Report: UTSC Academic Affairs Committee - October 19, 2023

UTSC Campus Council Chambers, AA160



To the UTSC Campus Council,
University of Toronto,

Your Committee reports that it held a meeting in the Council Chamber, Arts and Administration Building, on Thursday, October 19, 2023 at 3:10 p.m. with the following members present:

PRESENT: Elaine Khoo (Chair), Gillian Mason (Vice-Chair), William A. Gough (
Vice-Principal, Academic & Dean), Irena Creed (Vice-Principal, Research & Innovation), Syed Ahmed, Iris Au, Susannah Bunce, Elyse Caron-Beaudoin, Christopher Cochrane, Sotos Damouras, Sébastien Drouin, Rene Harrison, Mariana Jardim, Alice Maurice, Alison Mountz, Sonja Nikkila, William Nelson, Elizabeth O'Brien, Natalie Oswin, Thy Phu, Bavan Pushpalingam, Hadiya Roderique, Anthony Ruocco, Suzanne Sicchia, Shennel Simpson, Sofia Suleman, Judith Teichman, Lianne Tripp, Phil Triadafilopoulos, Shelby Verboven, Niyonta Zulfiquar

REGRETS: Wisdom Tettey, Muntaha Almahjub, Georgios Arhonditsis, Sandra Bamford, Joshua Barker, Corinne Beauquis, James Bremer, Shelley Brunt, Dhra Chourey, Suzanne Erb, Angela Hamilton, John Hannigan, Joseph Hermer, Irmi Hutfless, Randy Lundy, Karen McCrindle, Sharlene Mollett, Julia Nefsky, Jasmin Patel, Kamini Persaud, Mahinda Samarakoon, Karyn Sethi, Michelle Silver, Mauricio Terebiznik, Liana Williams, Jessica Wilson, Marco Zimmer-De Iuliis, David Zweig

NON-VOTING ASSESSORS: Martha Harris, Varsha Patel, Michael Souza, Naureen Nizam

SECRETARIAT: Emma Thacker, Megann Davidson

IN ATTENDANCE: Shehna Jabbar-Javeed (Assistant Registrar, Petitions), Will Kwan


  1. Chair’s Remarks

    The Chair, Professor Elaine Khoo, welcomed members and guests to the meeting. She provided an overview of the Academic Affairs Committee seats that would become available in the Winter 2024 governance elections: 7 Teaching Staff positions (one from each of the following departments: Language Studies; English; Management; Health & Society; Computer & Mathematical Sciences; Historical & Cultural Studies, and Physical & Environmental Sciences); 1 administrative staff position; and 7 student positions (5 undergraduate and 2 graduate students).
  2. Minor Modifications: Undergraduate Out of Cycle Courses, UTSC

    The Chair invited Professor Suzanne Sicchia (Acting Vice-Dean Teaching, Learning & Undergraduate Programs), to present the item. Highlights of the proposal included two out of cycle courses for the 2023-2024 academic year. The Department of Anthropology proposed the course: ANTD98H3 (Advanced Topics in Socio-Cultural) and the Department of Health & Society proposed the course: HLTD18H3 (Dental Sciences).

    A member asked if the dental sciences course would be available to Biology students. Professor Sicchia responded that the course would be taught through interdivisional teaching, and it was not limited in enrolment.

    On motion duly made, seconded and carried,


    THAT the proposed out-of-cycle undergraduate curriculum changes for the 2023-24 academic year, as detailed in the respective curriculum report, be approved effective October 19, 2023.
  3. Annual Report: Subcommittee on Academic Appeals (2022-23)

    The Chair invited Shelby Verboven (Registrar & Assistant Dean Enrollment Management), to present the Annual Report. Ms. Verboven provided the following highlights:
  • This past year, there was an increase in petitions filed, largely due to the increase in deferred exam and coursework extensions.
  • The vast majority of petitions were decided at the registrarial level and were not appealed to the Dean’s Advisory Committee.
  • Given the increase, it was prudent to consider if regulations or policy processes needed adjustment.

