Report: University Affairs Board - September 27, 2021

Via Virtual Meeting Room


September 27, 2021

To the Governing Council,
University of Toronto

Your Board reports that it met on Monday, September 27, 2021, at 4:00 p.m. via virtual meeting with the following members present:

Vikram Chadalawada (Chair), Geeta Yadav (Vice-Chair), Sandy Welsh (Vice-Provost, Students), David Newman (Executive Director, Student Experience), Neil Chakraborty, Dylan Archer Dingwell, Susan Froom, K. Sonu Gaind, Robert Gerlai, Syeda Hasan, Joan Johnston, Evan Kanter, Gretchen Kerr, Kikelomo Lawal, Ron Levi, John Monahan, Mozynah Nofal, Ann Perry, Tayyab Rashid, Sherice Robertson, Avigail Rucker, Veronica Wadey

Non-Voting Assessors:
Kelly Hannah-Moffat (Vice-President, People Services, Equity and Culture), Mark Overton (Dean of Student Affairs and Assistant Principal, Student Services, UTM), Desmond Pouyat (Dean of Student Experience and Wellbeing), Melinda Scott (Director, Office of the Vice-Provost, Students & Student Policy Advisor)

Vanshika Dhawan, Karen Ng

Timothy Harlick (Secretary), Anwar Kazimi, Patrick McNeill

Guests in Attendance:
Rubab Abid (Equity Communications Advisor), Nythalah Baker (Director, Equity Diversity & Inclusion), Allison Burgess (Director, Sexual & Gender Diversity Office), Natalie Elisha (Equity Projects Specialist, Institutional Equity Offices), Jodie Glean (Director, Anti-Racism & Cultural Diversity), Karima Hashmani (Executive Director, Equity, Diversity & Inclusion), Josh Hoss (Coordinator, Student Policy Initiatives), Alison Kenzie (Senior Writer and Correspondence Manager, Division of People Strategy, Equity & Culture), Ihab Khalil (Executive Director, Strategic Operations and Finance), Juliana Melino (President of the University College Literary & Athletic Society), Ben Poynton (Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) Officer), Cherilyn Scobie-Edwards (Director, Equity, Diversity & Inclusion), Shannon Simpson (Director, Office of Indigenous Initiatives)

  1. Chair’s Opening Remarks

    The Chair introduced himself and welcomed members and guests to the meeting. 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.
  2. Reports of the Senior Assessor

    Professor Welsh, Vice-Provost, Students, offered updates on the following matters:

    Covid-19 & Gradual Return to In-Person Activities

    Professor Welsh began her report by reaffirming the University’s priority to see a safe return to campus for in-person learning as quickly and as safely as possible.

    She updated the Board that on August 31st, the University was informed by the provincial Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Kieran Moore, that if universities had robust safety measures in place, such as indoor masking and upgraded ventilation systems, and if they embraced a vaccination mandate, in Dr. Moore’s considered opinion, it would be safe to lift the room capacity limits and the physical distancing requirements for instructional spaces allowing more students to return to in-person learning.

    She then provided a summary of the numerous steps taken by the University to ensure that all of the health and safety obligations for a safe return to campus had been met. In addition to these safety measures, Professor Welsh informed the Board that all members of the University community on campus were required to be vaccinated and to provide proof of vaccination via the UCheck self-assessment web portal. Although many staff, faculty and students continued to work and study remotely, as of September 21, more than 72,000 members of the University community had uploaded their vaccine documents into UCheck. Of those, just over 99% were either fully vaccinated or partially vaccinated.

    She concluded her update on Covid-19 by reassuring the Board that the University was actively monitoring the situation in the Province, the greater Toronto area, and across all campuses. The University would continue to follow any guidelines, recommended or required by health authorities.


    Professor Welsh provided an update on additional in-person orientation activities that were offered to first-year students and noted that most divisions continued to offer online orientation programming, with the addition of small-group, in-person offerings designed to orient students to the campus and provide an opportunity for social interaction.

