REPORT NUMBER 231 OF THE UNIVERSITY AFFAIRS BOARD
NOVEMBER 22, 2022
To the Governing Council,
University of Toronto
Your Board reports that it met on Tuesday, November 22, 2022, at 4:30 p.m. in the Council Chamber with the following members present:
Vikram Chadalawada (Chair), Sandy Welsh (Vice-Provost, Students), David Newman (Executive Director, Student Experience), Faraz Alidina, Neil Chakraborty, Tarun Dewan, Susan Froom*, Sherry Kulman, Clayon Levy, K. Sonu Gaind*, Indi Gopinathan*, Syeda Hasan, Natasha Hanif, Madeline Kalda*, Gretchen Kerr*, Ron Levi*, Clayon Levy, Ana Kanza Tariq, David Walter Zingg
Kelly Hannah-Moffat (Vice-President, People Services, Equity and Culture), Melinda Scott (Executive Director, Office of the Vice-Provost, Students)
Matthew Armand Benoit, Robert T. Gerlai, Summer Hart, Farhana Islam, Jessica Johnson, Kikelomo Lawal, David Lehto, Geeta Yadav
Joanne Chou (Secretary), Timothy Harlick
Guests in Attendance:
Angela Treglia (Director, Sexual Violence Prevention and Support Centre), Andrea Russell (Acting Assistant Provost), Gavin Nowlan (Arts and Science Students' Union), Firdaus Sadid (Arts and Science Students' Union), Cheryl Gibbs (Manager, Student Policy Initiatives)
Sobhneek Hothi (Health Studies Student Union), Alexis Archbold (Executive Director, Strategy, Programs & Operations, Office of the Vice-Provost Students)
Omar Gharbiyeh (University of Toronto Students’ Union), Nick Leiper (University of Toronto Students’ Union), Jay Prentice (PEARS project), Bec Brydon (PEARS project)
Ihab Khalil (PSEC), Firdaus Sadid (ASSU)
- Chair’s Opening Remarks
The Chair welcomed members and guests to the meeting. He advised members of the upcoming 2023 elections, and that the Board had received a speaking request from the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) and the Prevention, Empowerment, Advocacy, Response, for Survivors (PEARS) regarding item 4 of the agenda, and that the requests had been granted.
- Reports of the Senior Assessor
Professor Sandy Welsh began her remarks by welcoming Sherry Kulman to the University Affairs Board as the interim Warden of Hart House. Professor Welsh then offered updates on the following matters:
Final Report of the Review of the Role of Campus Safety Services Responding to Student Mental Health Crises and Administrative Response
Professor Welsh highlighted both the final report of the Review of the Role of Campus Safety Services Responding to Student Mental Health Crises and Administrative Response that were released on October 13, 2022. The review was launched Spring 2021 and led by Professor Joseph Desloges of the Faculty of Arts & Sciences. The final report was built on the Presidential and Provostial Task Force on Student Mental Health report, which called for the expansion of supports and resources pertinent to direct crisis response.
Professor Welsh acknowledged and thanked all members for their thorough discussions, research, and consultations to develop the recommendations. Nineteen recommendations were made to address student mental health and wellness related to campus safety services under the overarching theme of promoting an empathy-driven approach and recognizing and respecting the diversity of the U of T community. The University responded to the reviewers’ recommendations, some of which were underway.
A new tri-campus leadership table was established to increase consistency across the three campuses through collaboration with tri-campus Health and Wellness centres, and to develop consistent approaches to Campus Safety operations, policies and institutional responses to students that experienced mental health crisis. The leadership table was chaired by the Vice-President, People Strategy, Equity and Culture, and consulted with mental health professionals to identify the next steps.
Professor Welsh remarked that the University was committed to deepening the integration of equity, diversity, inclusion and anti- racism competencies and mental health through education & training programs, policies and evaluation processes that were developed for campus safety staff, as recommended by the report. In addition, she expressed commitment to strengthening the consultation and collaboration to improve after-hours crisis response, that included the integration of peer-support models into the university’s crisis response protocol.
The improvement of strategies to recruit and retain campus safety services staff was another area highlighted by the report. Professor Welsh indicated that leaders from campus safety services worked with the Division of People Strategy, Equity and Culture to forge a plan to attract diverse staff with proven mental health expertise and lived experiences to reflect the U of T community.
