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UTSC Centre for Critical Development Studies to be converted into department

School of Environment will gain more flexibility and autonomy in coming months
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The Governing Council chambers. JAYRA ALMANZOR/THE VARSITY
The Governing Council chambers. JAYRA ALMANZOR/THE VARSITY

U of T’s Governing Council held its final meeting of the academic year on June 24. President Meric Gertler and Vice-President & Provost Cheryl Regehr updated the council on federal research investment plans and vaccine requirements for students living in residences. 

The council also voted to establish the Department of Global Development Studies and to restructure the School of the Environment.

Administration updates

In his address to the council, Gertler noted that the federal government has been rolling out investment initiatives ever since the federal budget was finalized two months ago. Specifically, Gertler said that U of T had advocated “vigorously” for investments related to research in the biomedical sciences and that the university was working closely with policymakers to ensure that these investments have maximum impact.

“Our hope is that these biomedical investments will really help advance Canada’s life science ecosystem,” Gertler said. 

Regehr provided information on the transition to in-person learning in the fall, noting that students who will be living in residence would need to be vaccinated. While the university is encouraging students to get their first dose two weeks prior to moving in, there will also be a two-week grace period during which U of T will help students get vaccinated on campus. 

Establishment of the Department of Global Development Studies

The UTSC Campus Council recently proposed converting the Centre for Critical Development Studies (CCDS) into the Department of Global Development Studies. The CCDS was created in 2012 and works on education, scholarship, and international development research in areas such as food security, community development, and activism. 

During the meeting, Nicholas Terpstra, a teaching staff member of the Governing Council from 2018–2021, explained that becoming a department would allow the CCDS to appoint faculty members. 

Regehr, who spoke in favour of creating the department, noted that the academic programs in the CCDS are “some of the most highly subscribed academic programs at University of Toronto Scarborough.” Moreover, the Governing Council’s written proposal for the motion states that converting the CCDS to a department will allow it to “pursue its ambitious research and teaching goals more fully.”

The proposal also argues that approval of the motion would strengthen collaborative research within and outside of the department. Such collaborations would focus on multiple topics ranging from the environment to community resilience, all of which would support U of T’s commitment to research on sustainable development goals

Greater flexibility and autonomy for School of the Environment

The Governing Council approved the proposal to turn the School of the Environment in the Faculty of Arts & Science from a type B extra-departmental unit (EDU) to a type A EDU. As explained by Claire Kennedy, chair of the Governing Council from 2017–2021, EDUs are flexible multidisciplinary entities organized around certain research and teaching areas. 

Generally, transitioning to a higher EDU level can allow a unit more autonomy and flexibility. However, the transition proposal says that the School of the Environment “does not anticipate any immediate changes to curriculum or program offerings specifically tied to the transition.”

“The University of Toronto is a leader in environmental research and environmental education… a really central component of this is the School of the Environment,” explained Regehr, who further emphasized that student enrolment in courses held by the school has increased in recent years.

According to Regehr, the change will help cement the school as an international leader in environmental research while also responding to “the growing urgency of global environmental crises and the demand from our students that universities play a leadership role in responding to these crises.”