Report: UTM Campus Council - November 16, 2021

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Via Virtual Meeting room

REPORT NUMBER 50 OF THE CAMPUS COUNCIL

November 16, 2021

To the Governing Council, University of Toronto

Your Council reports that it met on November 16, 2021 at 4:10 p.m. in a Virtual Meeting Room, with the following members present:

Present:
Samra Zafar (Chair), Shashi Kant (Vice-Chair), Alexandra Gillespie (Vice-President & Principal), Hassaan Basit, Harvey Botting, Dario Di Censo, Ann Curran, Rafael Chiuzi, Laura Cocuzzi, Ivana Di Millo, Robert Gerlai, Imre Gams, Shelley Hawrychuk, Sanja Hinic-Frlog, Sameer Lal, Livon Mamiza, Jay Nirula, Gerard Otiniano, Laura Taylor, Ziyaad Vahed, Ron Wener, Kathleen Yu

Non-Voting Assessors:
Susan Senese (Interim Chief Administrative Officer), Mark Overton (Assistant Principal, Student Services & Dean of Student Affairs)

Regrets:
Sultan Akif, Maggie Ku, Evan Silva

In Attendance:
Sandy Welsh (Vice-Provost, Students), Donald Ainslie (UMLAP Review), Varsha Patel (Assistant Dean, Student Success & Career Support, UMLAP Review), Mitra Yakubi (President, UTMSU), Angela Treglia (Director, Sexual Violence Prevention and Support Centre), Cheryl Gibbs (Manager, Student Policy Initiatives)

Secretariat:
Cindy Ferencz Hammond (Assistant Secretary of the Governing Council)


  1. Chair’s Remarks

    The Chair welcomed members to the second meeting of Council for the academic year and provided some reminders about the upcoming governance elections and meeting procedures in a virtual setting. She also provided a content warning for item #5, Proposed Revisions to the Policy on Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment.
  2. Report of the Vice-President and Principal

    The Vice-President & Principal reported that since the beginning of the academic year, since the beginning of the fall 2021 semester, UTM has had thousands of students, including international students, living in campus residences and learning in in-person courses. In addition, faculty, post- doctoral fellows, and graduate researchers were back in their laboratories, operating at full capacity and librarians were providing frontline services. Professor Gillespie noted that in comparison to other

    Ontario universities, UTM took a more gradual approach in transitioning back to more of an in-person presence because the Region of Peel had been hit especially hard by the pandemic. She noted that since September, there had been no spread of COVID-19 on the UTM campus and this was due to many factors, including the very high vaccination rate of UTM community members, mask mandates and excellent ventilation on the campus. These factors, along with advice from Peel Public Health about lifting distancing requirements informed UTM’s decision to formalize plans originally announced during spring and summer 2021, for return to campus in January 2022. This would allow UTM to go from offering 30% of its courses in-person to offering more than 80% of courses in-person. Professor Gillespie emphasized the importance of in-person learning by explaining that UofT was a publicly accredited in-person institution and teaching and learning experts both at UTM, and from all over the world, showed the negative impact of online learning on mental health. This negative result was also demonstrated by feedback from a survey of UTM students. Professor Gillespie concluded her presentation by expressing the hope that being back in person would foster positive social connections and improved mental health, recognizing that Canada’s mental health crisis will require many additional supports to address.

    She then invited Ms Mitra Yakubi, President of the University of Toronto Mississauga Student Union (UTMSU) to introduce and share information about that organization with members. Professor Gillespie also took the opportunity to thank Ms Yabuki and the UTMSU leadership for their collaborative approach to their advocacy work.

    Ms Yakubi began her presentation by explaining that the UTMSU represented over 15,000 full and part-time undergraduate student members and was Local 109 of the Canadian Federation of Students, which meant that the UTMSU worked with other student unions at various other universities. She noted that the structure of the UTMSU was comprised of its members, board members, executive committee, and volunteer staff. Ms Yakubi explained that the UTMSU functioned under the three umbrellas of events, services, and campaigns, and for each she provided details. She shared with members that student concerns included the ongoing pandemic and the impact it had on academics, mental health, finances, and futures, the transition and return to in-person programming, access to adequate mental health resources, and the cost of post-secondary education.

