Report: Committee on Academic Policy and Programs - October 26, 2021

Via Virtual Meeting Room


October 26, 2021

To the Academic Board,
University of Toronto

Your Committee reports that it held a virtual meeting on Tuesday, October 26, 2021 at 3:10 p.m. with the following present:

Ernest Lam (Chair) Aarthi Ashok (Vice-Chair) Susan McCahan (Vice-Provost, Academic Programs and Innovations in Undergraduate Education), Joshua Barker (Dean of the School of Graduate Studies and Vice-Provost, Graduate Research and Education), Catherine Amara, Christian Caron, James Davis, Raisa Deber, Maryanna Diab, Ana Djapa, Stark Draper, Angela Esterhammer, Adam Fox, Robert Gibbs, Walid Houry, Nadine Janes, Gretchen Kerr, Jeannie Kim, Zhino Maanavi, Maureen Simpson, Markus Stock, Eric Stubbs, David Tieu

Moses Cook, Maryanna Diab, Karen Ng, Fabian Parsch, Rosa Saverino

Non-Voting Assessors:
Angelique Saweczko (University Registrar)
Edward T. Sargent (Vice-President, Research and Innovation, and Strategic Initiatives),

Timothy Harlick, Secretary

In Attendance
Lori Ferris (Associate Vice-President, Research Oversight and Compliance), April Franco (Chair, Department of Management), Wendy Duff (Dean, Faculty of Information), Heather MacNeil (Associate Dean, Academic, Faculty of Information), Pamela Couture (Executive Director, Toronto School of Theology), John Young (Interim Principal, Emmanuel College), Susan Wood (SCL, Academic Dean, Regis College), Robert Barringer (CSB, Principal, St. Augustine's Seminary), John Vissers (Principal, Knox College), Peter Robinson (Academic Dean, Wycliffe College), Normand Labrie (Interim Dean, OISE), Sarfaroz Niyozov (Acting Associate Dean, Programs, OISE), Nina Bascia (Chair, Department of Leadership, Higher and Adult Education, OISE), Melanie Woodin (Dean, Faculty of Arts & Science), Gillian Hamilton (Acting Vice-Dean, Academic Planning, Faculty of Arts & Science), Holly Wardlow (St. George Undergraduate Chair, Department of Anthropology), Max Friesen (Graduate Chair, Department of Anthropology), Luca Somigli (Chair, Department of Italian Studies), Timothy Harrison (Chair, Department of Near & Middle Eastern Civilizations), Patricia Houston (Acting Dean, Faculty of Medicine), Lisa Robinson (Vice Dean, Strategy & Operations, Faculty of Medicine), Timothy Hughes (Interim Chair, Department of Molecular Genetics), Susan Jaglal (Chair, Department of Physical Therapy), Sharon Switzer-McIntyre (Director, MScPT Program, Department of Physical Therapy), Angela Colantonio (Director, Rehabilitation Sciences Institute), William A. Gough (Vice-Principal Academic and Dean), Katie Larson (Vice-Dean Teaching, Learning and Undergraduate Programs), Hugh Laurence (Associate Dean Undergraduate Programs and Curriculum), Kenneth Welch (Acting Chair, Department of Biological Sciences), Sharlene Mollett (Chair, Department of Global Development Studies), Daniella Mallinick (Director, Academic Programs, Planning, and Quality Assurance), Jennifer Francisco (Coordinator, Academic Change, David Lock (Coordinator, Academic Planning & Reviews)

  1. Chair’s Welcome

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

    Professor McCahan offered an update on academic continuity as it related to the Winter 2022 term which highlighted the following:
  • The academic year began with a mix of in person and remote activities, and as divisions prepared for Winter 2022, there would be an increase in the amount of overall in person activity at the University, with an ongoing focus on health and safety, taking into account evolving public health restrictions. 
  • Divisions were working to ensure the UTogether website displayed each Faculty’s Winter plans by November. 
  • The University was actively monitoring the status of international travel for students in academic programs that required international activity. 
  • The University was working through the recent changes to the Global Affairs Canada advisories to ensure that when students were able to travel, they could do so as safely as possible. The Learning and Safety Abroad Office was communicating with students on a case-by-case basis. 

