University Affairs Board presents updates on mandated leave policy, reviews sexual violence policy

Vice-Provost, Students, explains long Student Choice Initiative winter opt-out period
The Student Choice Initiative allows students to opt out of certain non-essential incidental fees. 
The Student Choice Initiative allows students to opt out of certain non-essential incidental fees. STEVEN LEE/THE VARSITY

On November 13, the Governing Council’s University Affairs Board passed its yearly review of the university-mandated leave of absence policy (UMLAP), its three-year review of the Policy on Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment, and the university’s report on non-academic disciplinary cases. The report on the UMLAP revealed that out of eight cases in the past year, two students requested a review of the decision to use the policy on them, though the university ultimately upheld its original decisions.

Student Choice Initiative

Vice-Provost, Students Sandy Welsh led most of the meeting, giving reports on the various policies up for review and on the Student Choice Initiative (SCI) — the province’s mandate for universities to create an opt-out option for some incidental fees. The winter opt-out period for students — running from November 1 to January 20 — has already begun, Welsh announced at the meeting.

Welsh attributes its lengthy time-frame, weeks longer than the summer opt-out period, to the deadline for adding and dropping classes, and its effect on a student’s full-time or part-time status. The vice-provost also announced that between the last fall collection period and this past one, there was a two per cent reduction in incidental fees collected through the university due to the SCI.

University-mandated leave of absence policy

The UMLAP received an update since its implementation last year. The controversial policy has seen an Ontario Human Rights Commission complaint and waves of student protests.

Welsh reported that the policy had been used in eight cases in the past year, emphasizing that it was only used as a last resort. Two of the student cases took voluntary leave from the school. Of the remaining six, two students requested a review of the policy’s implementation. For both, the policy was sustained, with one student requesting a tribunal, withdrawing the case before the hearing, according to Welsh.

Following her report, Welsh addressed concerns raised about the policy. Specifically, some worry of a broader deterring effect that the policy might have on students in seeking help from mental health resources within the university. Welsh, again, emphasized the extreme and serious nature of the cases on which the policy was enacted, which included risk of harm to others. She further pointed out that any request to invoke the policy needed to be made by a divisional head.

Sexual violence policy updates, non-academic discipline report

During Welsh’s presentation of the revisions for the Policy on Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment in its first three-year review, she lamented the Ontario government-imposed deadline for the report, which tightened the timeline for consultations, after winter exams had already began. Changes were also passed to the Code of Student Conduct to reflect the jurisdictional divide between the two policies.

Finally, Welsh presented the university’s annual report on cases of non-academic discipline: the governance document details specific counts of incidents. Among 12 cases there were 17 offences: 10 offences against persons, four offences of unauthorized use of university equipment, one offence against property, one abetting offence, and one offence of disruption.

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