U of T approves contentious university-mandated leave of absence policy

Policy to be implemented effective immediately

U of T approves contentious university-mandated leave of absence policy

In a near-unanimous vote, Governing Council — U of T’s highest decision-making body — passed the contentious university-mandated leave of absence policy amid protests from students. It will be implemented effective immediately.

The motion passed with only three people voting against, out of more than 40 governors who were eligible to vote. Immediately after its passing, student protestors who had gathered outside began shouting their dissent.

The policy allows the university to place students on a nonpunitive, but mandatory, leave of absence from U of T if their mental health either poses a risk of harm to themselves or others, or if it negatively impacts their studies.

For the latter, the policy states that “this scenario is not intended to apply to situations where a Student is academically unsuccessful,” but to instances when a student is unable “to fulfill the essential activities required to pursue their program.”

Professor Cheryl Regehr, U of T Vice-President and Provost, defended the updated policy and the consultation process, saying that she has spoken with “students who have wished there had been a policy like this in place for themselves, their friends, or their families.”

During the meeting there was also a motion to postpone discussion on the policy, to which Chair of Governing Council Claire Kennedy said that the university would drop the policy if the motion passed.

Regehr defended this decision, citing key philosophical divides and fundamental differences that “cannot be addressed through further revisions or consultations.” The motion failed with only four governors voting in favour.

Amanda Harvey-Sanchez, a student governor on Governing Council and one of the three ‘no’’ votes, told The Varsity that “this ultimatum of ‘my way or the highway’ is disappointing and not conducive to productive dialogue between students and the administration.”

“I am especially troubled by the view propagated repeatedly by some members of the administration that the disagreements between students and the administration are irreconcilable and that further consultation would be pointless,” stated Harvey-Sanchez.

Before and during the meeting, around 50 students gathered outside Governing Council’s offices at Simcoe Hall to protest the policy, carrying signs that included criticisms of the limited consultation the university undertook.

Chants, such as “Whose campus? Our campus!” or “Hey hey, ho ho, MLAP has got to go!” were audible from within the Governing Council chamber throughout the meeting.

The demonstration drew students from all three U of T campuses, as well as others from Ryerson University and York University. Nour Alideeb, Chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students–Ontario (CFS–Ontario), was also in attendance.

Five representatives of student governments at U of T were given three minutes each to address the council: Ayaan Abdulle, Vice-President Academics and University Affairs of the SCSU; Joshua Grondin, Vice-President University Affairs of the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU); Jamie Kearns, Vice-President External of the Association of Part-time Undergraduate Students; Andres Posada, Vice-President University Affairs of the U of T Mississauga Students’ Union (UTMSU); and Lynne Alexandrova, Internal Commissioner at the U of T Graduate Students’ Union.

All speakers from the five student unions shared their concerns and disapproval with the policy. Grondin alleged that the administration exhibited “tendencies to dismiss the voices of students” and portrayed protestors as “uneducated on the issues.”

Abdulle emphasized the SCSU’s concerns about cultural ignorance regarding the policy, saying that “Black and Indigenous students should be at the table.”  

U of T Ombudsperson and Professor Ellen Hodnett also spoke during the meeting: “In my view the proposed policy is long overdue.” The policy originated from her 2013–2014 report, recommending increased mental health services for students.

After the vote, Anne Boucher, President of the UTSU, said that although the UTSU had been opposed to the policy, they will “work with the university” to address student concerns.

“It is disappointing to see that consultations weren’t fully considered,” said Boucher. She considers the policy as “an improvement from what we have with the [Code of Student Conduct.]”

Prior to this policy’s passing, the U of T Code of Student Conduct already put students on a punitive leave from school if they broke the code. The mandated leave of absence policy will put students on a nonpunitive leave.

“It’s very frustrating, extremely upsetting, and I’m really, really angry right now,” said Felipe Nagata, President of the UTMSU. He added that he hopes to “fight for an updated policy that can actually protect students instead of a policy that just has vagueness and harms our autonomy.”

Speaking to The Varsity, Alideeb took issue with the consultation process, criticizing its lack of engagement with the student body and neglect of students’ schedules. She also added that CFS–Ontario would continue “supporting student groups on campus to continue this work on the ground.”

In a written statement to The Varsity, Sandy Welsh, Vice-Provost Students, said that the university was aware that there are people who are “deeply opposed” to the policy and others, such as the ombudsperson, who are “strongly supportive of this approach, motivated by their overriding concern for the wellbeing of our students.”