    Professor Ted Sargent invited Professor Lori Ferris, Associate Vice-President, Research Oversight and Compliance, to provide an update on the University’s research operations with regard to COVID-19.

    Professor Lori Ferris highlighted the following:
  • The University was operating under the provincial Government’s roadmap to reopen which included the removal of capacity limits and physical distancing requirements for instructional spaces if the University had adopted an appropriate vaccination policy and other applicable public health protective measures.
  • As of October 15, academic research labs on campuses that met the definition of “instructional space” as defined in the General Workplace Guideline would be permitted to increase operations up to 100%, if possible, based on their local context. 
  • For face-to-face research involving human participants, Research Ethics Boards (REBs) had been accepting submissions for all levels since July 19, 2021. Prior to then, there were restrictions for some types of face-to-face research.
  • A new process was put in place during the pandemic that involved a Face-to-Face COVID-19 Review Committee. The Committee focussed on COVID-19 related health and safety risks to human participants, and approvals from both the REB and Committee were required.
  • Researchers were able to conduct off campus or onsite field research and were encouraged to review the University’s guidance on research and travel during pandemic and expected to follow all policies of any institution where research was conducted.

    There were no questions from the Committee.

    The Chair thanked Professors McCahan and Sargent for their reports.
  1. Reviews of Academic Programs and Units
    1. UTSC Department of Management Follow-up Report from Previous Review

The Chair reminded the Committee that at its May 2020, meeting, AP&P requested a one-year follow-up report to update the Committee on the outcome of the review processes mentioned in the administrative responses, and on progress towards implementation of the follow up measures outlined at that meeting, especially in relation to the expressed need for improved student services and greater governance autonomy for the Management programs.

Professor McCahan reported that several steps had been taken to address this:

  • The Dean’s Office committed a substantial increase in base funding in 2020-2021 to support student services as a result of recommendations made by an external consultant after assessing Departmental student support in areas such as career education and development, and academic advising against other similar Canadian business and management programs.
  • The consultant also assessed the Department against the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) accreditation criteria. While existing organizational and governance structures made it challenging for the Department of Management to meet the eligibility criteria for consideration as a single business unit, UTSC continued to explore areas of autonomy that could be devolved to the Department, consistent with the goals of their Campus Strategic Plans.
  • Finally, the Department had conducted additional internal reviews since the 2019 University of Toronto Quality Assurance Process review: a core curriculum review conducted over Fall 2020 and 2021 resulted in several updates, with a new working group that would reconvene in 2022 to address remaining goals. A preliminary review of overload teaching had also been conducted and a recruitment plan was now in place to further address overload and stipendiary pressures faced by the Department, with two searches underway.  

    There were no questions from members.
  1. Semi-Annual Report on the Reviews of Academic Units and Programs, October 2020 – October 2021

    The Chair noted that the Committee had received 12 reviews of units and/or programs, three of which were Provostial reviews and nine of which were Decanal. All were brought forward for information and discussion. The submissions included the signed administrative responses from each Dean, which highlighted action plans in response to reviewer recommendations. 

    The Chair reported that members had been broken into four reading groups and that each group had been assigned three reviews to consider. To guide their work, members of these groups were asked to consider three questions: 
    1. Does the summary accurately tell the story of the full review? 
    2. Does the administrative response address all issues identified? 
    3. Are there any questions, comments or substantive issues that the Committee should consider? Is there a need to ask that the Vice-Provost, Academic Programs bring forward a follow-up report?

The Chair also noted that, as part of their review, each of the Reading groups had submitted comments to the appropriate Deans’ Offices for their consideration in advance of the meeting.

The Chair invited Professor McCahan to make general remarks about the reviews. 

Professor McCahan noted that the Committee played a critical role in the reviews of all academic programs and units at the University. The goals of these reviews were to:

  • to obtain expert advice of leaders in the field concerning academic and administrative issues,
  • to measure performance against leading international programs, and
  • to obtain guidance and input from peers on key strategic directions.

