to be completed in the next academic year and would likely result in further revisions to the Policy. The review would be chaired by Professor Linda Johnson, (Dean, Lawrence S. Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing), and Allison Burgess, (Director, Sexual and Gender Diversity Office).
Professor Welsh summarized the two technical changes required by the government. The first ensured that complainants would not be subject to action for violation of other UofT policies related to drug and alcohol use at the time the sexual violence took place. The second dictated that complainants would not be asked irrelevant questions such as those relating to past sexual history or sexual expression during the investigative process. Professor Welsh explained that universities were required to comply with these required changes by March 2022 and that as such there had been a need to bring them forward prior to the completion of the broader review of the Policy.
Professor Welsh noted that these proposed revisions had been brought to recent meetings of the UTM Campus Council, UTSC Campus Council and Academic Board for information.
There were no questions from members.
On motion duly made, seconded, and carried.
YOUR BOARD RECOMMENDED
THAT the proposed revisions to the Policy on Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment, dated December 16, 2021, be approved, effective January 1, 2022.
- Annual Report: University-Mandated Leave of Absence Policy (UMLAP)
The Chair invited Professor Welsh, to provide an update on the Annual Report: University-Mandated Leave of Absence Policy.
Professor Welsh highlighted the following:
- In the 2020-21 academic year, the Policy had been used four times; two of these involved Urgent Situations under the Policy;
- Two of the students placed on leave during the 2020-21 academic year had returned to their studies. The student who had been placed on leave during the 2019-20 academic year had also returned to their studies;
- During the 2020-21 academic year there were no requests for the Provost to review a decision of the Vice-Provost to place a student on mandated leave and no requests for appeal to the University Tribunal.
- As of July 1, 2021, there were seven active leave cases: 2 Voluntary and 5 University-Mandated.
Professor Welsh underscored the compassionate intent of the Policy, the wide-ranging and tailored supports available to students who proceeded to a voluntary or mandated leave, as well as the confidentiality requirements of the Policy, as mandated by the provincial Personal Health Information Protection Act.
In response to a member’s question regarding confidentiality and privacy requirements, Professor Welsh advised the Board of the applicable legislation for Health and Wellness clinical settings and Accessibility Services.
- Review of the University-Mandated Leave of Absence Policy (UMLAP)
The Chair invited Professor Welsh to provide a brief background to the University-Mandated Leave of Absence Policy and its review process.
Professor Welsh advised the Board that the Policy was initially approved by Governing Council in June 2018 after a significant consultation process which included the University community, external experts in mental health and human rights law, and the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC). She clarified that the need for such a policy had originally been identified by the University Ombudsperson. In recognition of the need for transparency and accountability with regards to its application, the Policy itself required that the Provost undertake a review in the Policy’s third year of operation, and to report the results of that review to the Governing Council.
The review was initiated in February 2021 and was being led by Professor Donald Ainslie of the Department of Philosophy in the Faculty of Arts & Science, with the support of Ms Varsha Patel, Assistant Dean of Student Success and Career Support, at the University of Toronto Scarborough. As a contribution to the review process, the University had received a letter from the Chief Commissioner of the OHRC who had reinforced the need to ensure the Policy was fully compliant with the Ontario Human Rights Code. Professor Welsh stated that prior to its approval, expert external legal advice would be sought to review the draft Policy to ensure that the University was fully compliance with its obligations under the Ontario Human Rights Code.
Professor Ainslie then shared some of the themes that had emerged from the consultation process, as well as some preliminary recommendations.
Key themes from consultations with students included:
- That the Policy was inhibiting students from seeking help, for fear they would then be considered for a mandated leave;
- Some acceptance for the need for the Policy in cases where there was possible harm to others;
- Concerns that leaves would result in losing campus-based supports, financial impacts, visas, and housing;
- Concern that the Policy disproportionately impacted marginalized students;
- Many noted that the Policy was difficult to interpret and requested a companion; several pointed out that such a guide had been promised when the Policy was first passed three years prior; and
- Confusion about university and divisional responses to illness in general, especially the possibility of voluntary leaves.
