Report: Planning and Budget Committee - September 17, 2020

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Via Virtual Meeting Room

REPORT NUMBER 194 OF THE PLANNING AND BUDGET COMMITTEE
Thursday, September 17, 2020

To the Academic Board,
University of Toronto

Your Committee reports that it held a virtual meeting on Tuesday, September 17, 2020, at 3:10 p.m., with the following members present:

Jan K. Mahrt-Smith (Chair), Cheryl Regehr (Vice-President and Provost), Scott Mabury (Vice-President, Operations and Real Estate Partnerships), Trevor Rodgers (Assistant Vice-President, Planning & Budget), Adalsteinn (Steini) I. D. Brown, Adanna Yvette Chigbo, Carol C. Chin, Ettore Vincenzo Damiano, Lisa Rebecca Dolovich, Markus D. Dubber, Sarosh Jamal, Ernest W.N. Lam, Joanne McNamara, Nicole Mideo, Amy Mullin, Fabian Parsch, Matt Ratto, Daniel Rozhko, Marium Nur Vahed, Grace Ann Westcott, Melanie A. Woodin

REGRETS

Mark Lautens (Vice Chair)

NON-VOTING ASSESSORS

Saher Fazilat (Chief Administrative Officer, UTM)

SECRETARIAT

Tracey Gameiro (Committee Secretary), Emma Thacker (Assistant Secretary)

IN ATTENDANCE:

Elizabeth Cragg (Director, Office of the Vice-President, Operations and Real Estate Partnerships), Karima Hashmani (Executive Director, Equity, Diversity & Inclusion), Ben Poynton (AODA Officer), Archana Sridhar (Assistant Provost, Office of the Vice-President and Provost)

ITEMS 5 IS FOR APPROVAL. ITEM 4 IS REPORTED FOR INFORMATION.


OPEN SESSION

1. Introductions and Chair’s Remarks

The Chair introduced himself and welcomed members to the Committee’s first meeting of the governance year. He offered regrets on behalf of the Committee’s Vice-Chair, Professor Mark Lautens, who was not able to be in attendance.

The Chair referred members to the Planning and Budget Orientation video which had been provided to members in advance of the meeting. He noted that the orientation video had been designed to provide an overview of where the Planning and Budget Committee sat within governance at the University of Toronto, as well as key elements of its Terms of Reference and areas of responsibilities. He strongly encouraged members who had not yet had the chance to view the video to do so, and suggested to those who had, that they revisit it throughout the year.

The Chair then introduced the Senior Assessor, Professor Cheryl Regehr, Vice-President and Provost, the Voting Assessors, Professor Scott Mabury, Vice-President, Operations and Real Estate Partnerships, and Mr. Trevor Rodgers, Assistant Vice-President, Planning and Budget, as well as the Secretary, Ms. Tracey Gameiro.

2. Assessors’ Reports

Report of the Vice-President and Provost

The Provost provided members with the following updates on the budget, student enrolment, and safety planning in the face of COVID-19:

Budget and Enrolment

The Provost began with an update on the University’s budget, which had been developed prior to the outbreak of COVID-19, and had been based on assumptions of normal levels of enrolment and on-campus activity.

The uncertainty created by the pandemic continued to make the year challenging for forecasting. Final enrolment numbers could not be confirmed until later in the fall, but there was cautious optimism. Based on registrations to date, overall enrolments were roughly in line with that of last year.

The Provost reported that over the last several months, there had been significant cost increases as the University worked to address the challenges of COVID-19, including in areas such as the repatriation of students who had been overseas during the initial period of travel restrictions, emergency financial support for students dealing with loss of employment opportunities and other financial challenges, instructional design and IT systems to enable online course delivery, and environmental health and safety costs to support the safe re-opening of research labs and workplaces. She added that with only about 10% of undergraduate students expected to have in-person course activity in the fall, there would also be a significant negative financial impact on ancillary services such as food services, residences, and parking. At the same time, the University had seen some savings in planned travel costs, lower utilities and supplies usage due to reduced on-campus activity.

Safety Planning

The Provost emphasized that every stage of the University’s planning was guided by the advice of government and public health authorities.

