Report: UTSC Campus Council - November 15, 2021



November 15, 2021

To the Governing Council,
University of Toronto

Your Campus Council reports that it met virtually on Monday, November 15, 2021, at 4:10 p.m. with the following members present:

Present: Grace Westcott (Chair), Vina Goghari (Vice-Chair), Wisdom Tettey (Vice-President and Principal), William A. Gough (Vice-Principal, Academic & Dean), Andrew Arifuzzaman (Chief Administrative Officer), George Cree, Shadi Dalili, Tarun Dewan, Edward Henley, Irmi Hutfless, Imran Khan, Sameer Lal, Dorinda So, Jason Glover, Gillian Mason, John Ramdeen, Michelle Ramnaraine, Silma Roddau, Tayyab Rashid, Paulina Rousseau, Jinny Tsang

In Attendance: Sandy Welsh (Vice-Provost, Students), Desmond Pouyat (Dean, Student Experience & Wellbeing), Bruce Kidd (Ombudsperson), Varsha Patel (Assistant Dean, Student Success & Career Support), Melinda Scott, Angela Treglia, Paula Lam, Donald Ainslie, Sarah Abdillahi (President, SCSU), Nicole Brayiannis, Kashi Chandrasegar, Ghaith Hanbali, Isaiah Murray, Rimsha Rahman

Secretariat: Emma Thacker (UTSC Campus Council Secretary), Tim Harlick

Regrets: Esma Boztas, John Ramdeen, Danielle Skipp


  1. Chair’s Remarks

The Chair, Ms. Grace Westcott, welcomed members and guests to the Council meeting. Ms Westcott reminded members of the upcoming 2022 governance election period, and available vacant seats. She also provided a content warning for item #5, proposed revisions to the Policy on Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment.

  1. Report of the Vice-President and Principal

2a) Report of the Vice-President and Principal

Principal Tettey reported that the Scarborough Charter, stemming from the National Dialogues & Action for Inclusive Higher Education and Communities (ND&A) would celebrate a virtual launch on November 18, 2021. Members and guests were invited to the online launch event which would feature a panel discussion and question and answer segment with those attending. More information will be shared in the new year regarding plans for the next ND&A event in the series, planned for Spring 2022.

Principal Tettey reported on the retirement of two accomplished UTSC leaders, sharing that Ms Helen Morissette (Director, Financial Services) and Dr. Curtis Cole (Registrar & Assistant Dean Enrolment Services) would retire from their positions on December 31, 2021. Principal Tettey thanked Dr. Cole for his 17 years of service and dedication to the UTSC campus. He also thanked Ms Morissette for her 42 years of service, advice, and commitment and wished them both well in their retirements. The search process was underway for both positions.

Principal Tettey reported on the Scarborough Academy of Medicine and Integrated Health (SAMIH) Symposium, planned for December 2021 that aimed to discuss and make visible the deep inequities of health care systems in the eastern GTA, which were amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic. The virtual, public event would feature experts in the fields of healthcare, and higher education, as well as community organizations and partners. The Symposium would speak to several themes, such as the current state of health care in the eastern GTA, collaboration and partnerships, and lessons that could be drawn from the pandemic. A second symposium is being planned for February 2022 (tentatively in-person), with the goal of bringing academics and experts in health care together to develop support structures and a healthy eco-system.

On October 28th, 2021, Centennial College, UTSC, Ontario Tech University, Durham College, and Trent University signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to launch and establish the Environmental and Related Technologies Hub (EaRTH District) across the eastern GTA. This MOU was particularly important as the University considered its role in addressing climate change and to serve as an incubator for sustainable technologies. Principal Tettey invited Professor William A. Gough (Vice-Principal, Academic & Dean) to provide an update on academic plans for the winter session.

Professor Gough congratulated Principal Tettey regarding the signing of the Scarborough Charter and he acknowledged Professor Kidd (former Principal of UTSC; current Ombudsperson) who was in attendance. Professor Gough reported that UTSC was still planning for a largely in-person course delivery in the Winter 2022 session, and he acknowledged concerns from the University community. The Province would not require social distancing in the classroom, and so regular capacity would return, and mask wearing would continue. Outside of teaching spaces, the University remained in ‘Step 3’ of the Provincial reopening plan. Also, as per the Province’s direction, the University had imposed a vaccine mandate, with a very high compliance rate. Courses with more than 200 students would be web-optioned. Labs and exams would be in-person. A small number of Y courses would remain online. Exceptions to in-person instruction would be considered on a case-by-case basis, in consultation with Health & Wellbeing, and the Family Care Office, and required decanal oversight. Should instructors become ill, procedures from the pre-pandemic will guide options and process. For student absences, the ‘self-declaration absence form’ would be available for the winter session. Faculty continued to discuss and explore the use of flexible grading structures and Universal Design for Learning (UDL), for course design to optimize teaching and learning for students, especially those who could not attend in person. Those with an approved vaccine exemptions were required to complete regular testing. UCheck was also required. In the unlikely event of a surge of cases, or changing health and safety requirements, the University would re-evaluate circumstances and respond accordingly.

