The University of Toronto recently released its annual report summarizing closed non-academic discipline cases from the 2019–2020 academic year, of which there were only eight. The report was presented by acting Vice-Provost Students Micah Stickel at a University Affairs Board meeting on November 24.
Non-academic offenses are violations to the university’s Code of Student Conduct, a document outlining expectations for student behaviour and the procedures for handling behaviours that are prohibited under the code. The report also includes all historical data since the 2015–2016 academic year.
Eight non-academic discipline offences were resolved in the 2019–2020 academic year, the lowest number in at least five years. The eight offenses were part of seven individual cases against students, with at least one case involving more than one offence.
The most common offence in the report for 2019–2020 was “disruption,” with four cases, followed by “offenses against persons,” with two cases. “Offenses against property” and “unauthorized use of University facilities, equipment or services” each had one case this past academic year.
The report also broke down the cases by division. Four cases occurred at UTM, two took place at the School of Graduate Studies, and one was at New College.
Five of seven cases were concluded within 12 months of the incident date. One was concluded within 18 months, while another took more than 18 months to resolve. In the 2018–2019 academic year, half of the 12 cases were resolved within six months.
Cases can be concluded by various methods, including an informal resolution, a hearing, or a withdrawal of the charges. There were no hearings held in 2019–2020, and only one hearing was held in the past five years.
Stickel attributed the delays in case conclusion times this past year to the COVID-19 pandemic. “COVID-19 has meant adapting our normal practices,” Stickel said at the University Affairs Board meeting. He said that the Office of the Vice-Provost Students had to change how it handles investigations to allow for remote interviews. “In the spring, this may have caused small delays in some cases as we [transitioned] from the in-person to virtual settings,” he explained.
Stickel also noted that cases may take longer to resolve if there is a parallel criminal case occurring at the same time. According to Stickel, the criminal case usually needs to be concluded before the Code of Student Conduct case can be finalized.
Changes to policy
This report on cases of non-academic discipline is the first one since the Governing Council approved changes to the Code of Student Conduct on December 13, 2019 so that it aligns with the Policy on Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment.
The amendments include updates to the list of sanctions that hearing officers may impose against offenders. New options for sanctions include mandated training, an assignment, a no-contact order, and conditions for participation in the university community. In addition, some existing sanctions were modified — suspensions can now be up to four years, when previously they were no more than one year, Stickel said.