Report: Governing Council - October 26, 2023

Council Chamber, Simcoe Hall



Thursday, October 26, 2023, 4:30 p.m.,
in the Council Chamber, Simcoe Hall.

PRESENT: Anna Kennedy (Chair), Sandra Hanington (Vice-Chair), Rose M. Patten (Chancellor), Meric S. Gertler, (President), Cheryl Regehr (Provost), Sharleen Ahmed, Soban Atique, Amanda Bartley, Glen W. Bandiera, Vikram Chadalawada, Janet Cloud, Ann Curran, Sotirios Damouras, Ramy Elitzur, K. Sonu Gaind, Alexandra Gillespie, Mathangi (Indi) Gopinathan, Maureen Harquail, Paul Huyer, Sarosh Jamal, Ron Levi, Scott MacKendrick, Seyedreza Massoum, Brian Madden, Rajiv Mathur, Doug McDougall, Eha Mai Naylor, Joseph Nkeng, Andrew Peterson, Veronica Marie Wadey, Grace Ann Westcott, Mary-Agnes Wilson, Geeta Yadav, David W. Zingg

Sheree Drummond (Secretary of the Governing Council)  

REGRETS: Robert Cooper, Annabel Dravid, Dveeta Lal, Sameer Lal, Ernest Lam, Mark Lautens, Kikelomo Lawal, Nelson Lee, Joanne McNamara, Firdaus Sadid, Danielle Skipp, Nhung Tuyet Tran

In Attendance:  
Luke Daccord (CUPE 3261 President), Anthony Pereira (CUPE, Full-Time Part-Time Unit Rep.), Stanley Treivus (CUPE, Casual Unit Rep.), Soosainathan Rajendiram (CUPE, 89 Chestnut Rep.); Alex Brat (Senior Executive Director, Labour Relations); Erin Jackson (Assistant Vice-President, Human Resources); Prof. Franco Taverna (Special Advisor on Experiential Learning and Associate Professor Human Biology); Vicki Lowes (Executive Director, Experiential Learning & Professional Development); Leah Cowen (Vice-President, Research and Innovation, and Strategic Initiatives); Simon Pratt (Director, Research Strategy & Excellence); Bruce Kidd (Ombudsperson); Joshua Barker (Vice-Provost, Graduate Research and Education, and Dean of the School of Graduate Studies), Leah Cowen (Vice-President, Research & Innovation, and Strategic Partnerships); Christine Szustaczek (Vice-President, Communications); Joseph Wong (Vice-President, International), Christine Ovcaric (Sandbox Initiative Coordinator), David Palmer (Vice-President, Advancement), Ron Saporta (Acting Vice-President, University Operations), Bryn MacPherson (Assistant Vice-President, Office of the President & Chief of Protocol), Susan McCahan (Vice-Provost Academic Programs and Vice-Provost, Innovations in Undergraduate Education), Jeff Lennon (Assistant Vice-President, Planning & Budget); Kristin Taylor (University Counsel and Chief Legal Officer), Catherine Riddell (Assistant Vice-President, Communications), KimEija Taipaleenmaki (Member, College of Electors), Eric Noble (Member, College of Electors), Idas Levato (Member, College of Electors), Jing Fu (Member, College of Electors), Terese Weisberg (Member, College of Electors), Dan Bowyer (Member, College of Electors), Bay Bahri (Undergraduate Student)

Anwar Kazimi, Tracey Gameiro


  1. Chair’s Remarks

    The Chair welcomed members and guests to the cycle one meeting of the Governing Council for the 2023-24 governance year. She thanked the curators of the University Art Centre for the tour of the Indigenous art installation, ‘acknowledging the land,’ and commented that the exhibit was a powerful symbol of the importance of making space for Indigenous voices and presence at the University.

    The Chair announced that following the fall by-election, Mr. Joseph Nkeng had been elected by acclamation for one of the part-time student seats, and Ms Annabelle Dravid was elected for the graduate student seat. She offered her congratulations to them both.