In the course of her remarks the Provost outlined the following:

  • The Incident Leadership Team disbanded in July as the University moved from crisis response to more long-term planning.
  • As Special Advisor to the President and Provost, Professor Vivek Goel was leading the University’s operational response to the pandemic, assisted by a small dedicated team and a tri-campus Response and Adaptation Committee.
  • Time-sensitive and COVID-19 related research had continued through the early stages of the pandemic, and additional research activity had been successfully restarted over the summer, with priority to activities requiring researchers to be on campus.
  • Over the summer, staff across all three campuses audited the University’s buildings, reconfiguring spaces, and determining appropriate occupancy levels and use. These activities included removing seating, posting signs to direct foot traffic and encourage social distancing, installing new hand sanitizers and wipe dispensers, as well as physical barriers at service counters.
  • The UCheck self-assessment web portal had been launched earlier in the month to allow faculty members, librarians, staff, and students to generate a COVID-19 risk status before visiting campus.
  • A temporary policy and guideline was introduced over the summer that called for the wearing of non-medical masks or face coverings in all common-use indoor spaces on campus, including classrooms. Two masks had been provided for every University community member across all three campuses.
  • Over the summer, residences had remained open for students who could not return home during the pandemic.
  • Supports were being provided for students entering Canada who were required to self-quarantine for 14 days, including the provision of transportation from the airport, accommodations, meals, daily wellness check-ins, and virtual programming such as movie nights. Supports were also being offered to students quarantined in their own accommodations. As of September 14, 2020, 944 students had registered in the program and 607 had completed their 14-day quarantine period.
  • The University continued to work with government to allow new international students to enter Canada, and for timely processing of study and work permits.

In closing, the Provost indicated that the University would continue to limit the number of people on campus as a way to reduce community transmission and to focus resources on research and teaching, and on student services that required an on-campus presence. She reported that close to 90 percent of undergraduate students were enrolled in on-line courses and that public health directives on class sizes and gathering limits continued to be followed. She added that spaces were being provided to support students who did not have access to reliable internet or suitable study areas, noting that library study space was available on all three campuses.

There were no questions or comments from the Committee.

Report of the Vice President – Operations and Real Estate Partnerships

Professor Scott Mabury provided an update on the impact of the pandemic on business continuity and capital projects generally. In the course of his remarks, Professor Mabury noted the following:

  • New cleaning protocols had been put in place with expanded use of ventilation and HVAC systems;
  • Complimentary non-medical masks had been distributed to members of the University community;
  • Signage was in place to guide the movement of those on campus through and between physical locations;
  • While there had been an initial three week pause in construction, projects that typically would have been impacted by increased vehicular and pedestrian traffic on campus with the start of the new academic year, were able to be expedited given the significantly reduced presence of members on campus;
  • Significant IT work had been undertaken to support faculty, staff and students working and learning remotely;
  • Additional initiatives were underway to enhance cyber security, including an RFP for additional campus firewalls.

In response to a member’s comment, Professor Mabury reported that the Landmark Project had not been significantly impacted by the pandemic. Drilling for the geothermal component of the project would be about a five-month project, and remained on track.

Addressing a member’s question as to whether the UCheck self-assessment web portal would be available as a smartphone app, Professor Mabury indicated that while the source technology had not been originally created as an app, this was something the University was exploring, along with other functionalities.

3. Calendar of Business for 2020-21

Members received the Calendar of Business for information. The Chair encouraged members to review the Calendar carefully so that they would have a better understanding of the items that would come forward for the Committee’s consideration.

4. Annual Report: Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), 2019-2020 (“AODA” Report)

As a result of the challenges created by the COVID pandemic, the Chair explained that the 2019-2020 AODA Report which was generally presented to the Committee in Cycle 6, had been deferred to this first meeting of the 2020-21 governance year.

The Planning and Budget Committee received the 2019-2020 AODA Report from Karima Hashmani, Executive Director, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, on behalf of Professor Kelly Hannah-Moffat, Vice-President Human Resources and Equity. The Annual Report had also presented to the University Affairs Board for information.

