Report: Committee on Academic Policy and Programs - January 12, 2021

Via Virtual Meeting



January 12, 2021

To the Academic Board,
University of Toronto

Your Committee reports that it held a virtual meeting on Tuesday, January 12, 2021 at 3:10 p.m. with the following present:

Ernest Lam (Chair); Aarthi Ashok (Vice- Chair); Mark Schmuckler, Vice-Provost, Academic Programs and Innovations in Undergraduate Education; James Davis; Raisa Deber; Stark Draper; David Dubins; Angela Esterhammer; Nicholas Everett;
A’aishah Abdul Hameed; Emily Hawes; Walid Houry; Amin Kamalddin; Grase Kim; Jeannie Kim; Kevin Li; Maureen MacDonald; Alexandra MacKay; Rosa Saverino; Maureen Simpson

Non-Voting Assessors:
Gretchen Kerr, Vice-Dean, School of Graduate Studies; Sinisa Markovic, Interim Executive   Director of Enrolment Services and University Registrar; Edward Sargent, Vice-President, Research and Innovation.

David Walders 

Weijia Chen, Cathy Feng, Sol Goldberg, Allan Kaplan, Daiana Kostova

In Attendance
Daniella Mallinick, Director, Academic Programs, Planning and Quality Assurance, OVPAP; 
Charles Boone – Interim Director, Donnelly Centre for Cellular & Biomolecular Research
Randy Boyagoda, Vice-Dean, Undergraduate, FAS
Amrita Daniere, Vice-Principal Academic & Dean, UTM
Gillian Hamilton, Associate Dean, Unit-Level Reviews, FAS
Gillian Hawker, Chair, Department of Medicine
Benjamin Gilbert, Associate Chair, Undergraduate, Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology 
Yuhong He, Chair, Department of Geography, Geomatics & Environment
Stephen Wright, Chair, Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology 


  1. Chair’s Welcome

    The Chair welcomed members and guests to the meeting. 
  2. Reports of the Administrative Assessors

    Professor Mark Schmuckler offered an update on academic continuity. With the Winter 2021 academic session underway, all but essential academic in person activities, such as health care placements, were online. If public health conditions permit, a modest number of additional courses or learning activities may be delivered in person later in the term. Divisions were committed to offering an outstanding university experience, regardless of the mode of delivery. 

    In a relatively small number of courses and programs, academic disruptions were declared under the Policy on Academic Continuity. This Policy gives the Provost and the Academic Board the authority to declare an academic disruption under extraordinary circumstances in order to allow the University to maintain normal academic operations and to fulfill its educational mission. Since September, 2020, the Provost had approved new requests for 2 course-only disruptions and 2 program disruptions, as well as extensions to 4 existing program disruptions. As of January 2021, disruptions continued in 19 programs and 2 courses that were not part of a broader program disruption. Nearly all of the program disruptions respond to the suspension or cancellation of in person placements. In total, the University offered more than 900 programs and continued to closely monitor the evolving advice of government and public health officials and work with the divisions to support best practices in multiple delivery formats, and the development of contingency plans. 

    Mr. Sinisa Markovic provided an update on the issuance of digital diplomas, noting that more than 5000 digital diplomas had been issued as of November 30 to the November 2020 graduating class.  He also noted that more than 2000 students had shared their digital diplomas on various social media platforms.

    The Chair thanked Professor Schmuckler and Mr. Markovic for their remarks.
  3. Presentation: Vice-President, Research and Innovation, and Strategic Initiatives

    The Chair welcomed Professor Ted Sargent, Vice-President, Research and Innovation and Strategic Initiatives and invited him to make a presentation.  Professor Sargent’s presentation highlighted the following main points: 
    • Research Recovery and Adaptation 
      • Researchers at the University were at the forefront of the pandemic, developing clinical and therapeutic interventions and providing leadership beyond the University. 
      • This included leadership in the launch of the CanCOVID platform, as well as part of the Toronto COVID Action Initiative.
      • The University’s Research Recovery & Adaptation Steering Committee and Advisory Group continued to meet regularly and was collaborating with other University departments and divisions to continue to support research and innovation, particularly among graduate students.
    • Longer-Term Impacts and Future Planning
      • Priorities as the University emerged from the pandemic included continued focus on equity, diversity and inclusion in research and innovation, supporting new partnerships, undergraduate research and fostering increased faculty-faculty mentorship. 
      • There would also be a revised approach to better align and co-leverage international research funding and collaboration through the Connaught Fund and a Healthy Lab Initiative with SGS. 

In the discussion that followed, questions were raised concerning the impact of the pandemic on faculty publications as well as on undergraduate research.  Turning first to faculty publications, Professor Sargent noted that while the pandemic had presented challenges for ongoing research, however, many faculty had also been able to pivot to alternative methodologies, virtual research, as well as locating and interpreting existing research data leading to strong publications. 

On the topic of undergraduate research, Professor Sargent confirmed that it was likely that undergraduate research initiatives, including summer opportunities, would continue to be offered, but would be adapted to account for pandemic restrictions. With both undergraduate and graduate laboratory work, the University would continue to facilitate research with the dual objectives of ensuring the safety of faculty, staff and students, and enabling and expanding the research mission of the University. 