    A member asked if in subsequent annual reports, the data could be provided as a percentage of the student body. Ms Verboven responded that the Report format and data presentation would be considered for the following year and may also include categories of petitions.  

    A member asked how the absence declaration had impacted petitions. Ms Verboven responded that due to COVID there had been a great deal of illness. She noted that UTSC was moving back to requiring documentation for deferred examinations.
  1. UTSC Sessional Dates, 2024-25

    The Chair advised the Committee that sessional dates were an item for information. She invited Shelby Verboven (Registrar & Assistant Dean, Strategic Enrolment Management), to present the item. Ms Verboven provided an overview of the sessional dates for 2024-25, which included information about the examination periods and reading weeks.

    Ms Verboven reported that in collaboration with the University Registrar and Vice-Provost Strategic Enrolment Management, the sessional dates were aligned across the tri-campus, effective Fall 2024. The sessional dates were projected to 2029, which would assist with campus and departmental planning.

    A member asked if the schedule included a Monday ‘make-up’ day to accommodate Labour Day and Thanksgiving. Ms Verboven responded that yes, the make-up days would continue.
  2. Reviews of Academic Programs and Units, UTSC

    The Chair advised that the protocols and governance for reviews of academic programs was outlined in the AAC Terms of Reference and the University of Toronto Quality Assurance Process (UTQAP). She noted that the item was for information and would provide an overview of the external reviews of four departments / undergraduate programs. She invited Professor Suzanne Sicchia (Acting Vice-Dean Teaching, Learning & Undergraduate Programs), to present the item.
    1. Department of Anthropology and its Programs 

      The Department of Anthropology was reviewed in April of 2022. In the report, the reviewers assessed the Department very positively. They observed several strengths, including high morale in the department, strong student appreciation for the educational experience, strong alignment with the UTSC Strategic Plan, and a commitment to integrating an anti-racist agenda, decolonizing framework and Equity, Diversity and Inclusion principles into teaching, recruitment, hiring and everyday operations. The review team also recommended directions for enhancement and development, including: 
      • Enhancing communications and outreach;
      • Reviewing existing policies and procedures for teaching stream faculty;
      • Options to enhance student supports and advising;
      • Reviving the medical anthropology curriculum;
      • Increasing number of faculty contributing to HBSc program offerings; and
      • Exploring integrating co-op programs into curriculum planning. 

        The next external review of the Department was scheduled for 2029-30.
    2. Major (Joint) in New Media Studies 

      The Major in New Media Studies was a joint program administered by the Department of Arts, Culture and Media at UTSC, and Centennial College. The reviewers praised the program as being “highly successful by nearly every measure.” They noted the mix of practical and theoretical education in the program as unique and highlighted the excellent faculty and media resources for students at both campuses. To improve the program, the reviewers recommended changes to improve collaboration between the two campuses, including communication of the program’s technical requirements, changes to curriculum, review of enrolment, and improving faculty contributions to the program. Significant work was underway, including a curriculum and outreach initiatives for students such as a coding club and mentorship opportunities. The Memorandum of Understanding to support the joint program was expected to proceed to governance later in the year. The next external review of the program was scheduled for 2027-28. 

    3. Department of Political Science and its Programs 

      The Department of Political Science was reviewed in March of 2022. The reviewers assessed the Department to be one of the top political science units in Canada and noted that significant progress made since the previous review. They commended the Department’s high student enrolments, unique program offerings, and dual focus on research and teaching with a collegial culture, and high student satisfaction. The review team recommended:

      • Expanding student research, training, advising and mentoring opportunities;
      • Enhancement of existing curriculum offerings, such as co-op programs, data analysis, and ethics and public policy;
      • Continuing efforts to expand faculty diversity in hiring;
      • Developing a governance framework;
      • Exploring supports for part-time faculty and teaching assistants; and
      • Improving connections and collaborations with external groups and departments 

In response to these recommendations, the Department was undertaking an overall curriculum review of research skills to build structure from the A-level through D-level courses, will offer a senior research seminar, and expand opportunities for Beyond the Classroom and Summer Research Scholar programs. Other curricular reforms were planned over the next two years to further decolonize the curriculum, and faculty hiring would be aligned within the Pathway to Parity and UTSC Strategic Plan. The next external review of the Department was scheduled for 2029-30. 

