Report: University Affairs Board - November 13, 2019

Simcoe Hall, 27 King’s College Circle, Governing Council Chamber 2nd Floor

November 13, 2019

To the Governing Council,
University of Toronto

Your Board reports that it met on Wednesday, November 13, 2019, at 4:30 p.m. in the Council Chamber with the following members present:

Andrew Szende, Chair, P.C. Choo, Vice-Chair, Sandy Welsh, Vice-Provost, Students, Catherine Bragg, Harvey Botting, Reshma Dhrodia, Avrum Gotlieb, Ira Jacobs, Amin Kamaleddin, Mark Lautens, Clayon Levy, Joseph Leydon, John F. Monahan, David Newman, Tayyab Rashid, Mark Seymour (ntd – check), Daman Singh,  

Non-Voting Assessors:
Mark Overton, Dean, Student Affairs, UTM, Desmond Pouyat, Dean, Student Affairs, UTSC, Meredith Strong, Director, Office of the Vice-Provost, Students and Student Policy Advisor

David Walders

Sheree Drummond
Anwar Kazimi

Apefa Adjivon, Andrew Girgis, Jayde Jones, Ron Levi, Sandhya Mylabathula, Stephanie Rose, Gurvir Sangha

In Attendance:
Larry Alford, Chief Librarian
Cheryl Gibbs, Assistant-Director, OVPS
Anthony Gray, Director, Strategic Initiatives and Research
Josh Hass, Coordinator, Student Policy Initiatives
Jaime Kearns, President, Association of Part-Time Undergraduate Student
Susan Mazza, Special Projects Officer
Angela Treglia, Director, Sexual Violence Prevention & Support, VPHRE


  1. Chair’s Welcome and Opening Remarks 

    The Chair welcomed members and guests to the meeting.  He noted that one speaking request had been received, to speak to item 4 on the Agenda, the update on the University-Mandated Leave of Absence Policy.  That request, from the Association of Part-Time Undergraduate Students (APUS), had been granted.
  2. Report of the Senior Assessor

    Professor Welsh provided an update on the following matters:

    Student Choice Initiative

    Professor Welsh provided an update on the Student Choice Initiative, and reported that the median opt-out rate across the 523 optional fees was 22% for the fall 2019 term. The opt-out portal for the winter term opened on November 1st and would remain open until January 20th. Overall, the reduction at the University was $1.3 million for the fall term.  The student service portion was approximately $300,000.  As a percentage of the total student fees collected for societies and services, the reduction translated into approximately 2%.

    Snow Protocol

    The University had recently released a revised protocol for the cancellation of classes and campus closures.  The changes were prompted by increasingly erratic weather as well as evidence indicating that at least one-third of students commuted two-plus hours per day to the University. Revisions to the protocol included expansion of public transit monitoring, increased social media updates and the use of the UofT Alert System to notify of class cancellations and campus closure on the St. George Campus.

    Mental Health Task Force

    The Presidential & Provostial Task Force on Student Mental Health (the Task Force) had embarked on an extensive consultation plan in July 2019. Phases 1 and 2 of the Outreach & Engagement Plan involved in-person focus group and open campus listening sessions, an online feedback form, and student-led Innovation Hub feedback sessions. In addition to this, the Task Force visited the three campus health centres.

    Phase 3 of the Outreach & Engagement Plan involved sharing a summary of broad themes that were heard during consultations to date, and inviting all members of the University community to provide further feedback. These themes would inform the forthcoming Task Force’s report and recommendations for the President and Provost, which would be released in December 2019.  Current themes included communication, education, training & awareness, services, space, partnerships, culture at UofT, and institutional systems and policies.

