This week, the University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union (UTMSU) held a virtual “UMLAP Phone Zap.”
Participants in the phone zap event called and emailed administrators from across the university to share their thoughts, feedback, and demands about the University-Mandated Leave of Absence Policy (UMLAP) directly. The UMLAP allows U of T to involuntarily put students on leave from their studies without academic penalty, if the university determines that a student poses a risk to themselves or others. The policy came into effect in 2018, despite student protests, and has been the subject of advocacy ever since.
Students contacted the decision-makers who will receive these recommendations and a report from the committee reviewing the policy.
Originally, the UTMSU was planning to hold an in-person protest against the UMLAP within the first few weeks of the fall semester. The phone zap was held instead of an in-person protest.
Participating students were encouraged to email or phone administrators from UTSG, UTSC, and UTM to voice their opinions on the policy.
In an email to The Varsity, Nour Alideeb, executive director of the UTMSU, shared that the event had generated upwards of 300 emails from over 30 participants in the half an hour that the event ran.
The UTMSU provided 41 different individuals’ contact information — including their phone numbers and email addresses — as well as a pre-written template that students could sign and send by email or voice over the phone.
Mitra Yakubi, president of the UTMSU, wrote to The Varsity, “Our end goal is to remove the UMLAP completely because there is no way to amend or improve the policy without negatively impacting students.”
Yakubi encouraged students who chose to call administration directly to leave a voicemail if their call was left unanswered. She also emphasized that participants should let her or Alideeb know if voicemails were full or if they were redirected, and told participants to write unique email subject lines so that their emails would not be automatically filtered as spam.
“If somebody is about to hang up on you, I think you should reiterate that… you’re an impacted person by this policy. They have an obligation to hear you out and listen, and they are accountable to students,” Alideeb said.
The event was incorporated in the UTMSU’s “Halloweek,” where the union celebrates Halloween on campus. Yakubi explained that the UTMSU included the phone zap event in the holiday spirit week because they felt that this event would be a productive way for members to get involved in Halloween events while talking about an important student issue.
The event was not heavily advertised too far in advance to ensure that the emails and calls were not expected by the administration. “When we’ve been part of other phone zaps, decision makers and/or targets have avoided calls because they knew it was part of a coordinated action,” Yakubi wrote.