  1. New Program: Major in Quantitative Biology, FAS

    Professor Schmuckler provided an overview of the proposed new program, noting that it would be offered by the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology in the Faculty of Arts & Science and would lead to an Honours Bachelor of Science degree and would consist of 8.0 full-course equivalents (FCEs). It was designed for students with a deep interest in biology who wished to gain a strong grounding in quantitative methods and their application to biological questions. The program’s curriculum coupled a biology program with three complementary quantitative methodologies: Mathematics; Statistics; and Programming. Consultation on the program occurred with the Temerty Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto Mississauga (UTM) and University of Toronto Scarborough (UTSC). All were supportive of the program. The proposed start date was planned for September 2021.  

    Professor Gillian Hamilton, Associate Dean, Unit-Level Reviews, noted that the proposed program reinforced that innovation was a priority in academic planning within the faculty. 

    There were no questions from members. 

    On motion duly made, seconded and carried,

    It was Resolved,

    THAT the proposed Major in Quantitative Biology, which will confer the existing degree HBSc, as described in the proposal from the Faculty of Arts & Science dated November 9, 2020, be approved effective, September 1, 2021.
  2. Program Closure: Specialist in Environmental Chemistry, FAS

    Professor Schmuckler provided an overview of the proposed closure, noting that such closures were embraced as a normal and positive part of program evolution and quality assurance, allowing focus to be directed to alternative offerings that better reflected the state of their academic disciplines and better suited student needs. 

    The Specialist in Environmental Chemistry was created almost 20 years ago when Specialist programs were generally more popular with students. The last UTQAP review of the Department of Chemistry identified that students were increasingly choosing Majors rather than Specialists, and that Majors focused in the life sciences were increasingly popular. There were currently 4 students enrolled in the program and, as a result, admissions to the Specialist were administratively suspended on November 1, 2020 for the 2021-22 academic year.  The University would support these students to complete the program. Consultation had occurred with the School of the Environment, which was a co-sponsor of the Specialist. The School expressed strong support for the closure. The effective date of closure would be June 30, 2024, and this date was chosen to align with the expected program completion date of in-progress students.

    In the discussion that followed, members enquired as to why fewer students were enrolling in specialist programs, as well as what would happen to students who did not finish the degree and did not transition into a major program. Turning to the first question, Professor Schmuckler noted that, overall, there had been a movement away from enrolment in specialist programs and a preference for major programs that allowed students to combine different, often interdisciplinary major programs. Regarding student completion, Professor Schmuckler noted that, in general when programs closed, departments and units worked closely with students to provide a means to completion.  Professor Randy Boyagoda, Vice-Dean, Undergraduate noted that the Dean’s offices and college registrar’s offices were integral in providing specialized guidance to students.  

    On motion duly made, seconded and carried

    It was Resolved,

    THAT the proposed closure of the Specialist in Environmental Chemistry, Faculty of Arts & Science, dated October 22, 2020, to which admissions were administratively suspended on November 1, 2020, be approved with an anticipated program closure date of June 30, 2024. 
  3. Program Closure: Specialist in Geocomputational Sciences, UTM

    Professor Schmuckler provided an overview of the proposed program closure, noting that the Specialist had been launched in 2008 as a 14.0 credit (i.e., 14.0 full-course equivalents) undergraduate specialist program. The program never operated successfully because it did not attract student interest. It had had no student enrolment since its launch in 2008. In August 2013, the Department of Geography, Geomatics and Environment administratively suspended the program in order to reassess the program, and to consider if it aligned with the overall mission and long-term plans of the Department. Through internal review of the Department’s academic offerings and consultation with the Department of Mathematical & Computational Sciences  at UTM, the Department had decided to close the program and focus on its more successful Geographical Information Systems programs. The effective date of closure was planned for September 1, 2021. 

    Professor Amrita Daniere, Vice-Principal Academic & Dean, noted that students had tended to favour major programs rather than specialists, and noted that most recent reviews of the Department of Geography had recommended the closure of the program and, since then, enrolment had not increased. 

    On motion duly made, seconded and carried

    It was Resolved

    THAT the proposed closure of the Specialist in Geocomputational Science, University of Toronto Mississauga, dated October 13, 2020, to which admissions were administratively suspended in 2013, be approved with an anticipated program closure date of September 1, 2021.
  4. Report on the Review of Clinical Departments, 2018 and 2019

    Professor Schmuckler provided an overview of the report, reminding members that Clinical Department reviews were commissioned by the Dean of the Faculty of Medicine and, because there were no degree programs associated with these departments, they were not UTQAP reviews.

    The report included the reviews of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology; the Department of Medicine; and the Department of Psychiatry, as well as a report on the review of the Terrence Donnelly Centre for Cellular and Biomolecular Research, a unique EDU:A that did not offer degree programs. All four reviews were extremely positive, assessing these academic units as being among the top in the world.

    There were no questions from members and the Report was received for information 
  5. Report of the Previous Meeting: Report 205 – October 27, 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 – February 24, 2021 at 3:10 p.m.

    The Chair confirmed that the date of the next meeting would be February 24, 2021 at 3:10 p.m.
  8. Other Business

    There were no items of other business. 

The meeting adjourned at 4:11 p.m.


January 13, 2021