Report: UTSC Campus Council - November 15, 2022

UTSC Campus Council Chambers, AA160

Report Number 55 of the Campus Council

NOVEMBER 15, 2022

To the Campus Council,

University of Toronto Scarborough,

Your Council reports that it met on November 15, 2022 at 4:10 p.m. in the Council Chamber, Arts and Administration Building, Room 1160, with the following members present:

Present: Grace Westcott (Chair), Sotirios Damouras (Vice-Chair), Wisdom Tettey (Vice-President & Principal), William A. Gough (Vice-Principal Academic & Dean), Andrew Arifuzzaman (Chief, Administrative Officer)*, Rana Behzadi, George Cree, Jason Glover*, Fatima Formuli, Qusai Mahmud Hassan, Edward Henley, Irmi Huftless*, Imran Khan*, Elanie Khoo, Gillian Mason, Sonja Nikkila, John Ramdeen, Rachel Sturge*

*Participated remotely

Regrets: Silma Roddau, Danielle Skipp

In Attendance: Bruce Kidd (Professor Emeritus, University Ombudsperson), Jennifer Curry, Kristi Gourlay (Office of the Ombudsperson), Matt Hoffman (Professor, Political Science), Neel Joshi (Dean, Student Experience and Wellbeing), Melinda Scott (Executive Director, Office of the Vice-Provost, Students), Sandy Welsh (Vice-Provost, Students)

Secretariat: Lydia Gill (Secretary), Anwar Kazimi (Deputy Secretary of the Governing Council), Kata Skoko (Governance Coordinator)

  1. Chair’s Remarks

    The Chair welcomed members and guests to the second meeting of the Campus Council (Cycle 2) for the academic year. She reminded members that the 2022 governance elections would be underway in January, and that two election information sessions would be hosted by the Secretariat in the coming weeks.

    Finally, the Chair welcomed Sotirios Damouras, Associate Professor, Teaching Stream in the Department of Computer and Mathematical Sciences to Council. Professor Damouras was elected to the Governing Council in a recent by-election as a UTSC Teaching Staff member. With that election, he was appointed as the Vice-Chair of the UTSC Campus Council.
  2. Report of the Vice-President & Principal, UTSC (for information)

    The Chair invited Principal Tettey to provide his report.

    Health, Safety and Wellness

    Principal Tettey acknowledged the concerns of the University community as it pertained to health and wellness during the cold and flu season. In reference to recent masking recommendations by Ontario’s Chief Medical Health Officer, he noted that U of T Scarborough would continue to follow the province’s health guidelines. He encouraged University community members to respect each other’s decisions as it pertained to masking, comfort levels and health needs.

    He noted that University community members had been eager to return to in-person activities, which had been intentionally curated for the community to connect with one another safely. A few notable events had taken place on campus over the last few weeks:
  • A return of the in-person Scholarship Reception (October 4th) saw record numbers of students and staff come out to celebrate the achievements of first year students.
  • The Tea with Tettey series opened to all members of the UTSC community. These sessions continued to be very popular.
  • Town Halls would continue to be offered virtually as an opportunity for the UTSC community to raise questions and share concerns. The Town Hall held on October 27th had approximately 300 participants and queries regarding student life, study spaces and parking were raised by attendees.
  • The Appreciation Breakfast for those that supported the faculty & staff campaign was held on November 8th.

    Principal Tettey also noted that upon surveying the UTSC community, the administration learned that although gathering in-person is important, most prefer an opportunity that allows for flexibility and flow. In response, the administration would be hosting a holiday reception on December 14th. The Winter Wonderland inspired event would have both indoor and outdoor components.

    He reported that UTSC had officially received the Healthy Campus designation, which is a group of health promoting universities from across the world that have signed on to the Okanagan Charter. Principal Tettey thanked Professor Emeritus Bruce Kidd for initiating the process to seek the Healthy Campus designation during his tenure as Vice-President & Principal, UTSC.

    Convocation & Make Up Ceremonies
  • On November 9, UTSC celebrated their most recent cohort of graduates for Fall 2022. Due to an overwhelmingly positive response from graduates, the University would also be hosting make up ceremonies for graduates that had completed their studies during the University closures due to the pandemic in 2020 & 2021. Four ceremonies would take place on December 16th & 17 at Convocation Hall.

    Portfolio Updates

    Principal Tettey invited Professor Bill Gough (Vice-Principal Academic & Dean), Andrew Arifuzzaman (Chief, Administrative Officer) and Neel Joshi (Dean, Student Experience and Wellbeing) to address Council.