    There were two ways to participate and share feedback: an online form, which would remain open until November 25, 2019 and pop-up events on all three campuses the week of November 11 – 15, 2019.
  3. Presentation: University of Toronto Libraries

    Mr. Larry Alford, Chief Librarian, offered a presentation, which is appended here.  The presentation provided an update on various initiatives aimed at supporting student success and well-being, including the following:
    • A reflection room was available for all types of mindfulness, which was very well used.  A similar space had recently opened at UTSC.
    • There was a family student space, which was available to current students, staff and faculty. It was extremely popular and expanding the space was being examined. In addition, the possibility of providing free child minding service was being explored.
    • Gerstein Library had recently established a Knowledge Keeper in Residence Space, and was currently looking to hire a knowledge keeper.
    • There were several initiatives in various libraries to update and refurbish facilities.
    • Construction of the Robarts Common was underway.  The new space would add a significant amount of student study space, including 24 hour study space and outdoor space with WiFi.
    • The Personal Librarian Program provided enhanced personal support to students.

In reply to question from members, Mr. Alford noted that his office would look into the possibility of providing a comprehensive list of quiet study spaces online, and would also examine the demand for increased family study space.

The Chair thanked Mr. Alford for his presentation.

  1. Update: University-Mandated Leave of Absence Policy

    Professor Welsh offered an update on the University-Mandated Leave of Absence Policy (the Policy), providing the following statistics: in 2018-2019, the Policy was used 8 times; six of the cases involved urgent situations;  two students had taken a voluntary leave and six students were placed on a University-Mandated Leave; within the academic year, two students had returned to their studies; another two students had returned this fall and the student case manager was working with an additional 2 other students to return to studies; one student requested an extension to their voluntary leave and one student remains on leave.

    Professor Welsh noted that the Policy outlined a process and was only considered when there was serious concerning behaviour.  She clarified that it was the behaviour that initiated a consideration of the Policy by a division head - not the disclosure of a mental health issue. Professor Welsh added that all eight cases would likely have been considered through the Code of Student Conduct (the Code) process if the University-Mandated Leave was not available. 

    The terms and conditions identified in the Policy allowed for a tailored approach for each student.  As noted in the Summary of Cases Under the University-Mandated Leave of Absence Policy: 2018 – 2019, the University had arranged for tuition refunds, on-going access to health and wellness, and arrangements to maintain academic progress.  The Student Case Manager was integral as the main point person for the student throughout the process.

    Professor Welsh then acknowledged that concerns had been raised that students do not wish to seek help from the health and counselling services across the University because they fear that they would be put on a leave. She explained that the Province of Ontario’s Personal Health Information Protection Act, 2004 provided that Health Information Custodians must maintain the confidentiality of all personal health care information and may not disclose such information without consent unless under very specific circumstances. Those specific circumstances included legal, or professional requirements, or when disclosure was necessary for the purpose of eliminating or reducing a significant risk of serious bodily harm to an individual or group of persons.

    Ms Jaime Kearns, President of APUS then addressed the meeting, urging that greater assistance be provided to those students who wished to harm themselves. She raised concerns over a recent incident at UTM, as well as concerns that future administrations may apply the Policy more broadly.

    In the discussion that ensued, members raised questions over the recent incident at UTM, fostering increased awareness about the Policy, the impact on student Visas as well as the relationship between the University and healthcare providers.

    Professor Welsh replied that she could not speak about the details of the incident at UTM.  She noted, however that campus police on all three campuses were trained in de-escalation and worked closely with Health and Wellness on all three campuses. She also noted that training for campus police was ongoing to ensure the focus was on both safety and compassion.  She confirmed that her office was working with the Office of HR and Equity to ensure a compassionate approach was taken, including by campus police on all three campuses.   Mr. Mark Overton, Dean of Students, UTM, confirmed the health and safety of students was the University’s primary concern.

    Turning to student awareness, Professor Welsh confirmed that her office would continue to work with the offices of Student Life, Health and Wellness Services and Accessibility Services to ensure awareness about the array of support services offered to students. Regarding student Visas, Professor Welsh reported that there were no Visa implication for any of the eight students to whom the Policy was applied.