Professor Welsh noted that the University heeded the calls to address the communication gap between campus safety services and the broader U of T community, with Divisions poised to play a bigger role in building community relationships. She noted that the University would establish a framework to address the recommendations within the report and develop compassionate solutions that would better serve the community in times of crisis.
Professor Welsh concluded her remarks by highlighting that the University was engaged in activities to support students for their exams, including the distribution of 2,500 exam care kits to students at St. George campus, and wished all students well for their upcoming exams.
- Annual Report: Sexual Violence Prevention & Support Centre
The Chair invited Ms. Angela Treglia, Director, Sexual Violence Prevention and Support, to provide a presentation on the Annual Report: Sexual Violence Prevention & Support Centre.
Ms. Treglia’s presentation highlighted the Centre’s organizational structure, practices, educational initiatives across all campuses, and the available supports it provided. She provided details about the Centre’s activities over the past year and activities that would be taking place during the following year, which included: establishing regular community healing groups for survivors, expanded education offerings, hiring new roles, increase in public engagement through digital communications and brand campaign, and website re-design.
In response to a member’s question, Angela highlighted that the Center provided supports for anyone at the University of Toronto that had been affected sexual violence or sexual harassment.
The Chair thanked Ms. Treglia for her presentation.
- Proposed Revisions: Policy on Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment
The Chair invited the Vice-Provost, Students, to provide an overview of the proposed revisions to the Policy on Sexual Violence and Harassment.
Professor Welsh advised members that the Ontario government requires every publicly funded post-secondary institution in the province to have a policy on sexual violence and sexual harassment, and that they are be reviewed and, if necessary, amended every three years. She noted that the first review took place in 2019 with amendments approved by the Governing Council in December 2019. In December 2021, further amendments to the policy were made to ensure compliance with new requirements that were mandated by the Provincial government.
A second review of the policy took place in 2021-22 and was led by Co-Chairs, Professor Linda Johnston, Dean of the Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing, and Dr. Allison Burgess, Director of the Sexual and Gender Diversity Office. Reviewers submitted their final report in July 2022 and all of the report’s recommendations and action items were accepted by the administration and was publicly available. The reviewers also responded to additional questions related to best practices, processes, communication, and transparency that were posed by the President.
Professor Welsh provided an overview of the 2021-22 comprehensive review process and that the timeline for governance approval was led by Provincial legislation, three years since the last 2019 review. Professor Welsh highlighted the two types of revisions reflected in the revised policy; the first ensured that the changes reflected the reviewers’ recommendations about the policy and the second were changes to enhance the clarity of the policy. As these revisions were being finalized, the Ontario government announcement new draft legislation which would come into effect in July 2023 at the earliest. The legislation was entitled the ‘Strengthening Post-Secondary Institutions and Students Act’ which aimed at preventing and responding to sexual violence. Following a thorough review, the University concluded that the Act’s policy recommendations reflected what was already in the policy and the revisions that were being considered for recommendation. Professor Welsh underscored the University’s commitment to implement the procedural requirements of the new legislation.
Professor Welsh concluded her remarks by acknowledging the important opportunity and requirement to revisit and improve the policy on a regular basis, instilling meaningful change to the community.
In response to a comment from one of the board members, and in the discussion that followed, Professor Welsh noted that the policy reflected and articulated the unique features of the U of T Community and referenced the relationship with the affiliated hospitals. She indicated that the University is reviewing the conflict of interest guidelines to ensure they are aligned with the reviewers’ recommendations and legislation. She explained that the policy is focused on when a report is made, and that the University is committed to reducing barriers to disclosure and reporting incidents of sexual violence.
The Chair then invited representatives from the University of Toronto Student’s Union (UTSU) and the Prevention, Empowerment, Advocacy, Response, for Survivors (PEARS) who had been granted speaking privileges in advance, to address the meeting.
- Omar Gharbiyeh from UTSU expressed support for the policy and the direction it was going but noted the lack of consultation and its insufficiency to protect students, particularly with the issue of consent with student and faculty. He cited a report from the Varsity, ‘UTM professor violated sexual harassment policy, failed to respect supervisory boundaries’ and advocated further actions to protect and defend students, and increase transparency.
- Jay Prentice from the PEARS project, spoke to her experience as a survivor and expressed concern with the inadequate consequences, lack of action to protect students and providing a safe environment. She also cited the open letter in response to the Varsity article ‘UTM professor violated sexual harassment policy, failed to respect supervisory boundaries’ and the community support, and advocated for real change.