Ms. Hashmani noted that the Report was organized around those areas the University was committed to making more accessible: built environment, communications, service delivery, external partnerships, pedagogy, and mental health.

The following main points from the AODA Report were highlighted:

  • The University’s barrier-free design standards continued to be updated, with a new version to be published next summer.
  • The University added tools, resources and supports to ensure that Divisions, Departments, and units were creating, developing and maintaining an accessible web presence as per the AODA requirements.
  • Supports for members of the University community with mental health-related disabilities had been developed, including updating its service animal guidelines to better support community members accompanied by service animals.

COVID Response

  • Maintaining services and programs: accessibility services continued to be maintained through remote appointments (via phone, Skype and Teams); many existing and new programs were being made available to students through alternative means including a forum for students to connect and share strategies to stay motivated while learning remotely; synchronous classes were being provided with captions and recorded;
  • Resources for faculty, staff and students to support online learning: resources had been made available to faculty and staff on the Centre for Teaching Support & Innovation website on developing and delivery accessible online learning; resources to help students navigate Quercus and online learning had also been posted to accessibility services websites.
  • Alternative transition plans: plans were put in place through each accessibility office to provide orientation and transition information sessions to students with disabilities through remote participation options.
  • Supporting faculty and staff wellness: a number of resources and strategies were made available through the Human Resources and Equity COVID-19 website to support employee well-being while working remotely, including access to the University’s Employee and Family Assistance Program.
  • Maintaining faculty and staff-facing programs and services: the University continued to provide accommodations support for faculty and staff with disabilities via its Health and Wellbeing Programs and Services.
  • The AODA Office recently published its Returning to Campus During COVID-19 – Keeping Accessibility in Mind resource, which provided advice and guidance to any member of the community who was supporting faculty, staff and students to ensure return to campus was as accessible as possible.
  • The AODA Office continued to work with those overseeing re-entry plans to ensure that these processes were accessible, including reviewing signage, providing feedback on building access processes, and advising on the Policy on Non-Medical Masks.

In reply to a member’s comment regarding the annual student survey and whether different questions would be included in light of the pandemic, the Provost responded that the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) and the Student Experience survey were developed by external partners and were fairly standardized to allow for comparison across institutions and years.

Commenting on the inclusivity and access to education of seniors, the Provost stated that the University offered a bridging program that was available to a variety of demographics, including seniors. She added that since the inception of the program, there had been a shift with increased enrolment from younger populations. The Provost noted that seniors were completing continuing education courses, and that auditing of courses was also available to seniors and other non-typical demographics.

Building on the Provost’s comments, Mr. Ben Poynton, AODA Officer, added that implementing university and accessible designs would support access for all age groups.

A member reported that the bridging program was offered at their Faculty with great success, attracting a mix of students, from those in their thirties to seniors, and that there were several programs in place to support these learners.

In response to a member’s question about how often AODA training material was updated and how to increase engagement with those resources, Mr. Poynton indicated that the materials were developed in 2017, and that upward of 14,000 staff had taken the training. He stated that materials were updated whenever there was a change to policy or legislation, but that the AODA office remained responsive and open to feedback. There was a plan in place to update the materials in the coming year.

The Chair thanked Ms. Hashmani for her presentation and Mr. Poynton for his attendance. The Chair noted for members that while in the past the AODA Report had come forward to the Committee in Cycle 6, beginning this governance year the Committee would begin to receive the Report in Cycle 5. This was to make presentation of the Report consistent with when it was presented to the University Affairs Board, who also received it for information. As such, the 2020-2021 AODA Report would be received by the Committee at its April 13, 2021 meeting.

5. Reports of the Previous Meeting: Report Number 193 – May 7, 2020

Report Number 193 (May 7, 2020) was approved.

6. Business Arising from the Reports of the Previous Meetings

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

7. Date of the Next Meeting – Wednesday, October 28, 2020, 3:10 – 5:10 p.m.

The Chair reminded members that the next meeting would be held on Wednesday, October 28, 2020.

8. Other Business

There were no items of Other Business.

The Chair thanked members for their attendance and participation.

The meeting adjourned at 4:26 p.m.

September 21, 2020