  1. Department of Sociology and its Programs 

    The Department of Sociology was reviewed in February of 2022. The reviewers praised the department as “strong and vibrant,” with unique and well-structured programming, highly engaged faculty, and a level of morale and innovation in the pandemic that exceeded expectations. The reviewers recommended: 

  • Establishing a departmental research plan;
  • Reviewing connections between courses and introducing more flexibility in program requirements to enhance inclusivity;
  • Exploring options for more dedicated department staff;
  • Coordinating recruitment efforts to attract students, and expanding surveys of current students and graduates; and
  •  Expanding community engagement activities in relation to strategic priorities. 

    In response to these recommendations the Department would propose changes to first year courses in this year’s curriculum cycle. They planned to resume administering a student experience survey and a research support plan for faculty. The next external review of the Department was scheduled for 2029-30.

    Members had no questions.

  1. Report of the Presidential Assessors

    The Chair invited Dean Gough to present his report.

    Dean Gough commented on the recent world events in the Middle East, noting the wide range of responses and that many were directly affected, with a sense of safety now eroded. He expressed the strong desire to support the University community. Dean Gough commented that the University had a unique position and role. The University mission statement spoke to the responsibility to support and hold space for discourse. He highlighted the difference between uncomfortable and unsafe space for dialogue. He also asked members to respect one anothers choice not to engage, and for access to care and self-care at this time.

    Dean Gough reported that academic units were engaged in the departmental planning process. He underscored that the process was connected to resource allocation and aligned with UTSC’s Strategic Plan.

    The Chair invited Professor Irena Creed (Vice-President, Research and Innovation) to share her report. Professor Creed reported the following:
  • The Office of the Vice-Principal Research & Innovation (OVPRI) 2022-23 Annual Report was now available. The Report highlighted many of the transformational changes occurring at UTSC, within and across the research communities (e.g., teaching stream faculty and Librarians now had access to some research funding).
  • The Inclusive Health Conference held on October 13-14, 2023, was a tremendous success. She reported 548 registrants. Stemming from the conference, a grant application was in development (New Frontiers in Research Fund) to address mental health and health care inequities (youth and senior).
  • Progress was being made on an application to become a hub for the United Nations University - Institute for Water, Environment and Health (UNU-INWEH). The proposal was named ‘water pathways.’  A site visit and lecture by the UN undersecretary and the UNU Rector (Professor Tshilidzi Marwala) on November 3, 2023 was confirmed.
  • UTSC's EVolve Hackathon, presented by the EaRTH District and EaRTH Switch would run November 24-26, 2023.
  • The Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Scholars Academy (think tank) had different membership categories: affiliate, distinguished fellow, and fellow. The call for nominations had gone out – deadline of October 27, 2023. Support was available from the OVPRI.  

    A member asked if the Conference was recorded. Professor Creed responded yes, the plenary was recorded, however was not yet available. The links and transcripts could be circulated once they were posted.
  1. Report of the Previous Meeting: Report Number 66 – September 21, 2023

    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.

  3. Date of Next Meeting – Thursday, January 11, 2024, 3:10 p.m.

    The Chair advised members that the Committee would meet again on Thursday, January 11, 2024, at 3:10 p.m.

  4. Other Business

    No other business was raised by members.

The meeting adjourned at 4:08 p.m.

October 29, 2023