    Ms Yakubi concluded her presentation by discussing students’ priorities, which included the following:
  • Safe return back to campus;
  • Comprehensive supports to transition back to campus;
  • Adequate mental health supports;
  • Fair and accessible academic accommodations; and
  • A reduction of tuition fees and access to free and accessible resources like open access materials and platforms.
  1. UTM Strategic Framework

    At the invitation of the Chair, Professor Gillespie provided an overview of UTM’s development of a campus wide strategic framework, which would be submitted for governance consideration in February 2022.

    Professor Gillespie explained that although UTM did not have a formal strategic plan, it did have plans that comprised the foundations for a campus-wide strategy, such as the 2017 Academic Plan, the 2020 Sustainability Strategic Plan, and the 2021 Campus Master Plan. In addition, as part of the tri-campus system, UTM was also a part of the University’s 2018 Plan in Response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) report; the 2018 Strategic Research Plan; the 2019 Four Corners Framework; the 2019 Report on Student Mental Health; the 2019 Low Carbon Action Plan; the 2021 Plan against Anti-Black Racism—and more. These plans provided details to ground UTM’s institutional future with respect to recommendations for action, targets for progress, and deadlines for implementation. Professor Gillespie noted that this existing context meant that the strategic framework would be a synthesis of these plans, unified into a common narrative. She reported that an early draft of the framework was made available online in early September and feedback would continue to be solicited through an online form and through ongoing consultations with different stakeholders and groups.

    Professor Gillespie explained that key terms in the five priorities had been arranged in a circle to suggest their non-hierarchical unity. Each priority had three commitments and three accountabilities to help focus efforts and track progress. These priorities were: Inspire Academic Creativity for Student Success; Enable Impactful Discovery in Student and Faculty Research; Develop Inclusive Spaces and Sustainable Operations; and Embrace our Location for Connection, Wellbeing, and Care. These priorities revolved around a focus on Truth, Openness, and Reciprocity, placed in the circle’s centre to signify its relevance to all UTM’s goals. Professor Gillespie highlighted that this applied most urgently to relations with Indigenous people as UTM strove to answer national and institutional calls for truth and reconciliation and to become a more deserving home for Indigenous students, faculty, librarians, staff, and partners. These priorities entailed a series of more specific commitments, which ranged from enacting initiatives in equity and anti-racism to recruiting and retaining outstanding and promising students; from catalyzing research impact through institutional, regional, and global networks to propelling efforts in economic resilience.

    Professor Gillespie concluded her presentation by noting that returning to campus in January was an essential way that UTM could contribute to the community by providing a place for collective flourishing where research discovery and transformative teaching and sustainable operations came together to empower the communities the University served. She encouraged members to share their feedback on the framework through the online form that has been established for that purpose, and available at: https://utm.utoronto.ca/strategic-framework.
  2. Status Report on UTM Campus Strategic Priorities

    At the invitation of the Chair, Professor Alexandra Gillespie, Vice-President and Principal gave a presentation that outlined the status of the strategic priorities of the campus. With respect to the timeline of budget development, Professor Gillespie noted that in November, UTM would be discussing its budget plans with the Provost and the Vice Provost of Academic Operations and would receive approval of its enrollment plans in the budget in February of 2022. The University’s institutional budget would then proceed for governance consideration and it, along with the UTM campus operating budget would then be presented for information to UTM governance bodies.

    Addressing enrollment intake for 2021 to 2022, the target intake had been a total of 3846 undergraduate students broken down into 2715 domestic and 1131 international students. In terms of variance from those targets, the estimated actuals were at 2837 domestic students, and 1668 international students, a variance of 659. Professor Gillespie noted that this year, UTM had over- enrolled by 122 domestic and 537 international students.

    Moving on from enrollment to faculty recruitment, Professor Gillespie reported that in alignment with UTM’s academic plan implementation, 34 faculty searches would be conducted, across all disciplines. UTM would be looking to align the planned faculty complement with the new strategic framework, with the new 2022 academic plan, which would emerge from the Provostial review process, and also with the new budget process. In keeping with this goal, all the different units across UTM had been asked to contribute to a more detailed budget process, which included goals and cost projections for five years. There would also be continued focus placed on improving the diversity and recruitment of faculty members.