    The Chair reported that she had granted a speaking request to four executive members of CUPE 3261. She noted that typically speaking requests were not granted when the topic was not on the day’s agenda, however the request was approved in this case.

    The Chair invited Mr. Luke Daccord (President, CUPE 3261), Mr. Anthony Pereira (Full-Time Part-Time Unit Rep.), Mr. Stanley Treivus (Casual Unit Rep.), and Mr. Soosainathan Rajendiram (89 Chestnut Rep.) to share their remarks, as follows:
  • Mr. Daccord commented that CUPE 3261 represented over 1000 service workers from across the tri-campus. He noted the upcoming collective bargaining process was to commence in three weeks time. He commented that CUPE members touched upon many critical aspects of student spaces and experiences, from food to safety. With respect to wages, he remarked that about 70 percent of the workers earned less than the living wage, according to the Ontario Living Wage Network, and members were struggling.
  • Mr. Pereira commented that CUPE workers were concerned that their work was being outsourced to private companies. He remarked that students would benefit from having service workers who called the University of Toronto home.
  • Mr. Rajendiram expressed that all of the cafeteria and kitchen workers worked hard to provide a great experience for students. He noted understaffing and low wages and cited high stress and burnout amongst CUPE members.
  • Mr. Treivus expressed his concern that the University had hired casual staff to carry out full-time work at a lower wage. He noted that upcoming negotiations would focus on equity, dignity, and respect in the workplace. He extended an invitation for governors to meet with CUPE members, as noted on the handout provided to members.

    The Chair thanked the speakers and noted for governors that Council would refrain from engaging in any discussions of the matter as it was important that governance respect the collective bargaining process.
  1. Report of the President

    The Chair invited the President to offer his report.

    President Gertler opened his remarks by inviting Dr. Vicki Lowes, Executive Director, Experiential Learning & Professional Development, Professor Franco Taverna Associate Professor, Human Biology, and Special Advisor to the Dean on Experiential Learning, Christine Ovcaric, Sandbox Initiative Coordinator, and Bay Bahri, a fourth year Undergraduate Student pursuing a double Specialist in Global Health and Health Studies), to present on the topic of Innovations in Experiential Learning in the Faculty of Arts and Science (FAS).Their presentation focused on an initiative called the Sandbox Pilot, with the following highlights:
  • The Faculty had a goal for every Arts & Science student to have the opportunity to participate in at least one high-quality, academically linked experiential learning opportunity prior to graduation.
  • The Sandbox Model was a pedagogical approachthat facilitated problem-based, experientiallearning by integratingindustry andcommunity challengesinto curricula.The model was intended to facilitate tripartite partnerships among industry, faculty members, andstudents toco-create solutions for contemporary business and societal problems.
  • The FAS Sandbox Pilot used a multidisciplinary approach, bringing together professors and students from a range of programs to work simultaneously with community partners, including the Toronto District School Board, UNICEF, and Access Alliance, among others.
  • The pilot program was launched this year (2023) with support from the Provost’s Experiential Learning Fund and it was intended to be scalable to increase access to experiential learning opportunities across FAS.

    Israel – Palestine Conflict

    The President began by commenting on the situation in the Middle East, noting that it remained top-of-mind for everyone in the University community.He noted that the Vice-President, International, Professor Joseph Wong had issued a statement on behalf of the University unequivocally condemning the terrorist violence perpetrated by Hamas and expressing immense grief for the loss of civilian lives on both sides. The President had issued a statement reiterating these messages and offering heartfelt condolences to all those suffering in Israel and Gaza, and to those who had been personally impacted. He reaffirmed the principles of academic freedom and freedom of expression and reminded the University community of its obligations and responsibilities to enable and accommodate vigorous debate on difficult issues, while sharing contentious or competing views with civility and respect. He encouraged the University community to demonstrate empathy, to look for opportunities to build bridges, to foster mutual respect and understanding, and to advance the search for peaceful solutions to the conflict.