    She confirmed that 12 reviews were brought forward for the Committee’s consideration; three commissioned by the Provost and nine reviews commissioned by Deans. She noted that both recurring and new themes were identified in the reviews: the talent and high calibre of students and the impressive body of scholarship produced by faculty, as well as the programs’ interdisciplinary strengths and the many initiatives undertaken by the academic units to enhance equity, diversity, and inclusion.

    As always, the reviews noted areas for development. The reviews identified the need for units to strengthen their communication and governance structures, and suggested ways to engage in meaningful discussions regarding student recruitment and faculty workload. The reviews also highlighted the need to ensure that diversity was reflected in faculty complement and curriculum. 

    She also noted that the Provostial review of the conjoint degree programs offered by the Toronto School of Theology (TST) and the University of Toronto were coming forward for discussion at the meeting and that as defined in the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between TST and the University, conjoint degrees were “conferred by the simultaneous exercise of the power and authority” of the University and one of the seven TST member institutions. Per the MOA, these conjoint programs were subject to UTQAP provisions regarding cyclical program reviews. However, this was a program only review. TST and its member institutions are separate legal entities from the University and therefore these units were not subject to university review processes.

    Faculty of Information and its programs, Provostial

    The spokesperson for the reading group found the review to be overall positive. 

    The spokesperson reported that, although related points were included in the summary, the summary did not directly capture the reviewers’ recommendation that doctoral student numbers needed to be resolved to avoid retention issues for those faculty who rely on a laboratory model for their research. 

    In response to a question on the cancellation of the search for a new Dean, Professor Susan McCahan informed the Committee that the President and Provost jointly dissolved the Advisory Search Committee in accordance with the University’s Search Committee Principles and Practices and, as a result of the temporary pause of the search, Professor Wendy Duff had agreed to extend her appointment as Dean for a two-year term.  

    In response to questions from the reading group, Professor Wendy Duff, Dean, Faculty of Information:
    Referred back to various sections of the administrative response outlining how the Faculty intended to address the comments of the reviewers. 
  • Noted that space continued to be an issue, and renovations that were underway would create more collaborative spaces.
  • Noted that all Program Directors had now been granted course release and noted an interest in having more teaching stream faculty as Program Directors, given the alignment of the role with their scholarship.
  • Highlighted the diversity that came with the interdisciplinary nature of the Faculty of Information, and that the need to build a common mission and values was being addressed through a recently established strategic planning process.

    No follow-up report was requested.

Toronto School of Theology/University of Toronto Conjoint Programs (TST), Provostial

The spokesperson for the reading group reported that overall, they found the review to be positive. 

The spokesperson reported that the review summary did not capture the reviewers’ observation of the need for TST and member institutions to evaluate ethically, the ideal number of doctoral student admissions, considering their future career prospects. Further, the recommendations that the relationship between the University and TST had room for improvement could have been better emphasized, given the importance the reviewers placed on this.

In response to questions raised by the reading group, Professor Pamela Couture, Executive Director, Toronto School of Theology, provided the following comments:

  • The faculty:student ratio was higher than some of their counterparts, but similar to peer theological schools, and far less than some other Canadian institutions. The faculty:student ratio of 1:16 was produced by data aggregated by their accrediting association, the Association of Theological Schools and was based on headcount, not FTE. Faculty:student ratios varied across the member institutions. The Heads of the member institutions would review the data and discuss ways to address these variations.
  • Since receiving the reviewers’ report, comparative data had been collected to assess student financial support packages at each of the member institutions. A committee had been struck to review these data, and an external consultant would work with TST and the member institutions to develop EDI plans, including plans for student financial support and the collection of data to support EDI.
  • Updates to the Graduate Appointments policy had been proposed by the Graduate Appointments Committee and included consultation with member institution faculty. The revisions were anticipated to be approved by their Academic Council by the upcoming term.
  • Strategic hiring of faculty was complicated as each member institution hired its own faculty. The Senior Executive Council did discuss projected hires of member institutions each summer and fall. 
  • A multi-year plan was planned to develop a consortium-wide enrolment strategy that could inform a long-term complement plan.

