Report: Executive Committee - February 13, 2024

Chairs' Boardroom, Simcoe Hall



To the Governing Council,
University of Toronto,

Your Executive Committee  reports that it held a meeting in the Chairs’ Boardroom, on Tuesday, February 13, 2024, with the following members present:

PRESENT: Anna Kennedy (Chair), Sandra Hanington (Vice-Chair), Meric Gertler (President), K. Sonu Gaind, Paul Huyer, Sarosh Jamal, Mark Lautens, Seyedreza Fattahi Massoum, Joanne McNamara,  Grace Westcott

REGRETS: Soban Atique, Ernest Lam, Kikelomo Lawal, Mary-Agnes Wilson

SECRETARIAT: Sheree Drummond (Secretary of the Governing Council); Joanne Chou, Committee Secretary

IN ATTENDANCE: Ann Curran (Chair, University Campus Council); Douglas McDougall (Chair, Academic Board); Rajiv Mathur (Chair, Business Board)*; Trevor Young, Vice-President and Provost;   Heather Boon, Vice-Provost, Faculty and Academic Life (for item 11a); Carmelle Salamon-Labbé (for item 11a); Nadina Jamison, Chief Strategy Officer, Office of the President; Bryn MacPherson, Assistant Vice-President, Office of the President; Kristin Taylor, University Counsel & Chief Legal Officer; Susan Mazza, Special Projects Officer, Office of the President

(*attended remotely) 

Pursuant to section 38 of By-Law Number 2,
consideration of items 11 to 13 took place in camera.


  1. Chair’s Remarks

    The Chair welcomed members, Board and Council Chairs and Vice-Presidents to the meeting. She extended a warm welcome to Professor Trevor Young, the University’s new Vice-President and Provost.
  2. Report of the President

    International Student Visas

    The President began his report by highlighting his recent visit to Ottawa to attend U15 meetings. The discussions focused on several active issues, including the recently announced two-year cap on international student visas, research funding support and Budget 2024, research security, and Canada/US relations.

    He reflected on the recent announcement by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) which introduced an annual cap of 360,000 international study permits nationwide. This represented a 35% decline overall in study permits issued relative to 2023 levels. The President explained that permits would be allocated to the provinces based on population, which would result in a 50% decline in Ontario’s total number of international study permits. The cap was expected to last for two years, and would not affect current permit holders, those pursuing master’s and doctoral degrees, or international high school students. He stated that the distribution of quotas and caps amongst the institutions would be the responsibility of the provinces, and this process was a matter of active discussion at both levels of government. He also noted that a study permit would not be issued until a provincial attestation letter (PAL) was provided by the Province and included with a study permit application.  The President noted that the Ontario Universities' Application Centre (OUAC) had been asked to take the central role in administrating the PAL system, to allow for visa processing to resume on or before March 31.

    The President remarked that the Minister of IRCC had emphasized that the federal cap on international students was not intended to punish international students or responsible institutions, and that international students were “a valuable asset to this country”. Rather, the Minister noted that some institutions had taken advantage of international students and created significant challenges for local communities related to access to housing and social services.  To highlight this, the Minister noted that three Ontario colleges alone accounted for 40% more international student study permits than the entire U15 combined.

    The President also highlighted that the IRCC announcement had removed the eligibility for international students to participate in the post-graduate work permit program (PGWP) for those who graduate under a curriculum licensing arrangement, known as a private-public partnership arrangement (PPP).

    The President noted that the U15, COU, and Universities Canada were actively engaged in advocacy efforts to ensure that the reduction in student visas be targeted at those institutions in the system that had not acted responsibly. The President highlighted U of T’s wide range of initiatives in place to support international students, such as the first-year residence guarantee, tri-campus international student supports and resources, financial aid, and emergency bursaries, all of which fostered international student success. 

    The President went on to note that in response to IRCC’s announcement, the Ontario government introduced a review of post-secondary programs with sizeable international student enrollments. The stated goals included ensuring that the programs under review met certain quality standards and addressed Ontario’s labour market needs.  A moratorium was also introduced on new public-private partnerships, and a review would be done of all existing partnerships. Additionally, the Province would now require post-secondary education institutions to provide guaranteed housing options for incoming international students, a measure that the University has had in place for over a decade.

    The President concluded his remarks on this matter noting that advocacy efforts were ongoing, and that he would keep members apprised as the file developed.  

    Low-Cost Loans for Student Housing

    The President noted that one of the issues fueling the announced cap on international students had been the growing housing crisis in Canada. To help address this, the University had successfully advocated for low-interest financing options to accelerate the construction of student housing.  On January 29th, the Honourable Sean Fraser, Minister of Housing, Infrastructure and Communities, had announced that the government would be offering low-cost loans to student residence projects by expanding access to the $40B Apartment Construction Loan Program. This program would reduce the cost of borrowing for U of T and enable construction of additional student housing. The President noted that the government would begin accepting applications in the fall of 2024 and would issue loan decisions by the end of the year.

