Report: University Affairs Board - October 04, 2023

Council Chamber, Simcoe Hall



To the Governing Council,
University of Toronto,

Your Board reports that it held a meeting in the Council Chamber on Wednesday, October 4, 2023 with the following members present:

PRESENT:Vikram Chadalawada (Chair), Sandy Welsh (Vice-Provost, Students), David Newman (Executive Director, Student Experience), Faraz Alidina, Odelia Bempah, K. Sonu Gaind, Natasha Hanif, Helia Karami, David Kim, Dveeta Lal, Nelson Lee, Ron Levi*, Konrad Samsel, Lauren Vollmer

REGRETS:Geeta Yadav (Vice-Chair), Soban Atique, Amanda Bartley, Glen Bandiera,Gretchen Kerr, Wei-Tung Ling, Somtochukwu Nnakenyi, Firdaus Sadid

NON-VOTING ASSESSORS: Luke Barber (Chief Operating Officer (Acting)), Mark Overton (Dean of Student Affairs and Assistant Principal, Student Services, UTM), Neel Joshi (Dean of Student Experience and Wellbeing), Melinda Scott (Executive Director, Office of the Vice-Provost, Students)

SECRETARIAT: Joanne Chou, Tracey Gameiro

Felipe Nagata, UTMSU Executive Director*
Josh Haas, Coordinator, Student Policy Initiatives
Noreen Ahmed-Ullah, Director, Office of the Vice-President, Communications

(*attended remotely)


  1. Chair’s Remarks

    The Chair introduced himself and welcomed new and returning members to the first meeting of the 2023-24 academic year. He introduced the Vice-Chair, Dr. Geeta Yadav, Professor Sandy Welsh, the Senior Assessor, as well as David Newman, the Voting Assessor to the Board.  He announced that that the Board had approved the appointment of Annabelle Dravid and Syeda Hasan to the Discipline Appeals Board from September 1, 2023 to June 30, 2024 via E-Ballot.
  2. Reports of the Senior Assessor

    At the invitation of the Chair, Professor Sandy Welsh, Vice-Provost, Students, offered updates on the following matters:

    Vice-Provost, Students - Portfolio

  • Welcomed students back to campus this Fall to participate in in-person learning and campus life and noted the tremendous levels of student engagement across the three campuses. She highlighted the energy and enthusiasm of the incoming students and the student leaders that helped facilitate orientation and transition activities.
  • Expressed sincere thanks to all tri-campus Student Life staff and student leaders for all of their planning and implementation efforts in the welcome events this Fall.  
  • Provided a brief overview of her portfolio and reviewed some of the annual business items and updates on key initiatives related to student support and engagement that would be coming forward to the Board this year, such as the annual reports on non-academic discipline and the Supportive Leaves Policy.
  • In her role of Vice-Provost, Students, she had a broad responsibility for supporting and enhancing the student experience across the University’s three campuses and overseeing policies and procedures for students and student organizations. This included oversight of the Division of Student Life on the St. George Campus, Hart House, the Access Strategy and Partnerships Office, the Sexual Violence Prevention and Support Centre, and Student Mental Health Systems and Strategy. 

    Student Engagement and Student Support

    Professor Welsh then shared several key updates related to student engagement and student support across the three campuses:

    NAVI Expansion
  • NAVI, an IBM powered virtual assistant that helped students access mental health supports was launched in Fall 2020. She noted that since its introduction, thousands of students had utilized NAVI to access information about mental health supports whenever they needed them. Given the success, NAVI was expanded to incorporate general U of T resources into its offerings to enhance assistance to students, staff, faculty, and librarians across the three campuses. The tool also included other on-campus resources such as study supports, finding community, how to connect with a registrar and more.

