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Business Board approves U of T community pharmacy, provides COVID-19 financial update

Employment accolades and stable credit outlook round off meeting
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Normally held in person, this meeting of the board was conducted remotely.SAMARTH AGARWAL/THE VARSITY
Normally held in person, this meeting of the board was conducted remotely.SAMARTH AGARWAL/THE VARSITY

On November 25, U of T’s Business Board convened for its second meeting of the academic year. The Business Board is the organ of U of T’s Governing Council responsible for overseeing cost-effective resource allocation and approving all major university expenditures. 

The meeting updated members of the board on the university’s financial state due to COVID-19 and established an academic pharmacy to augment the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy.

COVID-19 financial update

Professor Scott Mabury, U of T Vice-President Operations and Real Estate Partnerships, and Professor Kelly Hannah-Moffat, U of T Vice-President Human Resources and Equity, updated the board on the university’s financial position as a result of COVID-19.

Tuition income remained largely unchanged from pre-pandemic projections, as domestic enrolment only decreased by roughly eight per cent while international enrolment increased by roughly eight per cent. However, the university’s ancillary revenue — which comes from sources such as residences, food services, and parking fees — was in “severe distress” due to a lack of in-person activity on campus according to Mabury.

While the board projected a $64 million net loss for the fiscal year in September, Mabury estimated that the university would more likely see a $100 million net loss with the pandemic’s second wave worsening projections. Mabury emphasized that such figures were conservative though, as the university was fluidly adapting to a rapidly-changing situation.

Establishing an academic pharmacy

Professor Cheryl Regehr, U of T Vice-President & Provost, raised a proposal to create an academic, not-for-profit pharmacy within U of T’s Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy. The establishment has already earmarked funds within the faculty’s operating reserves, and future budgetary projections estimate that the pharmacy would be financially self-sustaining once operational.

According to the proposal document, the pharmacy would exist to drive experiential learning among pharmacy students as well as promote the faculty’s research. Pharmacy services would not be open to the public but would be accessible to U of T students, staff, and faculty. 

The proposal was unanimously approved by the Business Board without abstentions. The creation of a pharmacy was already approved by the Governing Council’s Academic Board in April and only required Business Board approval for incorporation. Final approval will now be considered by the Governing Council’s Executive Committee, whereupon the pharmacy is expected to launch in late 2021.

Annual human resources and equity report

Hannah-Moffat also delivered the annual report from the Office of the Vice-President Human Resources & Equity. She highlighted the office’s increasing digital modernization, partnerships with the Anti-Racism & Cultural Diversity Office and the Office of Safety & High Risk, and the creation of an Integrated Talent Management Unit to streamline staff and faculty recruitment and retention.

The report also called to attention the large number of employment-related accolades that the university has earned over the past year. U of T was named one of Canada’s top 100 employers, one of Canada’s top family-friendly employers, one of Canada’s greenest employers, one of Canada’s best diversity employers, one of Greater Toronto’s top employers, and one of the top employers for Canadians over 40. U of T also ranked in the top 10 on Forbes’ 2019 List of the Best Employers in Canada.

Hannah-Moffat credited the Human Resources & Equity team for much of the success. “I have a team that has been working hard… to work remotely, to pivot, to be responsive, and to assist employees in a humane and compassionate way,” Hannah-Moffat said. “I get the benefit of reporting and showing you our annual report, but what you don’t see are the individuals who are behind this working daily and tirelessly to accomplish a tremendous amount… doing exceptional work under extraordinary circumstances.”

Miscellaneous items

The board received a status report on outstanding debts. The university’s total debt policy limit for 2020–2021 is $1.85 billion according to the debt strategy last revised in 2012. The report considered debts accrued up until October 31, at which point $1.48 billion of this limit had already been allocated, leaving $363.5 million available.

Additionally, the board received S&P Global Ratings’ credit report on the university, with U of T’s AA+ credit rating being affirmed. S&P’s analysts reported that U of T’s future credit outlook was stable, but it could be negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic as well as any negative credit activity from the Province of Ontario.

The next Business Board meeting will be held on February 3.