Professor Welsh thanked the speakers and in response to the article from the Varsity, she confirmed that the University had received formal complaints of harassment and inappropriate supervisory conduct against Professor Robert Reisz from two former students, that the University had retained an external party to investigate the complaints in a fact-finding investigation, and that the investigation found that a number of the allegations were factually substantiated. She indicated that the University determined that on a number of occasions Prof. Reisz’s supervisory practices did not meet the standards expected of a University of Toronto faculty member and/or breached university policy. As a result, the University took corrective action to prevent similar experiences in the future for our students. Professor Welsh closed by indicating that the University is aware that it needs to continue to evolve processes under the policy to meet the needs and expectations of its community.
The Chair thanked both Mr. Gharbiyeh and Ms. Prentice for their remarks on the Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment Policy.
On motion duly made, seconded, and carried.
YOUR BOARD RECOMMENDED
THAT the proposed revisions to the Policy on Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment, dated October 22, 2022, be approved, effective January 1, 2023.
- Annual Report: Non-Academic Discipline
The Chair invited Professor Welsh to provide an overview of the Annual Report: Non-Academic Discipline.
Professor Welsh noted that the report provided statistics regarding concluded cases resolved using the Code of Student Conduct (“the Code”) for the 2021-22 academic year and included five-year historical data for comparative purposes.
Professor Welsh also provided an overview of the purpose of the Code in addressing non-academic misconduct, processes used when a complaint is brought forward, and revisions to the Code that occurred in 2019.
Professor Welsh discussed the impact COVID-19 had had on the application of the Code which had been adapted to allow investigating officers to conduct interviews remotely and for hearings to be conducted in a virtual environment. She noted that while the impact of COVID-19 had caused some delays, overall, investigations had been carried out as expected.
There were no questions from members.
- Annual Report: University-Mandated Leave of Absence Policy (UMLAP)
The Chair invited Professor Welsh, to provide an update on the Annual Report: University-Mandated Leave of Absence Policy.
Professor Welsh highlighted the following:
- In the 2021-22 academic year, the Policy had been used four times; three of these involved Urgent Situations under the Policy;
- During the 2020-21 academic year there was one request for the Provost to review a decision of the Vice-Provost to place a student on mandated leave and no requests for appeal to the University Tribunal.
- As of August 30, 2022, there were eleven active leave cases: 2 Voluntary and 9 University-Mandated.
- Two of the students placed on leave during the 2021-22 academic year are being considered for a return to studies. Two of the students placed on leave during the 2020-21 academic year had returned to their studies, and a student who was placed on leave in 2019-20 had also returned to studies.
In response to a members’ question that had been submitted in advance, Professor Welsh commented that all students on a Leave under the Policy – whether voluntary or mandated – are assigned a Student Case Manager who they have access to throughout their Leave and after their return to studies. The Student Case Managers provided guidance and support about the process for returning to studies and assist with referrals to community supports.
- Report of the Previous Meeting: Report 230, October 12, 2022
The report of the previous meeting was approved.
- Business Arising from the Report of the Previous Meeting
There was no business arising from the report of the previous meeting.
- Date of the Next Meeting: Wednesday, January 18, 2023
The Chair confirmed that the next meeting would be held on Wednesday, January 19, 2022.
- Other Business
There were no items of other business.
The Board moved in camera.
- Appointment: Membership of the Service Ancillaries Review Group (UAB), 2022-23
On motion duly made, seconded, and carried.
YOUR BOARD APPROVED
THAT the following University Affairs Board members be appointed to the Service Ancillaries Review Group for the 2022-2023 governance year:
- Ms. Indi Gopinathan
- Ms. Ana Kanza Tariq
- Mr. Clayon Levy
- Appointment: University Affairs Board Striking Committee 2022-23
On motion duly made, seconded, and carried.
YOUR BOARD APPROVED
THAT the following individuals be appointed to the University Affairs Board Striking Committee for 2022-23:
The Board returned to Open Session.
- Ms. Kikelomo Lawal
- Ms. Indi Gopinathan
- Dr. David Zingg
- Mr. Neil Chakraborty
- Mr. Matthew Benoit
The meeting adjourned at 6:15 p.m.
November 22, 2022