    Experiential Learning Commons
  • The University officially opened the Experiential Learning Commons, located at the corner of College St. and Beverly St. Professor Welsh explained that the Experiential Learning Commons was a partnership between Student Life Career Exploration and Education, the Office of Experiential Learning & Outreach Support in the Faculty of Arts and Science and the Career Centre in the Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering. She highlighted several key features and amenities of the Learning Commons, and that it served as a flagship space on the St. George campus for student-oriented experiential learning and professional development activities, and for welcoming our employer partners.

    Student Companion Guide to the Supportive Leaves Policy

  • Since the revisions to the Supportive Leaves Policy were approved by the Governing Council earlier in the year, one of the recommendations was that the Office of the Vice-Provost Students (OVPS) prepare a student companion guide to accompany the revised Policy.

  • Professor Welsh noted OVPS had engaged in extensive consultation with students, staff, and faculty regarding the content and format of the companion guide. Professor Welsh was pleased to share that the companion guide was posted on the OVPS website and written in an FAQ format based on the feedback received through the consultation process.

    Building a Culture of Consent Training Module
  • Professor Welsh reported that the tri-campus Sexual Violence Prevention & Support Centre had introduced a new online module to educate students about consent, setting healthy boundaries and the support services available for survivors of sexual violence.
  • The interactive module ‘Building a Culture of Consent’ expanded on earlier efforts by the centre. It addressed one of 12 recommendations made last year following the tri-annual review of the university’s policy on sexual violence and sexual harassment. In particular, the establishment of “a student-focused education program on healthy boundaries, communication and consent practices within relationships.”
  • As part of the online module, students explored what setting boundaries, practising consent, and effective communication to form healthy relationships would look, sound, and feel like in practice.
  • The introduction of the new student module educated the university community and supported those affected by sexual violence or harassment. These efforts also included the hiring of a curriculum development and training coordinator, and updates to the existing module for staff, faculty and librarians was coming next year. She noted that the student module was available on Quercus and that a number of incoming students, staff and first-year students had taken the module.

    Office of the Vice-Provost, Students (OVPS)
  • OVPS launched an updated website and an e-newsletter which would be distributed approximately four times a year and encouraged interested members to sign up in the News & Initiatives section of the OVPS website.

    Professor Welsh then addressed a member’s question that had been shared in advance regarding graduate student housing. She acknowledged the current significant housing pressures in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) and across the province and country, and that the demand for university housing was growing amid rising rents and declining vacancy rates. She noted that survey result suggests, more than 55 per cent of U of T students lived with family and commuted to one of the three campuses, but that upper year students and graduate students were more likely to seek off-campus rental options. There were more than 10,000 students living in university housing this year across U of T’s three campuses, and many were new undergraduate students, both domestic and international whom qualified for the university’s first-year residence guarantee. She explained that spaces were also available for upper-year and graduate students, and students with families, noting that the demand for these spaces exceeded supply and subsequent waiting lists.

    For Graduate House residence, there was a ratio of approximately four applicants for every available space and that there were similar pressures on Student Family Housing. There were approximately 249 graduate students on the general residence waiting list for the St. George campus, and all of these students had the opportunity to be placed at the Parkside residence and had declined.

    Professor Welsh highlighted several new residences under construction or in development. This  included the Oak House, a 500-bed residence on the St. George campus near Spadina and Sussex Avenues that was scheduled to open in 2024, and a new 350-bed residence at Trinity College that was expected to be ready in fall 2025. Two additional projects included one at UTM and the other on the St. George campus, were in development and would provide 600 additional residences spaces.  She noted that UTSC Harmony Commons had opened this fall, which was a new 750 bed residence,  doubling the number of residence spaces available at UTSC. She remarked on the positive feedback received from UTSC students and that it was a great success.

    Professor Welsh reported on the planned Harbord residence, a graduate-student focused housing project. She clarified that following 3 years of design and pre-development work, the University retained a Construction Manager in the spring of 2023 who had subsequently sent the project out for market bid on construction contracts. Although the project was subject to regular costing updates throughout the development process, the construction costs obtained earlier this year were representative of current market inflation and greatly exceeded the project’s financial tolerances. Consequently, the University had placed the project on hold while construction cost and project scope were being reviewed. It was anticipated that the current building design may not be feasible to complete within the current construction market conditions. She noted that this was not unique to U of T in terms of construction costs across the city.