    She reported on the University’s response to the recommendations from the Report of the Anti-Black Racism Task Force and highlighted that the University offered both welcome and transition events for Black students this year. Black student welcome events were held at all three campuses and Student Life teams on each of the three campuses continued to further develop these initiatives.

    Student Commons

    Professor Welsh congratulated the University of Toronto Student Union (UTSU) on the opening of the Student Commons building scheduled for October 4, 2021, and acknowledged the hard work, and commitment of the UTSU on the project.

    Review of the University-Mandated Leave of Absence Policy

    Professor Welsh reminded the Board of the ongoing the review of the Mandated Leave of Absence policy, noting the review was initiated in March of 2021 in alignment with section 79 of the policy which required that it be reviewed in its third year.

    The review was being led by Professor Donald Ainslie of the Department of Philosophy in the Faculty of Arts & Science and former Principal of University College, and Varsha Patel, Assistant Dean of Student Success and Career Support, University of Toronto Scarborough (UTSC). The consultation period for the review was extended through Fall 2021.

    It was anticipated that the reviewers would be prepared to share their preliminary findings at the next Board meeting in advance of the policy requiring governance approval at a future meeting.

    National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

    Professor Welsh concluded her report with an acknowledgement that September 30th marked the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. She encouraged members and guests to not only wear orange, but to pause and take the time to honour the Indigenous children who were sent away to residential schools and learn more about the history of those schools.

    She noted that the Office of Indigenous Initiatives, in partnership with First Nations House (Students Life), and Hart House held a tri-campus virtual event in support of this national initiative.

    She provided additional highlights of the day, noting that UTSC had offered a week-long series of events intended to recognize and reflect on the tragic history and ongoing legacy of residential schools. At UTM, the Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Office launched the Orange Shirt Day social media campaign where, the office provided resources, supports, tours, and history surrounding Orange Shirt Day. The UTM Indigenous Centre had curated a list of resources such as books, podcasts, and videos for those who wanted to learn more about Orange Shirt Day and the significance behind it.

    In response to member questions, the Board was provided the following information:
  • Currently, anyone coming to any UofT campus who was not able to complete the online version of UCheck must have completed a paper-based form which could be accessed through the UCheck website.
  • The University continued to explore the feasibility of expanding UCheck to staff of Student Societies.
  • There were currently no plans to expand the use of UCheck to visitors or contractors and that in the future, the University may use the Provincial proof-of-vaccination program.
  • In the case of third-party contractors, the University had updated its language to include them in the new vaccination requirement.
  • QR codes for vaccination verification had been rolled out for select purposes and locations such as the UTM shuttle bus. There had been interest from additional locations and based on feedback from pilots over the summer, the program would be expanded.
  • The University would look into the usability of student event space for student groups as the University reopened. The priority had been around academic programming and now that students were returning to campus, spaces had been reopening to accommodate their presence.
  • The University continued to utilize contact tracing in the event of a positive case on campus.
  • The University had worked diligently to prepare for the return of international students to campus. Examples include the quarantine program that began in August of 2020, the continued dissemination of information as health regulations evolved, and vaccine clinics that had seen increased usage from international students.
  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.

    There were no questions from members regarding the orientation materials.
  2. University College Literary and Athletic Society – Constitutional Amendments

    Professor Welsh introduced the item and informed the Board that some older student societies have clauses in their constitutions and/or by-laws that require approval from the society’s membership and the University’s Governing Council through its Boards, Campus Councils, and Committees. The University College Literary and Athletic Society (UC Lit) is one such society.

    The Board was provided proposed amendments to the Constitution of the University College Literary & Athletic Society that were approved by the UC Lit Constitutional Review Committee on August 19, 2020, by the UC Lit Council on September 20, 2020, and by the society’s membership at the UC Lit Annual General Meeting on March 18, 2021.