    Landmark Project Update

    The President reported that the Landmark Project on the front campus was nearing completion. Grass had been laid in August, most of fencing had been removed, and the planting of the gardens would be complete soon. He noted that some work related to the underground infrastructure would be occurring over the coming weeks, and the parking garage and geo-exchange system would be completed in the next few months. He remarked that it had been a pleasure to watch the transformation of the space into a people-friendly, pedestrian, green oasis at the heart of the St. George campus.

    Times Higher Education (THE) World Academic Summit, 2023

    The President reported that he had led a delegation to the Times Higher Education World Academic Summit hosted by the University of Sydney in September.In this year’s THE World University Rankings, the University of Toronto had been ranked 21st in the world, 10th among public universities worldwide, and third among North American public universities.

    At the Summit, the President had spoken in a session on improving Indigenous access to higher education. The University’s recent initiative to cover tuition fees for Indigenous students from nine local and neighbouring First Nations had been very well received, and many institutions were looking to Canada, and the University of Toronto, for leadership in this area. He acknowledged the leadership of the Provost and others who had been involved with shaping and implementing this important initiative.

    Federal Matters

    The President spoke to the University’s continued advocacy work at the Federal level. Much of that work focused on implementing recommendations from the Federal government’s Report of the Advisory Panel on the Research Support System. The Report had called for an increase in funding levels for the Research Councils of 10 percent per year for five years to allow institutions to maintain their competitiveness with other major research-performing nations. The Report had also noted the importance of increased funding for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows to internationally competitive levels. The University would be looking for signs that the Report would be addressed in the upcoming Fall Economic Update or in the 2024 Federal Budget.

    With regard to the current tensions in India-Canada relations, the President reported that many in the postsecondary education sector had expressed grave concerns about the decline in the relationship between the two governments and its possible impact on student recruitment and research partnerships. The University had assured its Indian students that they continued to be welcome here and that the University would do everything it could to ensure their wellbeing and success. The University had also reached out to its research partners in India to reassure them of its ongoing commitment to work with them collaboratively. The Indian government had recently resumed visa processing for Canadians travelling to India, and it was hoped that this was an indication of an improvement in Canada-India relations.

    The President remarked on his recent trip to Mexico City where he had hosted a reception for prospective students and alumni. He noted that engagement and interest had been exceptionally high, and that many attending the event had remarked that both the University of Toronto and Canada were very appealing places to study. The President hoped the University’s student recruitment from Mexico would continue to rise.

    Provincial Matters

    Turning to Provincial matters, the President noted that there would be a Fall Economic Statement on November 2, followed by the beginning of pre-budget consultations. He recalled that last year the Provincial government had established a Blue-Ribbon Panel to provide advice and recommendations to the government on how to promote long-term financial sustainability for the postsecondary education sector. The University now awaited the release of the Report in the coming weeks. The President was hopeful that the Report would recommend creating a sustainable financial framework through the combination of an increase in operating grants and the unfreezing of tuition fees for domestic Ontario students. He assured Governing Council that he would continue to provide updates.
  1. Strategic Presentation – University Rankings