    She acknowledged that this may not be news graduate students had hoped for, and that the University would provide the community with a project update once the construction cost and project scope review had been completed.  Professor Welsh concluded that Student Housing Services remained available to provide support and guidance to students seeking residence or off-campus accommodations.

    A member noted the financial challenges related to the average PhD student stipend, which was approximately $25,000 and the average cost of a one-bedroom rental in downtown Toronto, approximately $2,000. He also raised the issue of residency requirements for a number of PhD programs, where the student needed to reside within geographic proximity to campus prior to achieving candidacy, citing that this created an impossible situation for some graduate students. He asked if there were any considerations for near term solutions to address these issues such as a review of thresholds for emergency bursaries or residency requirements. In response, Professor Welsh mentioned that she would consult with various internal teams, particularly with the School of Graduate Studies (SGS) related to the matter of emergency bursaries thresholds. She added that a guarantee for graduate students was an interesting question as the University does not currently offer a residence guarantee beyond the first year of undergraduate studies, but there needed to be a significant increase in housing stock to be able to deliver a guarantee to graduate students. Professor Welsh noted that she would discuss with colleagues and that on-campus and off-campus housing was a significant priority for the academic year. She concluded that she or appropriate designate would follow-up with the member with an update of the issue.
  1. Discussion: Board Orientation

    The Chair referred members to the orientation videos which had been provided to members in advance of the meeting. One of the videos described the unicameral structure of the University, while the other was designed to provide an overview of the University Affairs Board. He encouraged members who had not yet had the chance to view the videos to do so.

    Professor Welsh noted that throughout the year, a number of items from the Office of the Vice-Provost, Students, would be brought forward to the Board during the year.
  2. Compulsory Non-Academic Incidental Fees: UTM Student Societies – Proposal for Fee increase for 2024

    Professor Welsh noted that fee increases for student societies was an annual item of business for the Board. While the majority of Student Society fee increases were presented in cycle 5 - requests for changes to existing fees and the establishment of new fees may be brought forward to the Board on one or more occasions each year.  Changes in student society fees were subject to the terms and conditions outlined in the Policy for Compulsory Non-Academic Incidental Fees, the Handbook for Student Societies, and the societies’ own constitutions and/or by-laws. In general, all requests for student society fee increases must be supported by constitutional and fair processes within student societies. She noted that this fee request had been brought forward from the University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union (UTMSU) and that no complaints had been received by the administration with respect to the continuation of this fee.

    A member noted that in the referendum results, about half or more participants abstained which  seemed unusual and inquired if there were any insights as to what that could reflect. Mark Overton, Dean of Student Affairs UTM, responded that the referendum question put forward by UTMSU was undertaken at the same time as an election, thus there was high turnout related to the election, but a less interest in engaging on the fee question which likely contributed to the  large number of abstentions.
  3. Summer Executive Authority: Annual Report on UAB Approvals

    The Chair reported that there were no approvals under Summer Executive Authority that were within the purview of the University Affairs Board.
  4. Calendar of Business 2023-24

    The Chair referred members to the Calendar of Business located on the Office of the Governing Council’s website and advised that the document would be updated by the Secretariat regularly as business came forward. He encouraged members to review the Calendar on a regular basis.



On motion duly moved, seconded, and carried


THAT the consent agenda be adopted and that Item 7, the Report of the Previous Meeting, be approved.

  1. Report of the Previous Meeting

    The Report of the Previous meeting was approved.

  2. Business Arising from the Report of the Previous Meeting

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

  1. Date of Next Meeting: November 21, 2023, at 4:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.

    The Chair confirmed that the next meeting would be held on November 21, 2023 in the Council Chamber.
  2. Other Business

    There were no items of other business.

The meeting adjourned at 5:08 p.m.

October 11, 2023