    Professor Gough contributed the following remarks:
  • The impact of the pandemic on student performance continued to be an issue. Students, both new and returning, were struggling with readjusting to University studies. Faculty made adjustments to address these challenges. VPAD had collaborated with the Student Experience and Wellbeing team to discuss ways to best support student success.
  • VPAD would be considering guidance from the Office of the Provost that recommended increasing online summer course offerings. This would provide greater flexibility for students to access courses during the summer months.
  • Negotiations were ongoing with two CUPE Units. Labour disruption could be a possibility.
  • An Unconscious Bias Training Module was instituted for search committees in the VPAD portfolio. This effort would be expanded to include further engagement with search committees within the portfolio to review job descriptions, while considering the intersections between equity, diversity and inclusion, and the evaluation of skills of potential candidates.

    Mr. Arifuzzaman reminded members that mask dispensers were located at all major entrances of the campus. These dispensers were accessible to the University and broader community. He also noted that Vaccine Clinics continued to be available on campus and that these were coordinated across portfolios.

    Highlights of Mr. Arifuzzaman’s report include the following:
  • Campus construction would continue under the necessary winter safety precautions. Some projects would have to be moved to indoor construction, while others would continue with construction on the exterior. The necessary protections from frost and freezing would be in place.
  • The Campus Farm development plan would be undertaken in the coming year. A consultancy group would work to support the development of this plan.
  • The Academic Budget Review process was underway. The team worked on developing a comprehensive report and presentation to the University regarding the campus’ five-year plan.

    Mr. Arifuzzaman acknowledged the current economic challenges and their impacts on community partners. He noted that UTSC had partnered with many community-based organizations that were facing significant financial and resource pressures.

    Mr. Joshi contributed the following remarks:
  • Health & Wellness departments had seen an increase in bookings for both in-person and virtual appointments. A hybrid offering continued to be needed to service the University community.
  • UTSC held its well-attended Diwali celebration on October 20th.
  • There was significant growth in interest in programming for equity deserving communities.
  • Student Experience & Wellbeing would be planning for the new cohort of incoming students to join residence.
  • AccessAbility services would continue to be delivered in a hybrid model due to the consistent demand for this delivery method.

    In the discussion that followed, it was further noted:
  • Precarious funding streams and increasing demand from the local community continued to place pressure on community-based organizations in Scarborough. UTSC would continue to work alongside community partners through this challenging time.
  • On the matter of labour negotiations, concerns were raised regarding the impact on precarious staff. The University would continue to negotiate within the parameters, and in compliance with provincial legislation.

    Presentation on the Clusters of Scholarly Prominence Program (CSPP) by Professor Matt Hoffman

    Principal Tettey invited Professor Matt Hoffman from the Department of Political Science to deliver a presentation on the Just Transitions cluster, under the Clusters of Scholarly Prominence Program (CSPP). Highlights from Professor Hoffman’s presentation included:
  • The Just Transitions cluster was new and was awarded funding in October 2021. Over the course of the next few years, the project would be undertaken at UTSC.
  • It was co-led with Prof. Laura Tozer, from the Department of Physical and Environmental Sciences
  • The project was an interdepartmental program that cut across four departments at UTSC.
  • The Just Transitions cluster held that climate action must be integrated with questions of justice and equity. This project would focus on what the impact of ‘Just Transitions’ would be in the local Scarborough community through a community-based research project.
  • The Just Transitions cluster would go beyond climate to incorporate concerns related to poverty, housing, food security and health.
  • A member inquired about which community organizations the Just Transitions cluster had partnered. In response, Professor Hoffman noted that the project was still building its partnership agreements and had recently begun discussions with organizations in the local community.
  1. Report of the University Ombudsperson for the period July 1, 2021 to June 30th, 2022 and the Administrative Response (For Information)

    The Chair referred members to the Report of the University Ombudsperson for the period July 1, 2021 to June 30, 2022 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.

    Professor Kidd remarked that the Ombuds Office received over 400 complaints last year, which was an increase of over 13% from the previous year. He noted that this was in part due to the unique conditions of the pandemic. His remarks focused on four key issues:

    Stress, Anger, Disrespect, Incivility and Mental Health Challenges
  • Stress and anger across the tri-campus had been at an all-time high. This could be attributed to the unprecedented conditions of the pandemic, including concerns for public health, ongoing pivots from remote learning to hybrid to in-person offerings, and isolation.

    Graduate Students
  • The number of complaints from graduate students about heavy-handed or at the other extreme, neglectful supervision had leveled off. However, in other areas of graduate study, the number of complaints the Office received increased by 35%. The Ombuds Office would continue to monitor the types and volume of graduate student complaints.

    Inadequate Communications
  • The accuracy of website content, hyperlinks, and the clarity of contact information for student support staff were challenges raised by preceding Ombudspersons and continued to be an ongoing issue. The Ombudsperson recommended that accurate and accessible information should be considered a right at U of T.

    Academic Integrity
  • There were significant backlogs in academic integrity cases across the tri-campus. Although this impacted less than one percent of students, due to the size of the University, the number of students impacted was high. Backlogs of this nature could impact a student's ability to complete their studies. Delays were not always the fault of those designated to administer the review and code. Since submitting the report, the Ombudsperson had learned that some divisions had invested additional resources to address the backlog of cases.

