The University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union (UTMSU) held its most recent board meeting on August 27 to discuss students’ return to campus. UTMSU President Mitra Yakubi also discussed the ongoing review of the controversial University-Mandated Leave of Absence Policy (UMLAP), and added that the UTMSU is planning an in-person protest against the policy in September or October. 

Return to campus 

The UTMSU executives reported on their progress regarding the university’s return to in-person activities. Some of the in-person activities they covered include orientation, which will happen from August 30 to September 4; SaugaFest, from September 7–17; the UTMSU fall by-election, from September 20 to October 7; Academic Advocacy week, from September 20–24; and queer orientation, from September 20–24.

The executives also discussed the UPass program. Students can pick up their UPass from August 30 to September 24. 

Yakubi discussed the recent Safe Return to Campus town hall, which included over 120 attendees, including Vice-President and Principal Alexandra Gillespie.

“We were able to have members… ask questions [from] the members of the administration about the return back to campus, [and] bring forward inquiries, questions, and concerns,” said Yakubi. 

Reviewing, planning protests against UMLAP 

Yakubi has also been bringing more awareness to the UMLAP, which is currently under review by the university. The UMLAP is a policy, created in 2018, which allows the university to place students on mandated leave without academic penalty if the university decides they pose a risk to themselves or others. 

The UMLAP was created due to a rise of concerns raised by the university ombudsperson about the university’s capability to “address student behaviours during periods of extreme distress caused by serious health or mental health issues.” 

According to the UMLAP review framework, posted in March 2021, the policy has only ever been used to remove seven students from their studies, with an additional two taking a voluntary leave of absence. The framework notes that four students who left later returned to continue their studies.

The policy has often been the subject of criticism and widespread protest from students and student groups, who say the policy may discourage students from seeking mental health support out of fear that they may be removed from their studies. 

Yakubi discussed consultation sessions with students that the UTMSU has run to talk about the policy. “We had a lot of new faces and a lot of folks who didn’t know about UMLAP,” Yakubi said in the board meeting. Yakubi said that the majority of students in attendance did not understand the policy, how it would impact them, or its repercussions. 

Yakubi also said that the UTMSU is planning an in-person protest in late September or early October against the policy, as part of a larger protest against it.