    Professor Gillespie next focused on the status of research planning, noting that UTM would be allocating resources to support researchers who are impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. She also reported that the restructuring of the Office of the Vice-Principal Research would soon be completed and would include some new positions in that office. In addition to UofT’s already existing Strategic Research Plan 2018-23, UTM would develop its own, which would align with the other campus planning documents.

    With respect to the campus capital plan, Professor Gillespie reported that the Davis Meeting Place Revitalization had been completed, the new Science Building was continuing to make good progress and that the Student Services Hub had received governance approval and would also be moving ahead. She noted that the building that used to be referred to as Arts Culture and Technology (ACT) in previous reports was now being referred to as F2 and corresponded to site 2 in the Forrest Quadrant in the proposed new Master Plan. She reported that because of inflation and the cost of construction, this proposed building had been reviewed and that some cost adjustments had been necessary. UTM was also making significant progress with respect to a new residence. Finally, Professor Gillespie noted that UTM was actively planning an Indigenous building, one that would be dedicated to a more deserving place for Indigenous communities. UTM has also begun internal consultations around the possibility for an Arts, Culture, Administration building. More information about these projects would be shared in future reports.

    On behalf of the Vice-Principal Academic and Dean, Professor Gillespie continued the presentation. Focusing on the Academic Plan, she reported that UTM had completed over 80% of a total of approximately 176 individual action items as tracked by the academic plan online dashboard. She reminded members about the five goals in the academic plan which had been represented by these action items and spoke to progress and achievement in each area. The Office of the Vice-Principal Academic & Dean had worked very closely with the Office of the Vice-Principal Research on not only UTM being a home for world class research, but also supporting graduate students and post-doctoral fellows. There had also been a focus on enriching the student experience by embracing opportunities for community involvement, especially in the surrounding Peel region, with the goal of educating future leaders to be global citizens. Finally, Professor Gillespie highlighted goal five, which focused on transformation and innovation to create sustainable and cohesive community. She thanked the previous Dean, the Vice-Deans and the academic leaders and staff within the Dean’s office for their outstanding work on the Academic Plan and the tremendous progress thus far.
  3. Proposed Revisions: Policy on Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment

    The Chair invited Professor Sandy Welsh, Vice-Provost, Students to present the item.

    Professor Welsh noted that she was bringing forward for information some important technical changes to the Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment Policy that were mandated by the Government of Ontario. She noted that a broader review of the Policy was announced last month and was led by Professor Linda Johnston, Dean of the Lawrence S. Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing and Allison Burgess, Director of the Sexual and Gender Diversity Office, and would come forward for governance consideration later in the academic year, following broad, tri-campus consultation. She referred members to the website where they could provide feedback.

    Speaking to the proposed, technical changes, Professor Welsh explained that the two government requirements were aligned with established practice at the University and required these wording changes to be reflected in the Policy itself. The first change ensured a complainant would not be subject to action for violation of other University policies related to drug and alcohol use at the time the sexual violence took place. The second change related to the institution’s investigative process, so that during the process, students who shared their experience of sexual violence through disclosing, accessing support, and/or reporting to the University would not be asked irrelevant questions from staff or investigators, such as those relating to past sexual history or sexual expression.

    Professor Welsh noted that these changes would bring the University into compliance with the governmental requirements and that she looked forward to sharing with members the results of the broader review of the Policy in the spring of 2022.

    In response to a member’s question about the use of anonymous surveys on sexual violence, Professor Welsh noted that her office was exploring gathering such data as part of the review process since such data could be very helpful in understanding those who may not formally report a complaint and to receive important feedback on the awareness of available supports and how to improve them.
  4. Review of the University-Mandated Leave of Absence Policy (UMLAP) – Overview

    The Chair invited Professor Sandy Welsh, Vice-Provost, Students, to present the item. Professor Welsh reported that the Provost had initiated the UMLAP review in February of 2021. She provided some background on the UMLAP and the review process, noting that the Policy had first been approved in June of 2018. The 2018 approval had occurred following a significant consultation process that considered the feedback of students, staff, faculty, external experts in mental health and human rights law, and the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC). The need for the Policy was originally identified by the University Ombudsperson who had raised concerns about the University’s ability to address student behaviours during periods of extreme distress caused by serious health or mental health issues. Professor Welsh also that clarified the intention of the policy was to ensure the safety of all members of the University community while also providing compassionate and non- punitive options for students who were exhibiting serious and concerning behaviour that threatened their own or others’ safety or resulted in negative and material impacts on the learning environment of others. Professor Welsh reported that the OHRC Chief Commissioner had contributed a letter to the review, and that both the letter and the University’s response would be made available to members and posted to the UMLAP review website. Professor Welsh invited Professor Donald Ainslie (Department of Philosophy) and Ms. Varsha Patel (Assistant Dean, Student Success & Career Support), to share the themes of the review and the preliminary recommendations for change to the UMLAP.

