Report: Committee on Academic Policy and Programs - September 21, 2020

Via Virtual Meeting Room

September 21, 2020

To the Academic Board,
University of Toronto

Your Committee reports that it held a virtual meeting on Monday, September 21, 2020 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), Mark Schmuckler (Vice-Provostial Advisor), Weijia Chen, James Davis, Raisa Deber, David Dubins, Angela Esterhammer, Nicholas Everett, Cathy Feng, Sol Goldberg, A’aishah Abdul Hameed, Emily Hawes, Walid Houry, Amin Kamalddin, Allan Kaplan, Grase Kim, Jeannie Kim, Daiana Kostova, Kevin Li, Maureen MacDonald, Alexandra MacKay, Rosa Saverino, Maureen Simpson

Non-Voting Assessors:

Sinisa Markovic


David Walders

In Attendance:

Jill Caskey (Chair, Department of Visual Studies, UTM), Amrita Daniere (Vice-Principal and Dean, UTM), Emma del Junco (Assistant Coordinator, Academic Planning and Reviews, OVPAP), Gretchen Kerr (Vice-Dean, Programs and Innovation, SGS), Daniella Mallinick (Director, Academic Programs, Planning and Quality Assurance, OVPAP), Heather Miller (Vice-Dean, Teaching & Learning, UTM)

1. Chair’s Welcome

The Chair introduced himself and welcomed members and guests to the meeting. He then introduced the Vice-Chair, Professor Aarthi Ashok, Professor Susan McCahan, the Senior Assessor, as well as Professor Mark Schmuckler, who would be stepping in for Professor McCahan as the Senior Assessor as she focused on academic continuity in light of COVID. The Chair also introduced the other assessors to the Committee: Mr. Sinisa Markovic, Interim Executive Director Enrolment Services and University Registrar; Professor Joshua Barker, Dean of Graduate Studies, and; Professor Ted Sargent, Vice-President, Research and Innovation, and Strategic Initiatives.

2. Reports of the Administrative Assessors

Professor McCahan offered an update of the University’s academic continuity planning in response to the COVID-19 crisis, as of September 21, 2020, which highlighted the following:

  • There had been a significant increase in the number of students taking courses this summer. Over the summer, instructors had the opportunity to work with each other, with educational technology experts, and with institutional and divisional offices of teaching support and innovation, to prepare their Fall courses.
  • With the Fall 2020 academic session underway, instructors across the University launched their courses, mainly online, with select in person activities. Divisions were committed to offering an outstanding university experience, regardless of mode of delivery.
  • In a relatively small number of programs, often in those with placements in health science settings, academic disruptions were declared under the Policy on Academic Continuity.
  • Of the over 900 programs offered by the University, since the start of the pandemic, at the request of the deans, the Provost had approved requests for disruptions in 68 programs and 54 courses (34 of those were course-only disruptions), impacting14 faculties and the Toronto School of Theology.
  • As of September 2020, disruptions continued in 62 programs and 4 courses that were not part of a broader program disruption. Nearly all of the program disruptions responded to the suspension or cancellation of in person placements, in hospitals and other settings.
  • In addition, four programs did not admit new students for the 2020-21 academic year due to COVID.
  • The University continued to closely monitor the evolving advice of government and public health officials and continued to work with the divisions to support best practices in multiple delivery formats and the development of contingency plans.

Professor Gretchen Kerr, Vice-Dean, Programs and Innovation, School of Graduate Studies (SGS), offered an update on behalf of Professor Joshua Barker, highlighting the following main points:

  • SGS formed the Graduate Research and Adaptation Committee which, along with smaller working groups (largely made up of students), met frequently over the summer to discuss the impact of COVID on graduate students and graduate research. 
  • These groups continued to meet and meetings had also been held with the Graduate Students Union, the Graduate Student Advisory Committee as well as with student groups on an ad hoc basis.
  • Key themes emerged from these meetings, including; the safe return of graduate students to research spaces on campus; the content of attestation forms; funding; time to completion, and increased communication from SGS to graduate students.
  • In reply, SGS had taken a number of approaches.  These included:
    • The development of dedicated mentoring forms, to ensure academic continuity planning was meeting the needs of students and to assess the ways in which research had been affected.
    • A robust set of FAQs on the SGS website, which were regularly updated.
    • Extended registration times and Fall semester tuition waivers for those whose graduate work had been disrupted. Extending this tuition waiver beyond the Fall term would be explored as necessary.
    • Financial aid for students, both in the form of emergency funding and divisional level support.

