An email sent to students registered with accessibility services on January 10 accidentally included personal information of 40 students in a spreadsheet. The purpose of the email was to inform students that their advisor had changed, but attached to the email was a spreadsheet that included the names, student numbers, emails, and registration status of the students.
Alana Williams, a third-year student studying ecology and evolutionary biology, was one of the students who received the email. She wrote to The Varsity that, while the information was sent mistakenly, the leak of student information is indicative of a greater “general apathy towards students seeking assistance.”
Heather Kelly, Executive Director of Student Life Programs and Services, confirmed that the leak did happen and was the result of “human error.” She wrote in an email to The Varsity that those who received the document were asked to delete it and confirm that they did, but she did not specify how many people received it or how many had confirmed. They also asked the recipients not to copy or share the information.
She added that “Accessibility Services is taking steps to reduce the risk of such errors happening in the future.”
For Williams, the reality of accessing mental health services is informed by her earlier time at U of T — when she received care from Counselling and Psychological Services (CAPS) before it had merged with Health & Wellness in 2015. Williams credits CAPS for the care and accommodations it provided her, but since coming back to U of T as a mature student, she wrote that “the services provided, or not, for students at health and wellness is horrible.”
The leak of information brought forward by Williams comes just weeks after the Presidential & Provostial Task Force on Student Mental Health released its report and recommendations, following nearly a year of student protests over the perceived lack of cohesive and supportive services at U of T.
In an earlier interview with The Varsity, Provost & Vice-President Cheryl Regehr explained the redesign of the current mental health services at U of T that followed nearly six months of task force consultations. However, the university does not have a specific timeline for the redesign according to Regehr: “We are addressing issues as fast as we are able to.”
The task force’s report specifically outlined recommendations that address Williams’ concerns about U of T’s mental health supports, including training for teaching assistants, dons, and other “student leaders,” and more timely access to mental health care. However, in the administration’s response, while streamlining the system was made a priority, no mention was made toward improved training of professors and hired staff.