    The Chair invited Professor Leah Cowen (Vice-President, Research and Innovation, and Strategic Initiatives) to the podium. Professor Cowen introduced Mr. Simon Pratt (Director, Research Strategy & Excellence) whose presentation included the following highlights:
  • Rankings, however controversial, were important to stakeholders and could benefit the University. Rankings enabled the recruitment of outstanding faculty, students, postdoctoral fellows, and staff; expanded opportunities for international collaboration and partnerships; and amplifed growth in philanthropic support and industry sponsored research.
  • There were many global, regional, national, subject, and mission-specific rankings published each year.
  • The University tracked rankings that were robust and important to stakeholders, including: Times Higher Education (THE) – World University Rankings, QS – World University Rankings, Shanghai Ranking – Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU), U.S. News – Best Global Universities, and National Taiwan University (NTU) - Performance Ranking of Scientific Papers for World Universities.
  • Each ranking used a different methodology with some measures in common. Publications, citations, and reputation were the most important and heavily weighted measures. Most of the data was collected independently - THE and QS rankings also used data supplied by universities such as the number of staff, students, and financial data. Citation counts were heavily weighted indicators.
  • QS, THE, and U.S. News also relied on reputation surveys. General reputation and brand recognition were important.
  • Rankings publishers used various indicators related to the University’s international connections. International collaborations and partnerships directly influenced the rankings indicators, but also indirectly impacted citations and reputation.
  • For 2023, U of T stood at number one in Canada and among the top 25 in the world for all of the five rankings noted.
  • Ranking results and methodologies had changed over time. In some countries such as China, increased funding had led to their larger research enterprise, and impacted their rankings.
  • THE changed its methodology in 2023 and added four new indicators – research strength, research excellence, research influence, and patent citations.
  • The ranking publishers also produced subject rankings. The subject scope was primarily determined by categorizing journals and the subjects only partially reflected U of T divisions and departments. Overall, U of T performed exceptionally well, a reflection both breadth and depth of excellence.
  • The University’s current ranking strategy aimed to maximise underlying performance, enhance the University’s reputational standing, and ensure accuracy of data submissions and adhere to the criteria.

    A member noted the current financial landscape of the University compared to other nations and queried how to expand funding for research to enhance rankings. Mr. Pratt agreed that the rankings did measure research income as an indicator, and that this funding then enabled the research to impact other indicators. Professor Cowan added that this was part of the advocacy work with the government, and that research collaboration was one effective way to maximize research investment.

    A member asked how an institution would address an indicator such as medical school, as some did not have a medical school. Mr. Pratt responded that it did depend on the individual ranking, however most institutions did try to overcome these subject biases, for example MIT was ranked extremely high, however did not have a medical program.

    A member asked about the University strategy with respect to resources for subject areas or departments with lower scores. Professor Cowen responded to clarify that the University did not direct funds to units based on rankings, rather, excellent support was provided to all divisions. For example, the University had recently invested in the hiring of 27 research officers who were dedicated to increasing research partnerships, grant and strategy development, and to overall increase research output and publications across the divisions.

    A member commented on the benefit of U of T’s size, in relation to the rankings, and queried if the University had audited the data to inform strategy. Mr. Pratt responded that yes, there had been analysis of the data and past audits had informed new practices, for example, there had been enhancements with research accounting data collection practices.
  1. Report of the University Ombudsperson for the Period July 1, 2022 to June 30, 2023 and Administrative Response

    The Chair indicated that the Report of the University Ombudsperson, and the Administrative Response were presented annually to the Governing Council for information.

    At the invitation of the Chair, Professor Emeritus Bruce Kidd, University Ombudsperson, reported that the Office had received 350 new requests for assistance (2022-23), a number consistent with previous years. He referred to the Report highlighting its recommendations, as follows:
  • The University develop a comprehensive, tri-campus communication strategy to address website accuracy, accessible contact information, and the prompt and effective response to queries.
  • The University continue to give high priority in its efforts to ensure that all members of the community are treated with civility, dignity, and respect.
  • The University review and update as needed, several outdated institutional policies, including the Code of Behaviour on Academic Matters, also ensuring the timely resolution of cases under the Code.

    Professor Kidd reported that he was encouraged by the Provost and the broader Administration’s response, including the School of Graduate Studies (SGS). He was also pleased with the efforts made to support institutional communications, and the Vice-Provost, Students’ recent webpage to assist students in understanding pathways to resolve issues and conflicts outside of their academic units. He also noted that the four largest divisions had addressed their misconduct case backlogs which had no doubt required leadership and the deployment of resources.

    The Office of the Ombudsperson would continue to monitor various issues and would follow up with the incoming Provost on the Report. Professor Kidd concluded his remarks by thanking the Provost for her leadership.