    On motion duly made, seconded, and carried


    THAT the amendments to the Constitution of the University College Literary & Athletic Society, as approved at the University College Literary and Athletic Society Annual General Meeting on March 18, 2021, be approved.
  3. Equity Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Report, 2020

    Professor Hannah-Moffat provided the Board with a presentation on the Equity Diversity and Inclusion Report and noted she would be pleased to take any questions.

    Highlights from the presentation included:
  • how a theme of impact was utilized in two keys ways; the impact that the global and local events of 2020 had on the University community and around the world; and the impact that Equity Offices and partners across the tri-campus had on making, and preparing for, meaningful change at the University.
  • an overview of the many EDI programs and initiatives implemented by the Division of People Services, Equity and Culture, and the larger University community between January 1, 2020, and December 31, 2021.
  • how the University invested in people through initiatives such as the Restore @ U of T sessions, Connections & Conversations, Your Journey: A Career Guide for Trans and Nonbinary Students - Sexual & Gender Diversity Office, Access Programs University Fund, and the Black Graduate Student Excellence Bursary - School of Graduate Studies
  • an update on Covid-19 resources that were designed and developed to be inclusive and support the University community, such as the Wellness and Working from Home Toolkit, the Best Practices for Leading and Managing Remotely Guide, and the Returning to Campus During COVID-19: Keeping Accessibility in Mind Guide.
  • a highlight of Institutional anti-racism initiatives which included the Institutional Anti-Black Racism Task Force, National Dialogues and Action for Inclusive Higher Education and Communities, Anti-Semitism Working Group, and Anti-Islamophobia Working Group.

    The Chair thanked Professor Hannah-Moffat for her report and presentation.
  1. 2019-2020 Indigenous Initiatives Report

    Professor Hannah-Moffat introduced Shannon Simpson, Director of the Office of Indigenous Initiatives who provided the Board with a presentation. It was noted that the report had been deferred from a previous meeting of the Board.

    The report outlined the ongoing work of the Office of Indigenous Initiatives, whose establishment was a response to one of the 34 Calls to Action set out in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s (TRC) Steering Committee’s Final Report. This report documented the new and ongoing Indigenous initiatives and projects that occurred at the University and progress on the Calls to Action between January 2019 and December 2020.

    Highlights from the presentation included:
  • acknowledgment of the profound impact COVID-19 had made, while recognizing the disproportionate impact on Indigenous peoples. The University remained committed to the Calls to Action and was able to shift relationship building, hiring processes and program delivery, while maintaining a strong connection to the Elders Circle, all in a virtual world.
  • an update on the University’s progress in each of the six categories originally identified in Answering the Call, Wecheehetowin: Final Report of the Steering Committee for the University of Toronto Response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.
  • an update on how the University continued to address common challenges brought forward by units as well as Indigenous staff, students, and faculty.
  • a summary of next steps that highlighted spaces, both indoor and outdoor, that were currently underway on all three campuses.

    The Chair thanked Professor Hannah-Moffat and Shannon Simpson for their reports and presentation.
  1. 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.
  2. Report of the Previous Meeting: Report 224, May 25, 2021

    The report of the previous meeting was approved.
  3. Business Arising form the Report of the Previous Meeting

    There was no business arising from the report of the previous meeting.
  4. Date of the Next Meeting: Tuesday, November 23, 2021

    The Chair confirmed that the next meeting would be held on November 23, 2021.
  5. Other Business

    There were no items of other business.

    The Board moved in camera
  6. Appointment: University Affairs Board Striking Committee 2021-22

    On motion duly made, seconded, and carried.


    THAT the following be appointed to the University Affairs Board Striking Committee for 2021-22:

    - Ms. Sherice Robertson (Administrative Staff)
    - Dr. Geeta Yadav (Alumni)
    - Ms. Kikelomo Lawal (LGIC)
    - Ms. Susan Froom (Student)
    - Dr. K. Sonu Gaind (Teaching Staff)

The meeting adjourned at 5:23 p.m.

September 28, 2021