    Finally, with respect to the interaction between the University and external health care providers, Professor Welsh reported that the University worked closely with external health care providers regarding students on leave under the Policy.  This included a clearly defined return to studies plan and, with the consent of the student, the health care providers would provide the University with recommendations, including additional supports as needed.   
  2. Proposed Revisions: Policy on Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment (SVSH Policy)

    Professor Welsh provided a summary overview of the Policy on Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment (SVSH Policy)¸ including the impetus behind the SVSH Policy’s creation. As required by Section IX of the Policy, a review of the SVSH Policy was conducted which reviewed the elements of the SVSH Policy itself, the contents of the Companion Guide to the Policy (the Guide), and the work of the Sexual Violence Prevention & Support Centre (the Centre). It also included open consultation sessions for students, staff and faculty as well as online consultation. As a result of the review and feedback received during consultation, both policy and operational changes were proposed. Notably, among the operational changes were a revised Guide and a review of staffing at the Centre, as well as efforts to promote increased awareness of the Centre.

    In reply to a member’s question regarding engagement with the online training provided as part of the SVSH Policy, both Professor Welsh and Ms Angela Treglia, Director of Sexual Violence Prevention and Support, noted that various initiatives were being undertaken across the University to encourage participation in the online training.

    On motion duly made, seconded and carried

    It was Recommended

    THAT the proposed revisions to the Policy on Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment, dated October 29, 2019, be approved, effective January 1, 2020.
  3. Proposed Revisions: Code of Student Conduct (the Code)

    Professor Welsh provided introductory comments, noting that the Code of Student Conduct (the Code), together with other University codes of conduct such as residence, athletics facilities, professional codes, and library use codes, set out expectations for student behaviour and prescribed processes for dealing with behaviour that is prohibited under the Code.

    With the implementation of the SVSH Policy, allegations of sexual violence and/or sexual harassment previously addressed under the Code were now addressed under the SVSH Policy. However, there remained interactions between the SVSH Policy and the Code in cases where a hearing was required for a student respondent. As a result, various technical changes were necessary to align the Code with the SVSH Policy.

    In reply to a member’s question concerning the operation of the Code and the University-Mandated Leave of Absence Policy, Professor Welsh remarked that these policies were very different in terms of scope and application, Determinations of which policy or polices would apply to a given situation was determined on a case-by-case basis.

    In response to a member’s question regarding possible amendments to the Ontario Human Rights Code, Professor Welsh confirmed that should such changes take place, the Code would be amended to align with those changes.

    On motion duly made, seconded and carried

    It was Recommended

    THAT the proposed revisions to the Code of Student Conduct, dated October 31, 2019 be approved, effective December 13, 2019.
  4. Annual Report of Non-Academic Discipline (the Report)

    Professor Welsh reported that the Report provided statistics regarding cases disposed of under the Code for the 2018-19 academic year and included historical data from 2014-15 – 2017-18 for comparative purposes. She also noted that a hearing, as a result of the SVSH Policy, did occur during the 2018-2019 academic year as indicated in the Report.
  5. Report of the Previous Meeting – Report 213, September 26, 2019

    The Report of the Previous Meeting was approved
  6. Business Arising from the Report of the Previous Meeting

    There was no business arising from the Report of the Previous Meeting.
  7. Date of Next Meeting: January 27, 2020 at 4:30 p.m.

    The Chair confirmed that the date of the next meeting would be January 27, 2019.
  8. Other Business

    There were no items of other business.
  9.  Appointment: Service Ancillaries Review Group Membership

    On motion duly made, seconded and carried

    It was Resolved

    THAT the following be appointed to the Service Ancillaries Review Group for 2020: 

Mr. Andrew Szende (Chair) 
Mr Harvey Botting (alumni) 
Ms Sandhya Mylabathula (student) 

The meeting adjourned at 6:03 p.m.

November 15, 2019