    Professor Ainslie discussed the University’s Task Force on Student Mental Health to situate the UMLAP policy within the University’s larger mental health landscape. He then reported on the extensive consultation and research that had occurred throughout the UMLAP review process. The key themes that arose from student consultations were shared, for example, the concern that the Policy was inhibiting students from seeking help, for fear that they would then be considered for a mandated leave. Another issue noted was how a leave would impact a student’s ability to access campus-based supports, and concerns about financial impacts, visas, or housing. Key themes from the faculty and staff consultations were also discussed, for example, faculty and staff were agreement with students about the need for a companion guide, and the need for consideration of timelines. Professor Ainslie reported the preliminary recommendations stemming from the review, as follows:\
  • Maintain a version of the Policy, with some revisions;
  • Rename the Policy to more accurately reflect its purpose and the options contained within the Policy;
  • Restrict mandated leaves only to those cases where a student was posing a harm to others or actively interfering with the educational experience of fellow students, and all other options for reasonable accommodations have been exhausted;
  • Clarify that mere discomfort about a student’s behavior resulting from mental illness did not qualify as a psychological harm under the Policy;
  • Track and report on additional data related to the Policy, including demographic data, divisional referrals for consideration under the Policy, and timelines for those on leave;
  • Conduct a further review of the Policy after three years. This review should consider whether there was a need for ongoing periodic review of the Policy moving forward;
  • Publish a companion guide to the Policy by fall 2022;
  • Establish divisional voluntary leave policies (where they do not already exist), with support available from the Office of the Vice Provost, Students, as needed; and
  • Provide additional student supports in situations where a divisional voluntary leave has been unsuccessful and/or a student may benefit from a higher level of institutionally coordinated resources but does not meet the threshold for the Policy.

    Next steps were reported, which included a reminder that the consultation website was still open, and that any proposed Policy revisions would be considered later in the governance year. Members had no questions.
  1. Report of the University Ombudsperson for the period July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021 and Administrative Response

    The Chair referred members to the Report of the University Ombudsperson for the period July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021 and the Administrative Response, which were available on the governance portal as well as posted on the Council’s website. She introduced the University Ombudsperson, Professor Emeritus Bruce Kidd, and invited him to share some remarks for his first report to the Council.

    Professor Kidd noted that the Office of the Ombudsperson provided independent confidential advice to the university community, was a safeguard of the justice and reasonableness of policies and decisions and served as a tri-campus source of information to enquiries. He remarked that one of the most valuable services the Office provided was directing people to the places and people who could help them in the complex University of Toronto environment. Professor Kidd reported that the creation of a visible office and dedicated staff person on the UTM and UTSC campuses had worked well in bringing about faster response times and much more campus sensitive interventions in advice. He also noted that the Office was continually working to promote its services to the University community.

    Professor Kidd concluded his remarks by thanking the previous University Ombudsperson, Professor Emeritus Ellen Hodnett, whose last report was the subject of this item. He noted that he was pleased that the administration had agreed to implement or otherwise follow up on her recommendations and he looked forward to monitoring this process.

CONSENT AGENDA

On motion duly moved, seconded, and carried YOUR COUNCIL APPROVED
THAT the consent agenda be adopted and that Item 10 - Report of the Previous Meeting, be approved.

  1. Report on Capital Projects – as at October 31, 2021
  2. Reports for Information
    1. Report 49 of the Agenda Committee (November 3, 2021)
    2. Report 48 of the Campus Affairs Committee (October 21, 2021)
  3. Report of the Previous Meeting: Report 49 – October 6, 2021 The report of the pervious meeting was approved.
  4. Business Arising from the Report of the Previous Meeting
  5. Date of Next Meeting – Tuesday, January 25, 2022 at 4:10 p.m.
  6. Other Business

    There was no Other Business.

The meeting was adjourned at 5:34 p.m.

October 19, 2021