There were no questions from members.

The Chair thanked Professors McCahan and Kerr for their remarks.

3. Orientation and Discussion: Committee Responsibilities

The Chair referred members to the orientation videos which had been provided to members in advance of the meeting.  One of the videos described the unicameral structure of the University, while the other was designed to provide an overview of where APP sat within governance at the University, as well as key elements of its Terms of Reference and areas of responsibilities.  He encouraged members who had not yet had the chance to view the video to do so.

There were no questions from members regarding the orientation to committee responsibilities.

4. Orientation and Discussion: Academic Change

The Chair noted that the consideration of academic change proposals were a major area of focus for the Committee, and drew member’s attention to the orientation video on this topic.

There were no questions from members regarding the orientation to academic change proposals.

5. Orientation and Discussion: Cyclical Reviews

The Chair noted that the cyclical reviews were another major area of focus for the Committee, and drew member’s attention to the orientation materials, including the orientation video, on this topic.

Professor McCahan noted that there would be 10 reviews and 3 follow up reports which would be brought forward to the Cycle 2 meeting of the Committee. She informed members that each reading group would be responsible for 2-3 reviews. She also urged members to review the orientation materials to address any questions they might have on the review process.

In reply to a member’s question, Professor McCahan reviewed the timelines associated with the work of the review groups and explained the University of Toronto Quality Assurance Process and its function in the overall review process.

6. New Undergraduate Program Proposal: Major in Cinema Studies, University of Toronto Mississauga (UTM)

Professor McCahan introduced the proposal, noting that the Major in Cinema Studies would be offered by the Department of Visual Studies at the University of Toronto Mississauga and would lead to an Honours Bachelor of Arts degree. The program would build on the successful existing freestanding Minor in Cinema Studies and would provide students with a broad and conceptually sophisticated knowledge of film history and cultures, and a deep understanding of the philosophical questions stemming from engagement with moving image media.

The Major would consist of 7.5 full-course equivalents (FCEs) including three required courses (1.5 FCEs) and an additional 6.0 FCEs, of which at least 5.0 FCEs would have to be cinema studies courses. Within these requirements, students would have to take a minimum of 1.0 FCE in each of the following three core program areas: Auteurs; Cinemas in Context; and Genres. Consultation on the program had occurred with the Faculty of Arts & Science and the University of Toronto Scarborough and feedback had been very positive. The proposed start date would be September 2021. 

In the discussion that followed, members asked questions about the particular focus of the program and expected enrolment, the infrastructure to support students in the program as well as possible collaborations with other departments.  In reply, Professor Jill Caskey, Chair, Department of Visual Studies, UTM, reported that the focus of the program would be informed by the department’s expertise in visual studies and visual culture, the history of cinema as well as the impact of cinema on society.  She noted that there had recently been three full-time faculty hires to support the program and that the technology available to students at UTM would allow for a rich experience in the program.  Turing to collaborations with other departments, Professor Caskey noted that courses in the program would be cross-listed in other departments and that additional collaborations with other departments would be explored in the future. Finally, Professor Amrita Daniere, Vice-Principal and Dean, UTM reported on the significant student interest in Cinema Studies at UTM and that the proposed program would address this interest.  

On motion duly made, seconded and carried,

It was Resolved
THAT the proposed Major in Cinema Studies, as described in the proposal from the University of Toronto Mississauga dated August 20, 2020, be approved effective September 1, 2021.

7. Report of the Previous Meeting: Report 203, May 6, 2020

The report of the previous meeting was approved.

8. Business Arising from the Report of the Previous Meeting

There was no business arising from the report of the previous meeting.

9. Date of Next MeetingOctober 27, 2020 at 3:10 p.m.

The Chair confirmed that the next meeting of the Committee would be held on October 27, 2020.

10. Other Business

There were no items of other business.

The meeting adjourned at 4:10 p.m.