Report: UTM Campus Council - May 19, 2021

Via Virtual Meeting


May 19, 2021

To the Governing Council,
University of Toronto

Your Council reports that it met on May 19, 2021 at 4:10 p.m. in a Virtual Meeting Room, with the following members present:

Samra Zafar (Chair), Shashi Kant (Vice-Chair), Alexandra Gillespie (Vice-President & Principal), Sultan Akif, Hassaan Basit, Mitchell Bonney, Dario Di Censo, Laura Cocuzzi, Ivana Di Millo, Imre Gams, Sanja Hinic-Frlog, Shelley Hawrychuk, Sameer Lal, Joseph Leydon, Jay Nirula, Laura Taylor, Ziyaad Vahed, Ron Wener, Kathleen Yu

Non-Voting Assessors:
Amrita Daniere (Vice-Principal, Academic & Dean), Saher Fazilat (Chief Administrative Officer), Mark Overton (Assistant Principal, Student Services & Dean of Student Affairs)

Bryan Du, Robert Gerlai, Mitra Yakubi

In Attendance:
Jessica Silver (Director, Centre for Student Engagement)

Cindy Ferencz Hammond (Assistant Secretary of the Governing Council)

  1. Chair’s Remarks

    The Chair welcomed members to the last meeting of Council for the academic year.
  2. Report of the Vice-President and Principal

    Professor Gillespie reported that since May, she has had the opportunity to have reflection forums with students, faculty, librarians, and staff through several public town halls as well as smaller groups. She then highlighted the three recurring values of connection, transparency, and care, which had been the common themes of these forums. She noted that the values reflected the experiences of loss, uncertainty, and burnout over the course of the pandemic.

    With respect to the value of connection, students had shared about the challenges that they had experienced this past year, including the loss of opportunities, loss of physical and mental health, and loss of relationships. Students had missed deeply the chance encounters that being on campus would have normally provided. Professor Gillespie noted that when everyone returned to campus, it would be important to intentionally embrace the location of UTM and the wider community as vital place of connection for the entire community.

    Speaking to the recurring value of transparency, Professor Gillespie reported during the reflection forum, faculty and librarians shared questions about plans for the upcoming year, including the possibility of mandating vaccinations, rapid antigen testing, flexible and remote work arrangements, and the increase in breaches of academic integrity. Professor Gillespie noted that although much work was already underway to address these issues, UTM would strive for even greater transparency in communicating progress on these projects. For example, throughout the summer of 2021 she would record and share short videos inspired by questions received from the community, to provide timely updates. Finally, with respect to the value of care, Professor Gillespie reported that during the reflection forum, staff shared that they were attempting to balance a high workload with excellence, resulting in burnout. She noted that UTM had worked to develop a multi-pronged plan with short- and long-term measures regarding how to manage work, collaboration, and expectations and that a more substantial update would be provided during the second week in June, once tri-campus feedback had been incorporated.

    Professor Gillespie shared two assumptions that underpinned all the planning and work that she had discussed. First, UTM had achieved great success over a challenging year in many ways, including the following areas: strengthening its culture of equity, diversity, inclusion, and anti-racism; innovative strategies in student recruitment and retention; expanding the reach and impact of campus communications; building new relationships with external partners; developing a comprehensive and robust budget; advancing initiatives in Indigeneity and reciprocity; implementing 77% of key targets in the academic plan; and enabling growth in research, teaching, and learning. She noted that while many would continue to feel pressure to do even more, she stressed the importance of taking time to recognize what had already been accomplished. Secondly, Professor Gillespie explained that UTM would base its campus strategic plan in realistic, context-specific targets in the context of the pandemic and the legacy of post-pandemic trauma and recovery.

    She concluded her report by noting that UTM’s existing strategies had already made a positive impact, including hosting a vaccine clinic that had administered more than 165,000 doses, which represented approximately 20% of the total population across the Peel region. UTM would continue to focus on the health and safety of its community while also working on its foundational goals.