    Research funding

    The President then provided an update on research funding, which had been a significant federal advocacy priority over the past few years. He noted that the U15 and Universities Canada had been vigorously advocating for an increase in funding for fundamental research and support for graduate students and post-doctoral fellows, including supporting the Bouchard Report recommendations, which were:

  • Increase the budgets for the Granting Councils and the Canda Foundation for Innovation by 10% per year for the next five years; 
  • Increase the value of federally funded graduate scholarships, and doctoral and postdoctoral fellowships, by 50%; and
  • Double the number of these scholarships and fellowships over 5 years. 

The President remarked that the total value of these packages would be just over $6B over 5 years. He had met with the Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Industry, Science and Innovation, as well as his Deputy Minister Simon Kennedy, both of whom had expressed cautious optimism that there may be new investments related to science in Budget 2024.  The President noted that any new federal funding would likely come with certain modifications to the current structure of the Granting Councils, designed to improve coordination and responsiveness.

Research security

The President then turned to matters of research security, another rapidly evolving, high-profile matter. In mid-January, the federal government had revealed its long-awaited measures to safeguard Canadian research, with the new federal Policy on Sensitive Technology Research and Affiliations of Concern (STRAC). He explained that this policy aimed to enhance Canada’s research security by ensuring that Federal grant applications involving advanced sensitive technology research areas would not be funded if any of the researchers involved were affiliated with a university, research institute or laboratory that was connected to a military, national defence or state security entity of foreign state actors that were deemed to pose a risk to Canada’s national security. He noted that the government had published a list of sensitive technology research areas (STRAs) and a list of named research organizations (NRO) connected to military, national defence or state security entities that posed a risk to Canada's national security.

The President noted that Professor Leah Cowen, Vice-President, Research and Innovation, and Strategic Initiatives, had been leading U of T’s engagement with the U15, Universities Canada, and senior government officials through the Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED) and Universities working group. He highlighted the ongoing assessment of the policy’s impacts on the research and innovation community and noted that Professor Cowen’s team would be working with academic divisions, affiliated hospitals, research institutes and international counterparts to provide support and outreach.

Letters from Ministers of Parliament

The President reported that in December 2023, twenty-seven Canadian universities had received a letter from five Members of Parliament in the Liberal caucus expressing concern over how universities were addressing antisemitism on their campuses, in light of the tragic events unfolding in the Middle East.

The MPs’ letter highlighted antisemitic incidents on campuses across Canada and requested that university leaders demonstrate how their institutions are protecting Jewish students and faculty and combating antisemitism. The letter also inquired if calling for the genocide of the Jewish people would violate the University’s policies.  The University responded, noting that “The University of Toronto affirms unequivocally that threats of harm to others and inciting violence, including calls for genocide against the Jewish people – or any other group – were violations of University of Toronto policy and an offence under Canadian law.” Subsequently, Mr. Anthony Housefather (Minister of Parliament for Mount Royal) had issued a statement on social media thanking the institutions for their engagement on this issue. The Montreal Gazette had also published a story that included the response by the five MPs to the letters from Universities, which included positive feedback to the responses received. 

The President then noted that in early February, the same group of twenty-seven universities had received a letter from thirteen MPs posing questions about “Islamophobia, antisemitism, and anti-Palestinian and anti-Arab discrimination”.  The President stated that the University would be responding similarly to this letter by the end of the month.

Provincial Matters

Blue-Ribbon Panel on Post-Secondary Education Financial Sustainability

Shifting to Provincial matters, the President noted that the University continued to await substantive comment from the Provincial government on the Blue-Ribbon Panel (BRP) report last year.

He noted that the Ministry of Colleges and Universities had indicated that the government continued to evaluate the BRP’s recommendations, and that a response would be forthcoming by the end of February.

The President reported that U of T had been encouraging the provincial government to adopt the report’s recommendations fully – with special attention to increased operating grants, unfreezing tuition fees, and increasing financial support for low- and middle-income students. Along with COU, the University had been engaging with provincial officials, the official opposition, student groups, the business community, and other stakeholders to garner support for the BRP’s recommendations.  

The President concluded his Provincial update by remarking on the recent decision by the Ontario Court of Appeal that declared Bill 124 unconstitutional, and the Ontario government’s subsequent decision not to appeal. He noted the financial impact that Bill 124 has had on the University, and that addressing this remained an advocacy priority.

In the discussion that followed, the President provided additional comments, noting that:

  • Prior to the recent government announcements, international students could qualify for a study permit and access the post-graduate work permit (PGWP) program if they attended a provincially recognized Designated Learning Institution (DLI). The list of DLIs in Ontario included both publicly funded and private institutions. The Province has committed to reviewing the quality of the programs offered at public-private partnership institutions, given the high number of international students enrolled at some of these institutions. 
  • The post-graduate work permit (PGWP) program would no longer be extended to graduates from public-private partnership institutions, and this will be suspended immediately. At this time, however, the PGWP program would continue to be available for international students in the rest of post-secondary education sector, including U of T students, and the University would monitor any changes closely. 
  • The Ontario Universities’ Application Centre (OUAC) was a not-for-profit, centralized application service for applicants to Ontario universities, and operated as a division of the Council of Ontario Universities (COU). Given their success as an efficiently managed service, OUAC had offered to centrally administer the provincial attestation letter (PAL) process for study permits.   
  • The University continued to advocate to the Federal government for a refinement to the approach of determining provincial study permit quotas, to ensure those institutions which effectively supported international students were not negatively impacted by the caps.  
  • Regarding the University budget, he noted that, should the Provincial government not lift the current tuition freezes, it is anticipated that they would likely increase funding for institutional grants to ensure Ontario’s universities remained financially stable.