    Given significant resource limitations, and the search for a new Director, the reading group believed that these factors could impact the ability of TST to make significant advancements on the review’s recommendations. The reading group therefore requested a one-year follow-up report on the progress of addressing complement and enrolment planning, greater diversity and better funding, the graduate faculty appointment process and long-term planning. 

UTSC Department of Biological Sciences

The spokesperson for the reading group reported that the review summary accurately reflected the full review. The reading group found the review very positive with reviewers remarking on the excellence of the undergraduate programs which were rooted in up-to-date pedagogical methods resulting in a modern Biology curriculum.

In response to a question from the reading group, Professor Kenneth Welch, Acting Chair, Department of Biological Sciences, commented that:

  • The Department had proposed new course based undergraduate research experiences which were expected to launch in 2023-24 and that work continued in formalizing aspects related to those new offerings.

    Responding to a concern raised that the frequency of offerings in the co-op program could result in delayed in graduation, Professor Ashok, Associate Chair, Undergraduate Affairs Department of Biological Sciences, commented that:
  • there was a high degree of confidence that all students were on track to graduate without delay.  
  • Pre-program advising had been put in place to assist first- and second-year students. 

    No follow-up report was requested.

UTSC Centre for Critical Development Studies

The spokesperson for the reading group reported that the review summary accurately reflected the full review. The group noted the administrative responses were extremely detailed and addressed most comments.
In response to a question by the reading group, Professor Sharlene Mollett, Chair, Department of Global Development Studies, commented on the issue of co-op students who identified the need for additional supports and alternative approaches to the pre-departure preparation and debriefing processes. Professor Mollett noted that:

  • Students complete a debriefing at the end of their third year. The Department was augmenting pre-departure briefings with an expert who would provide a workshop on intersectional harassment and violence designed to help students mitigate and report sexual harassment and racial discrimination. 
  • When renewing partnership agreements, the University’s expectations of how partners were to treat students working in those organizations would be communicated. 
  • A new required course called Confronting Development’s Racist Past and Present had been developed to help students understand the existence of racism and other discriminations in international development globally.

No follow-up report was requested.

Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, Provostial

The spokesperson for the reading group reported that the review summary accurately reflected the full review. The spokesperson noted that the administrative responses addressed most comments. 
In response to a question by the reading group on the issue of how students’ financial needs were to be supported either by creating more opportunities for teaching assistantship, or through scholarships or other means, Professor Normand Labrie, Interim Dean, OISE, provided the following:

  • An overview of opportunities available to students, noting that OISE spends approximately 20% of its operating budget on student support. 
  • The desire for their students to have more teaching opportunities, highlighting a working group that had been struck to provide recommendations on enhancing teaching opportunities for students. 
  • Information on OISE’s advancement goals to increase awareness and funding for excellence and needs based awards for underrepresented groups reaffirming their commitment to EDI.

    A one-year follow-up report was requested on the issue of how students’ financial needs were to be supported either by creating more opportunities for teaching assistantship, or through scholarships or other means.

Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (Leadership, Higher, & Adult Education)

The spokesperson for the reading group reported that the reviewers’ comments were overall positive. They felt the review summary accurately reflected the full review. 

In response to a question by the reading group about the steps taken to remedy the financial shortfall facing the different programs and about the faculty replacement/renewal plans, 
Professor Normand Labrie, Interim Dean, OISE, noted that:

  • Over the past five years the Department engaged in program innovation which increased the number of students.
  • While the Department was in good financial health, it was considering alternative sources of revenue through new post-secondary certificates, advancement and increasing international enrolment.
  • The next phase of the faculty renewal plan would be principled, fiscally responsible, and support program needs. The priority would be focused on hiring tenure stream and teaching stream faculty. 
  • Since the review, the Department had hired three tenure stream faculty with three additional searches underway.

    No follow-up report was requested.

    FAS – Department of Anthropology

    The spokesperson for the reading group reported that the summary accurately covered the full review. The group agreed that the administrative responses fully addressed the issues identified. 