    Members commented on the positive and inspiring leadership demonstrated by UTM during this time. In response to a member’s question about how the nature of work might change in the future, Professor Gillespie explained that values articulated in the academic plan would remain the same, but that the coming strategic plan would give UTM the opportunity to think about how it would shape the next five years, with respect to the nature of work. She added that she would report more on this at future Council meetings.

    The Vice-President & Principal invited Professor Amrita Daniere, Vice-Principal Academic & Dean, to provide an update on academic continuity.

    Professor Daniere began her report by announcing that that UTM would be offering its newest students, a free online mathematics course, which was intended to prepare those who had concerns about their lack of preparation. She reported that UTM had been planning for fall and winter course delivery, with the assumption that in the fall there would still be some restrictions in place due to the pandemic. Her office had been working with faculty members and departments to develop specific plans and have asked faculty to consider how they might introduce in-person teaching elements into their courses, should this be approved by the Province. She added that the Office of the Registrar had this data, and they were using it to assign spaces, dates and times to each course based on department and faculty preference. Thus far, the data for fall term indicated that approximately 65% of classes were projected to be delivered remotely, with 25% having some in-person component increasing up to 50% with in-person elements in the winter term. She added that should the public health situation improve dramatically by fall, modifications had been considered and planned for to support the transition.

    The Chair thanked Professor Daniere for her final report to the Committee.
  3. Impact of Online Learning On Student Learning Experiences

    At the invitation of the Chair, Professor Alexandra Gillespie shared a presentation on the impact of online learning on student learning experiences. Professor Gillespie thanked Jonathan Davis, Student Experience Research and Assessment Coordinator and Jessica Silver, Director, Centre for Student Engagement for assembling the data contained in her presentation.

    During her presentation, Professor Gillespie highlighted the following points:
    • The survey had a very high participation rate, with 2600 students responding.
    • The outcomes of the survey pointed to the importance of using flexible approaches to teaching and that student voices and experiences mattered.
    • Survey findings included:
      • A vast majority of respondents found it much more difficult to maintain focus and attention when in online instruction versus the in-person classroom experience.
      • A significant proportion found it more challenging to learn entirely online and most found instructors’ standards more difficult.
      • Almost half of the respondents indicated that they learned less.
      • Challenges included: receiving help with assignments, communicating with classmates and friends, and adjusting to online learning.
      • Primary stressors included mental and physical health, social isolation, as well as the ability to succeed in an online academic environment.
      • A majority of respondents worried about online learning impacting their academic success and therefore future potential.
      • Many indicated that they do not know how to access online campus resources (both academic and other student support areas).
      • A majority feel disconnected from the UTM community.
      • A majority have experienced unexpected increases in spending for technology and loss of anticipated wages as a result of the pandemic, including a loss or reduction of income from other family members.

In response to a member’s question about how the campus would balance respect for privacy with reintegration, Professor Gillespie noted that thanks to both the Office of the Registrar and the Office of the Vice-Principal Academic & Dean, a schedule had been developed for next year, which included a transition period. UTM would be respectful of privacy and access guidelines and gently reintegrate its community. Professor Gillespie further noted that a legal opinion on what could be required or mandated as the community returned to campus was still forthcoming and that she would continue to keep Council updated on the matter.

In response to a member’s question about data on academic integrity allegations, Professor Gillespie responded that UTM, including other post-secondary institutions, had experienced a crisis in academic integrity cases, which had more than doubled during the pandemic and had already been high before that period. She reported that several factors were contributing to this increase in cases, including the ease of cheating in a virtual environment, third party companies offering services, confusion about understanding the differences between online interactions and plagiarism, as well as students struggling with tremendous stress. She noted that she had recently met with the UTM Academic Integrity Office to discuss these issues.