Themes that emerged from consultations with staff and faculty included:
- The need for a companion guide;
- Reconsideration of some of the Policy’s timelines; and
- Uncertainty as to when Scenario 2 of the Policy would apply.
The following preliminary recommendations were highlighted by Professor Ainslie:
- Rename the Policy to more accurately reflect its purpose and available options;
- Restrict mandated leave only to those cases where a student posed harm to others or was “actively interfering with the educational experience of fellow students”, and where all other reasonable accommodations had been exhausted;
- Clarify that mere discomfort about a student’s behaviour resulting from mental illness did not quality as ‘psychological harm’ under the Policy;
- Track additional data including demographic data, divisional referrals, and timelines for those on leave;
- Conduct a further review in three years’ time;
- Publish a companion guide by Fall 2022;
- Establish divisional voluntary leave policies (where they did not already exist); and
- Provide additional student supports where a divisional voluntary leave had been unsuccessful or where the student might benefit from institutionally coordinated resources but did not meet the threshold for the Policy.
As part of his concluding remarks, Professor Ainslie stated that consultation through the Policy’s consultation website would remain open until November 30, 2021 and that the Review Team would be presenting their preliminary recommendations at various campus forums.
In response to a member’s comments and questions regarding the companion guide, divisional level voluntary leave of absence policies and further review considerations, Professor Welsh and Professor Ainslie advised the Board that:
- Work on the companion guide was ongoing;
- The University had committed to an external review of the proposed revisions, similar to what occurred in 2018;
- Language regarding the Policy’s review schedule would be considered for inclusion as part of the review team’s recommendations;
- Due to privacy and confidentiality requirements, the review team was not able to directly contact students subject to the Policy, however, case managers were notified that the Policy was under review and that feedback was welcomed;
- The review process had been extended twice to ensure all members of the University community had the opportunity to provide feedback; and
- The feedback received during the consultation had been invaluable and would be incorporated into the proposed revisions where appropriate.
The Chair then asked Ms Jaime Kearns, President, Association of Part-time Undergraduate Students (APUS), to address the Board. Ms Kearns expressed concerns regarding the University’s response to the letter from the Ontario Human Rights Commission (“OHRC”), dated November 8, 2021.
She highlighted four points that should be considered:
- The need for outside expertise in evaluating human rights compliance and the suggestion that the University consult with the OHRC for reputable external reviewers;
- The provision of appropriate accommodations for students through Accessibility Services as an alternative to invoking the Policy;
- The importance of intersectional issues and student involvement which should be key pillars in reviewing the Policy; and
- The need to extend the review process to allow for continued consideration of the concerns raised in the OHRC’s letter.
Ms Kearns concluded her remarks by requesting the Board advise the review team to consider the recommendations made by the OHRC, such as those relating to urgent situations, to ensure the human rights of students were respected.
The Chair thanked everyone for the thoughtful discussion.
- Report of the Previous Meeting: Report 225, September 27, 2021
The report of the previous meeting was approved.
- Business Arising form the Report of the Previous Meeting
There was no business arising from the report of the previous meeting.
- Date of the Next Meeting: Wednesday, January 19, 2022
The Chair confirmed that the next meeting would be held on Wednesday, January 19, 2022.
- Other Business
There were no items of other business.
The Board moved in camera.
- Appointment: Membership of the Service Ancillaries Review Group (UAB), 2021-22
On motion duly made, seconded, and carried.
YOUR BOARD APPROVED
THAT the following University Affairs Board members be appointed to the Service Ancillaries Review Group for the 2021-2022 governance year:
- Mr. Evan Kanter
- Ms Mozynah Nofal
- Mr. Neil Chakraborty
The Board returned to Open Session.
The meeting adjourned at 6:18 p.m.
November 24, 2021