    Professor Kidd recognized the efforts of Dean Gough and Professor David Zweig at UTSC in significantly reducing the backlog of academic misconduct cases at the campus.

    A member raised a question regarding the awareness of the Ombuds Office among the graduate student population. Professor Kidd responded that judging by the number of graduate student contacts, there seemed to be awareness. He also noted that the Ombuds Office should be seen as a last resort for student concerns and other student support resources should be accessed prior to contacting the Office.

    A member thanked Professor Kidd for raising the concern about communications and websites. They further remarked that there was a need for additional funding and resources to support departments and faculty with managing their respective websites. Mr. Arifuzzaman responded by informing members that there were efforts underway to migrate all departments under the same digital infrastructure, which should create a more seamless process for departments to manage and update their websites.
  1. Revisions: Policy on Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment (For Information)

    The Chair invited Professor Sandy Welsh, Vice-Provost, Students to present the item. Professor Welsh noted that she was bringing forward for information the Revisions to the Policy on Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment that would go through governance consideration this cycle. Highlights from Professor Welsh’s update were as follows:
  • The current Policy came into being on January 1st, 2017, following its approval by the Governing Council in 2016.
  • A directive from the Ontario government required all Ontario post-secondary institutions to have a standalone policy on sexual violence. The government required that all policies be reviewed and if necessary, amended every three years. The first review for that cycle began in 2019.
  • The second review of the Policy took place in 2021-2022. This allowed the University administration to receive feedback from the community and to make changes to the Policy and processes where it was warranted.
  • This review was steered by Professor Linda Johnston, Dean of the Lawrence S. Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing and Dr. Allison Burgess, Director of the Sexual and Gender Diversity Office. The reviewers submitted their final report in July 2022 and all the report recommendations were accepted by the administration. In addition to the review of the Policy, President Gertler requested the co-chairs to consider four additional questions:
    • What are the best practices to address the barriers to reporting and to provide supports for survivors?
    • How do we appropriately account for power dynamics that are inherent in institutions of higher learning?
    • What information can be shared with participants engaged in and at the conclusion of a sexual violence process. While considering confidentiality, privacy obligations, and a fair and effective process?
    • Should the university sector develop a process for sharing information between institutions about findings of sexual misconduct by faculty members?
  • Co-Chairs consulted widely with over 700 participants representing all constituencies across the tri-campus. Final consultations took place earlier this Fall and resulted in additional final changes that were made to the report.
  • There were two primary types of revisions:
    • Changes to reflect reviewers’ recommendations about the Policy, such as:
      • Public annual report providing statistical information on sexual violence cases.
      • Increased clarity on non-adjudicative processes.
      • Stronger language on zero tolerance for reprisals and retaliation.
    • Minor changes to enhance clarity of the Policy, such as alphabetization of definitions.
  • On October 27th, 2022 the Ontario government tabled legislation to further address sexual violence in post-secondary institutions, which would come into effect in July 2023. The legislation, entitled ‘Strengthening Post-Secondary Institutions and Students Act’, created additional tools to address sexual violence in post-secondary institutions, specifically between students and employees. The University concluded that the Act’s policy recommendations reflected what was already in the University’s Policy and the revisions brought forward to Council.

    In the discussion that followed, the following points were raised:
  • A member sought clarification from the University on whether the revisions brought forward to council were to address changes to regulations from the previous year or if these revisions were new. Professor Welsh responded by clarifying that the legislation referred to in the presentation had only recently been tabled and that the revisions to the University policy aligned with the recommendations from this new legislation.
  • A member remarked that upon reviewing the Policy it seemed as though the language was reactive, rather than proactive. They inquired as to whether the University could include more prescriptive language outlining specific behaviors. Professor Welsh reiterated that the Policy was very clear, and the language had been strengthened to outline what should not take place.
  • A member inquired about the awareness and accessibility of this information for students. Professor Welsh highlighted some of the ways in which the University disseminates information through student clubs, committees and unions across the tri-campus. She also highlighted the efforts of the Sexual Violence Prevention and Support Centre in this regard.
  1. Report of the Previous Meeting: Report Number 54 – September 29, 2022

    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. Reports for Information
  1. Report Number 55 of the UTSC Agenda Committee (November 2, 2022)*
  2. Report Number 60 of the UTSC Academic Affairs Committee (October 20, 2022)*
  1. Date of Next Meeting – January 25, 2023 at 4:10 p.m.

    The Chair advised members that the Committee would meet again on January 25, 2023, at 4:10 p.m.
  2. Question Period

    No questions were raised for the administration.
  3. Other Business

    Members congratulated Principal Tettey on his reappointment as Vice-President & Principal of the University of Toronto Scarborough Campus for a second five-year term.

The meeting adjourned at 5:58 p.m.

November 23, 2022