In response to a member’s question about any changes in the grades of students during the pandemic, Professor Daniere noted that she was not aware of any significant change in students’ grades.

  1. Major Capital Projects Update

    The Chair reminded members that level two capital projects were those with a total project cost of between level $5 and $20 million and that level three projects were those with a total project cost over $20 million. He invited Ms. Saher Fazilat, Chief Administrative Officer, to give a presentation on the progress of these current and planned projects at UTM. Ms. Fazilat commented that as presented previously to the Committee, active engagement with the community regarding the UTM Master Plan was continuing through multiple Town Hall events that would continue until June, following which a final plan would be drafted to submit for governance consideration in the fall of 2021. Ms. Fazilat noted that there had been two town halls in April and that the Master Plan would be presented to the wider UTM neighbouring community in late May.

    Ms. Fazilat reported that UTM was working on a total of five capital projects. She displayed design renderings and expected timelines for the planned level two projects, which were the long-awaited Student Services Hub as well as a Robotics Laboratory environment. Both were in the planning stages and would be submitted for governance consideration in the fall of 2021.

    Ms. Fazilat also reported on level three projects: The Science building, which was under construction, the planned Arts, Culture and Technology (ACT) building, and a planned new student residence. She showed a progress picture of the Science building and noted that it was slated for occupation in early 2023. The ACT building was in the design and costing stage of planning and would enter governance consideration in early 2022, with a planned occupancy of 2025. With respect to the planned new student residence, Ms. Fazilat reported that it was planned to be a 400-bed facility and would be taking advantage of the dining amenities already existing in Oscar Peterson Hall; it would be submitted for governance approval in early 2022, with an expected completion date of fall 2024.
  2. Revisions to the UTM Campus Council and its Committees Terms of Reference

    The Chair invited Ms. Cindy Ferencz Hammond, Assistant Secretary of the Governing Council to present the item. Ms. Ferencz Hammond noted that the proposed changes to the Terms of Reference resulted from a recent review undertaken by the Office of the Vice-Provost Academic and the Office of the Governing Council. The proposed changes were considered minor and were for information to this Committee. She summarized the changes to the terms of reference. There were no questions from members.


    On motion duly moved, seconded, and carried


    THAT the consent agenda be adopted and that Item 8 - Report of the Previous Meeting, be approved.
  3. Report on UTM Capital Projects – as at March 31, 2021
  4. Reports for Information
    1. Report 48 of the Agenda Committee (May 11, 2021)
    2. Report 47 of the Campus Affairs Committee (April 27, 2021)
    3. Report 41 of the Academic Affairs Committee (May 3, 2021)
  5. Report of the Previous Meeting: Report 47 – April 19, 2021

    Report number 47, dated April 19, 2021 was approved.
  6. Business Arising from the Report of the Previous Meeting
  7. Date of Next Meeting – Wednesday, October 6, 2021 at 4:10 p.m.

    The Chair reminded members that the next meeting of the UTM Campus Council was scheduled for Wednesday, October 6, 2021 at 4:10 p.m.
  8. Question Period

    There were no questions for the administration.
  9. Other Business

    The Chair thanked the Chairs, Vice-Chairs, and Presidential Assessors of the Academic and Campus Affairs Committees, the Secretariat, and the Information Technology support staff for their support over the past year. She also thanked members of Council for their engagement and recognized those whose terms had ended. She looked forward to seeing members at the first fall meeting of Council, on October 6, 2021.

    The Council moved In Camera.
  10. Appointments: 2021-22 University of Toronto Mississauga Campus Council Members -Standing Committee Assignments

    On motion duly moved, seconded, and carried


    That the recommended appointments of members of the UTM Campus Council to the Standing Committees and related leadership roles, as recommended by the Nominating Committee, and as specified in the documentation dated May 12, 2021, be approved for one-year terms, effective July 1, 2021.

The meeting was adjourned at 5:42 p.m.

May 26, 2021