“We will to continue to meet with students to talk about the policy, work together on this issue and make sure we can do everything we can to support students who are going through a serious health or mental health issue,” added Welsh.

According to the 2018–2019 operating budget, accessibility advisors “will provide services on location within academic divisions on the St. George campus.” The $1.5 million allocations make up approximately 0.06 per cent of the university’s $2.68 billion budget.

What is the true meaning of reasonable body goals?

How to manage your weight goals in 2018 and beyond

What is the true meaning of reasonable body goals?

In this era of immersive popular culture, one of the more common tropes that arises in online social media communities is the idea of ‘body goals,’ and the total package that these two words entail.

One of the most important aspects of healthy body goals is focusing on what is intrinsically realistic while attaining your desired self-image. We all have different motivations for working out, whether vague or specific, but reasonable body goals, and having the right mentality to achieve them, is crucial to your health and wellness.

From a young age, targeted advertising campaigns and mass media insist that the ‘conventionally attractive’ body, with a thin waist or the ‘Dorito’ waist-to-shoulder ratio, is the gold standard for health, beauty, and desirability.

According to the American Communication Journal, there is a significant link between women’s body dissatisfaction and the media’s effect on body confidence and self-esteem. Peer pressure is also prevalent in conversations about body weight and the perception of one’s body image by others. Psychology of Men & Masculinity has also identified a connection between men’s self-image and media portrayals of the ideal male figure, especially in relation to musculature.

The media therefore plays a significant role in the trending self-image crisis, especially among young adults under 40. As desire for the idealized body type grows, Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD), a condition in which either real or imagined physical flaws consume and take over an individual’s life, comes into increasing conflict with reasonable body goals. Social anxiety and depression, among others, often coincide with BDD.

Understanding BDD is crucial because for many people, body image is the reason why they start working out. When a person does not like the way they look or wants to get back to the way that they looked before, it is easy to fall into a pit of obsessive workouts and unhealthy routines to try and obtain the unattainable.

Instead, aim for a healthy lifestyle and work out in moderation. Though it is different for every individual, any body goal can be reasonable as long as you can maintain a healthy physical and mental lifestyle while reaching for it.

At the end of the day, make the change for yourself. You are the one living in your body, not the media, or anyone else who wants you to conform to their ideals.

Top 3 activities to do in Toronto this summer

Twenty degrees, a mild breeze, and Insta-worthy pics — summer in the Six has never looked better

Top 3 activities to do in Toronto this summer

Being a student in the city can be costly, which is why we’ve found three things you can do this summer in Toronto that are both fun and free. 

Miami meets Monaco in downtown’s very own Harbourfront. Where the yachts and water meet the horizon, Toronto’s Harbourfront has one of the most beautiful sceneries this city has to offer. While the Harbourfront is perfect for a pleasant yacht trip, those living on a student budget can enjoy a beautiful summer afternoon here too.

Upon arrival, you will find yourself surrounded by water vehicles of all kinds, from speed boats and sailboats, to yachts and cruises. Following Lake Ontario’s shoreline, the boardwalk is a great place to walk while seeing all the boats, both parked and coasting. Walking further to the west down the shoreline, you can enjoy the sand between your toes, as well as the beautiful view of boats sailing across the water.

Where is this sand you speak of? If you walk far enough along the coast, you will reach Lake Shore Boulevard West and Toronto’s Waterfront. Here, you will find even more boats, but also sand, bikes, and walking trails perfect for those who want to get fit in the great outdoors. 

If you want to feel like you’re in the streets of Europe, check out the Distillery District.

Located in a little pocket of east downtown, the area is known for its cobblestone laneways. At the heart of the District is the romantic love lock sign where visitors are invited to secure their feelings under lock and key. Reminiscent of the Pont Des Arts ‘Love Lock’ Bridge in Paris, the Distillery District provides students with a taste of Parisian romance.

For a little taste of Japan, the famously beautiful cherry blossoms are back for another round. They can be enjoyed for free at  High Park, U of T’s Robarts Library, and Trinity Bellwoods Park amongst other locations across the GTA. These flowers only bloom once a year, so keep your eyes peeled for their bright colours. 

Toronto is such a diverse and vibrant city, and you can enjoy its many perks without breaking the bank. If you’re lucky, you’ll also get that perfect Instagram photo!