2b) SCSU Priorities

Principal Tettey invited Ms Sarah Abdullahi, President of the Scarborough Campus Student Union (SCSU) and the Executive members to present the 2021/2022 SCSU priorities, initiatives, and services. The priorities included:

  • Campaigns (Education for All, My Mental Health Matters, Building Consent Culture, Unite with Students, Local and Global Justice);
  • More Student Representation (committees, hiring committees, working groups, and governance bodies);
  • COVID-19 Emergency Bursary Fund;
  • Health and Dental Insurance;
  • Service and Equity Centers (Food Centre, Academic Support Centre, Volunteer Network, Racialized Student Collective); and
  • Events (e.g., Frosh / Orientation Programming).

Principal Tettey thanked the SCSU Executive members for their work.

A member asked Principal Tettey about how the SAMIH would address health inequality in the region. Principal Tettey commented that the vision for the symposium was holistic and aimed to increase visibility of health equity issues and to leverage expertise (e.g., research emphasis) and partnerships. (e.g., TAIBU Community Health Centre). The planned symposia would also support the vision through bringing people together to share ideas and further support of surrounding communities.

  1. Status Report on UTSC Campus Strategic Priorities

The Chair explained that this item reflected the first step in the governance process for consideration of budget matters. She invited Mr. Andrew Arifuzzaman, UTSC Chief Administrative Officer to present the status report, noting that the report had also been received by the UTSC Campus Affairs Committee on October 20, 2021. Mr. Arifuzzaman provided institutional context for the University budget, and then provided an overview of the UTSC budget planning process. The presentation provided members with information about the priorities going into the Academic Budget Review (ABR) process. Mr. Arifuzzaman reported the following priorities that were connected to the UTSC Strategic Plan - Inspiring Inclusive Excellence: A Strategic Vision for the UTSC:

  • Faculty Positions (Complement Plan);
  • Equity Diversity and Inclusion Investment;
  • Strategic Undergraduate Enrolment Management;
  • Expansion of Community Partnerships Office;
  • Research Excellence for Local and Global Impact;
  • Space and Capital Plan; and
  • COVID-19 Recovery Planning.

A member asked about funding for the Aquatics Centre (AC), located at the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre. Mr. Arifuzzaman responded that building of the AC was funded in-part by students, the City, and the Province. Many different groups used the facility, and the University worked to develop programs for students, and these programs complemented each other. There was a Working Group that met weekly to review use and schedules.

The member followed up with a question about the operating budget and UTSC’s equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) initiatives. Mr. Arifuzzaman responded that UTSC had invested in the EDI portfolio to ensure that sufficient staff were in place to support training, investigations, and other activities related to EDI.

  1. 2020-21 Annual Report of the Office of the Ombudsperson, and the 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 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.

A member asked if Professor Kidd had seen any trends in complaints over the last four months, and about communication plans with the university community. Professor Kidd responded that he had not seen any patterns of new issues, however he would monitor this and include it in his first annual report. Professor Kidd commented that communication was an ongoing challenge for all support offices at the University, however there was a communications plan in place.

  1. Proposed Revisions: Policy on Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment

Professor Welsh noted that 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, Lawrence S. Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing) and Allison Burgess (Director, Sexual & 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 current, technical changes, Professor Welsh explained that 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 U of T 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 or college, would not be asked irrelevant questions from institution’s staff or investigators, such as those relating to past sexual history or sexual expression. Professor Welsh noted that these changes would bring the University to 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. Members had no questions.

  1. 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 clarified that 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 behaviours 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 they would then be considered for a mandated leave. Another issue noted was how the leave in question 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 form 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 on going 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 Previous Meeting: Report Number 49 – October 7, 2021

The report of the previous meeting was approved.

  1. Business Arising from the Report of the Previous Meeting

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

  1. Reports for Information

Members received the following reports for information.

  1. Report Number 50 of the UTSC Agenda Committee (November 3, 2021)
  2. Report Number 53 of the UTSC Academic Affairs Committee (October 21, 2021)
  3. Report Number 45 of the UTSC Campus Affairs Committee (October 20, 2021)
  1. Date of the Next Meeting - January 26, 2022, at 4:10 p.m.

The Chair advised members that the Council was scheduled to meet again on January 26, 2022 at 4:10 p.m.

  1. Question Period

Members had no questions.

  1. Other Business

No other business was raised.

The meeting adjourned at 5:45 p.m.