    No follow-up report was requested.

    FAS - Department of Italian Studies

    The spokesperson for the reading group reported that the summary accurately covered the full review, and that the administrative response fully addressed the issues identified. 

    The reading group encouraged the Department to continue to address concerns regarding departmental culture, faculty composition, and EDI while keeping the long-term health of the program in mind.

    Professor Luca Somigli, Chair of the Department of Italian Studies, responded by emphasizing the importance of addressing concerns of departmental culture and EDI, noting that the Department was working closely with the Office of High Risk, Faculty Support and Mental Health, to provide workshops with faculty and students to address issues that were raised in the report. 

    No follow-up report was requested.

    FAS - Department of Near & Middle Eastern Civilizations

    The spokesperson for the reading group reported that the summary accurately covered the full review. The group agreed the administrative responses addressed each concern for both the immediate and longer term.

    In response to a question, Professor Timothy Harrison, Chair, Department of Near & Middle Eastern Civilizations, commented that:
  • Because it was not included in the standardized data sets originally provided to the Department, placement data was not included in the review. He assured the Committee that the data will be included in future reviews. 

    No follow-up report was requested.

    MED – Department of Molecular Genetics

    The spokesperson for the reading group reported that the summary provided an accurate reflection of the review. The group agreed the administrative responses addressed the key recommendations clearly. 

    In response to questions from the reading group regarding plans for faculty recruitment and curriculum review, Professor Lisa Robinson, Vice-Dean, Strategy & Operations, Faculty of Medicine, commented that:
  • There were two unfilled tenure stream vacancies as a result of retirements, and that the majority of campus-based faculty were relatively senior. 
  • There was a growing interest in building capacity in the areas of microbiology and computational biology; plans for expansion or renewal were also coordinated with the affiliated centres and institutes.
  • The Department’s Undergraduate Curriculum Committee would be conducting a full review of the undergraduate curriculum.

    In response to a question from the reading group on the reviewers’ recommendation to expand the MSc in Genetic Counselling to meet demand within the field, Professor Timothy Hughes, Interim Chair, Department of Molecular Genetics, commented that:
  • Due to the clinical work required at the Hospital for Sick Children and the limited availability of clinical cases, it would not be feasible to increase student enrolment. 

    No follow-up report was requested.

    MED - Department of Physical Therapy

    The spokesperson for the reading group reported that the summary appropriately reflected the full review report. The group agreed the administrative responses addressed all the major issues. 

    In response to a question from the reading group regarding the issue of the enrollment ceiling cap and budget sustainability, Professor Susan Jaglal, Chair, Department of Physical Therapy commented that:
  • The new provincial post-secondary funding model did not permit enrolment expansion. In addition, classroom size limited possible enrolment increases. 
  • The faculty was exploring funding opportunities to ensure budget sustainability.

    No follow-up report was requested.

    MED - Department of Rehabilitation Sciences

    The spokesperson for the reading group reported that the summary did a good job of reflecting the full report. 

    In response to questions from the reading group, Professor Angela Colantonio, Director, Rehabilitation Sciences Institute, highlighted:
  • Time-to-completion data was collected and actively monitored by Rehabilitation Sciences Institute (RSI) staff.
  • The Student Affairs Committee terms of reference would be undergoing review with the consideration of expanding its mandate, possibly to include mental health.
  • The role of postdoctoral fellows at RSI and commented that their roles would be discussed in future faculty town halls and executive meetings to develop a more structured plan to capture contributions. 

    No follow-up was requested.

    The Chair thanked all members of the Committee’s reading groups for their work and to the Office of the Vice-Provost, Academic Programs for assembling the Review Compendium.
  1. Report of the Previous Meeting: Report 209, September 23, 2021

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

    There was no business arising from the report of the previous meeting.
  3. Date of Next Meeting – January 11, 2022, at 3:10 p.m.

    The Chair confirmed that the next meeting of the Committee would be held on January 11, 2022. 
  4. Other Business

    There were no items of other business. 

The meeting adjourned at 5:05 p.m.


October 27, 2021