    The Provost commented that the University was in a good financial position, with a projected balanced budget for the next 5 years. He noted that certain variables such as compensation had been factored into the budget and that revenue growth was slowing. In addition, he highlighted the risk assessments. He noted that the university was well positioned to manage changing variables such as inflation.

    The President concluded his report by reading into the record the names of the individuals who had accepted the Governing Council’s invitation to receive an honorary degree from the University of Toronto.


For her outstanding service for the public good, through many decades of tireless, constructive leadership and as a fearless advocate for equity and diversity.

Patrick AWUAH

For his outstanding service for the public good and excellence in the academy as a purposeful change-maker with an inspiring and outstanding commitment to global education and a deeply rooted desire to do good in the world.


For her excellence in the arts as a visionary pioneer as a gallerist and leading interlocutor in the arena of art and photography discourse, altering the trajectory of art history, and fostering cultural conversations within Canada and abroad.


For his outstanding service to the University through his exemplary civic and community service with local and national impact.  

Harold Hongju KOH

For his excellence in the professions through his staunch defense of democracy, and stalwart advocacy for the rule of law and human rights.


For his excellence in the professions expressed through his deft design sensibility and attention to context, and for his outstanding service to the University as a distinguished alumnus whose consequential relationship with his alma mater has been maintained for decades.  

Brian and Johannah LAWSON

For their outstanding service to the University as steadfast supporters, proud ambassadors, thoughtful and wise advisors, animated by a generosity of spirit and a commitment to making a positive difference in everything they do.


For his outstanding service to the nation as an inspirational and transformative advocate of Indigenous rights and human rights. 


For her excellence in the arts as a prodigious Canadian talent with a distinctive voice, and as a steadfast champion of equity and fairness.

Rosemary SADLIER

For her outstanding service for the public good through her tenacious advocacy and transformative work and leadership advancing anti-racism, Black women’s issues, and Black history and heritage.


The Chair noted that of the items listed on the Consent Agenda, Items 3 and 4, Revised Governing Council Meeting Dates, 2024-2025 and the Report of the Previous Meeting of the Executive Committee was for approval. All other items were for information only.

No questions or requests to place these consent agenda items on the regular were received by the Secretary.

On motion duly moved, seconded, and carried


THAT the consent agenda be adopted and that Items 3 and 4, the Revised Governing Council Meeting Dates, 2024-2025 and the Report of the Previous Meeting, be approved.

  1. Revised Governing Council Meeting Dates, 2024-2025

    Be It Resolved

    THAT the revised 2024-2025 meeting dates for the Governing Council be approved.
  2. Report of the Previous Meeting of the Executive Committee

    Report Number 546 from the meeting of December 5, 2023 was approved.
  3. Business Arising from the Report of the Previous Meeting

    There was no business arising from the report of the previous meeting.
  4. Minutes of the Governing Council

    Members received the Minutes of the December 18, 2023 Governing Council meeting for information.
  5. Business Arising from the Minutes of the Governing Council Meeting

    There was no business arising from the minutes.
  6. Report for Information

    Members received the following reports for information:
    1. Report Number 238 of the University Affairs Board (January 17, 2024)
    2. Report Number 63 of the University of Toronto Mississauga Campus Council (January 24, 2024)
    3. Report Number 276 of the Business Board (January 31, 2024)


  1. Date of next meeting – Tuesday, March 26, 2024

    The Chair advised members that the next meeting was scheduled for Tuesday, March 26, 2024 from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. in the Chairs’ Boardroom.
  2. Other Business
    1. Governing Council Meeting

      The Chair noted that the Governing Council meeting scheduled for February 29 had been cancelled as there were no approval items arising from the Boards and Campus Councils. She also noted that in light of the cancellation the Cycle 4 Governing Council meeting scheduled for April 4, 2024 would be held at UTSC.

      The Committee Moved In Camera.


  1. Item for Approval
    1. Code of Behavior on Academic Matters: Recommendation for Expulsion

      The Committee approved the President’s recommendation for expulsion, as outlined in the memorandum and supporting documentation from the Secretary of the Governing Council, dated February 6, 2024, be confirmed.

  2. Committee Members with the President

    Members of the Executive Committee, with Board and Campus Council Chairs, met with the President.
  3. Committee Members alone

    Members of the Executive Committee, with Board and Campus Council Chairs, met privately.

    The Committee returned to closed session.

The meeting adjourned at 6:15 p.m.

March 6, 2024