    At the invitation of the Chair, Professor Cheryl Regehr, Vice-President and Provost, thanked Professor Kidd, and noted their shared commitment to the University, and for his work to identify areas of concern that were sometimes less visible. In response to the recommendations contained in the report, Professor Regehr noted that Professor Kidd had summarised much of the efforts by the University, and added the following comments:
  • In the area of communications, the University had leveraged technology to support timely communications with students, including the use of NAVI. NAVI (a chat-based virtual assistant) provided information on many topics, in addition to information regarding mental health resources. Another example was development of a new system to support student advising communications.
  • A culture of civility was a fundamental expectation, and it was highly distressing to hear that was not consistently happening. The University was looking to address civility in a number of ways, including:
    • Under the leadership of Professor Joshua Barker (Vice-Provost, Graduate Research and Education, and Dean of the School of Graduate Studies), there were a number of new initiatives underway to assist with difficulties in supervisory relationships, and to develop healthy labs spaces for both students and faculty.
    • The Office of the Vice-Provost, Students, was enhancing communications about pathways for students to address incivility from either a staff or faculty member.
  • The University continued to work diligently on academic integrity and misconduct prevention (e.g., working with students on education campaigns). It had been a changing landscape, through COVID-19, which brought about a spike in cases. In addition to addressing the case backlog, University legal counsel had been looking for ways to streamline case resolution at all levels of the system, while ensuring due process.
  • Artificial intelligence had also created a new set of challenges and opportunities. Dedicated groups of faculty members were deeply engaged in these topics to support its ethical use.


The Chair noted that of the items listed on the Consent Agenda, one item, Item 5 – Minutes of the Previous Meeting, was for approval. All other items were for information only. No questions or requests to place these consent items on the regular agenda were received by the Secretary.

On motion duly moved, seconded, and carried


THAT the consent agenda be adopted and that Item 5 be approved.

  1. Minutes of the Previous Meeting of the Governing Council

    The minutes of the previous meeting for September 6, 2023 meeting were approved.
  2. Business Arising from the Report of the Previous Meeting

    There was no business arising from the Report of the Previous Meeting.
  3. Reports for Information 

    Members received the following reports for information:
    1. Report Number 60 of the University of Toronto Scarborough Campus Council (October 10, 2023)
    2. Report Number 61 of the University of Toronto Mississauga Campus Council (October 11, 2023)
    3. Report Number 274 of the Business Board (September 27, 2023)
    4. Report Number 247 of the Academic Board (October 12, 2023)
    5. Report Number 236 of the University Affairs Board (October 4, 2023)
    6. Report Number 545 of the Executive Committee (October 17, 2023)


  1. Date of the Next Meeting – Monday, December 18, 2023 at 4:30 p.m.

    The Chair advised members that the next Governing Council meeting (Cycle 2) was scheduled for Monday, December 18, 2023 at 4:30 p.m., in the Council Chamber, Simcoe Hall.
  2. Question Period

    A member remarked that the Ontario Federation of Students (OFS) was planning a Day of Action. He inquired if the administration would support the OFS by encouraging instructors to allow students relief to take part in the event.

    The Provost responded that the administration was always delighted when students were engaged in these types of events. She noted that the Day of Action fell this year during reading week, and if students were in a division that was not on reading week, she suggested they approach their divisional leadership to seek accommodations.

    A member asked the President about the decline in funding revenue from the Province. The President responded that the funds had declined to 20 percent over many years, and that in the early 1990s the funding was around 80 percent. The provincial grants per student had not changed in many years, despite inflation and rising costs.
  3. Other Business

    There were no items of other business.

    The Governing Council moved in camera.


  1. Appointments: Member of the Governing Council to Governance Bodies, 2023-2024

    On a motion duly moved, seconded, and carried


    THAT Ms Annabelle Dravid be appointed as a graduate student member to serve on the Business Board and on the Planning and Budget Committee each for a term effective October 27, 2023 to June 30, 2024; and  

    THAT Mr. Joseph Junior Nchendia Nkeng be appointed as a part-time undergraduate student member to serve on the Academic Board for a term effective October 27, 2023 to June 30, 2024.

    The meeting returned to open session.

The meeting adjourned at 5:57 p.m.

November 10, 2023