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UTSC campus curriculum review presented at Campus Council meeting

Review lists 56 recommended actions
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MICHAEL PHOON/THE VARSITY
MICHAEL PHOON/THE VARSITY

The UTSC Campus Council met on May 25. The council received a presentation from the UTSC Campus Curriculum Working Circle on a comprehensive curriculum review that was launched in fall 2020. The review outlined a total of 56 recommendations which focused on diversifying curriculums and engaging with Black and Indigenous streams of knowledges. 

Other topics discussed included the annual report on research and innovation, the UTSC operating budget for the 2022–2023 academic year, and the annual review of the policy on sexual violence and sexual harassment. 

Review of campus curriculum 

Katherine Larson — vice-dean teaching, learning and undergraduate programs — presented the UTSC campus curriculum review to the committee. 

As part of UTSC’s five-year strategic plan, the UTSC Campus Curriculum Review Working Circle undertook the review two years ago, in the fall of 2020. The plan, titled “Inspiring Inclusive Excellence,” was introduced in 2020 and is to continue through to 2025. The review is listed as a necessary initiative given the plan’s first priority — an innovative and high-quality student experience.

Larson elaborated on the goal of the review: “The long-term goal of the curriculum review process is to ensure that programs and pedagogical approaches at UTSC reflect the diversity of our students… that [has] been devalued and violently erased by settler colonialism and systemic injustices.”

She continued, “Our process aims at foundational change… a transformative approach that leverages existing strengths and invites every discipline to think carefully about its programs and every faculty member to think carefully about their pedagogy.” 

The review is anticipated to further the work that U of T has already done to promote diversity and inclusive pedagogical approaches. It incorporates and considers the recommendations of the Anti-Black Racism Task Force — the report from which was released in March 2021 and outlines 56 recommendations for the university — and the commitments made under the Scarborough Charter — a charter signed by numerous postsecondary institutions across Canada, “addressing anti-Black racism and fostering Black inclusion.” The review also honours the efforts made by the university for truth and reconciliation and the recommendations of the 2017 report from U of T’s Truth and Reconciliation Steering Committee.    

The Working Circle, “recognizing that individuals hold multiple identities that shape experiences of oppression,” adopted an intersectional approach when conducting research and formulating recommendations. 

Membership in the Working Circle included students, alumni, faculty, librarian representatives, staff, and community members.

The review concluded with the development of 56 recommended actions under seven broad categories. 

Recommendations of the Working Circle

In the first category, curriculum development, the Working Circle recommends that departments prioritize student engagement with diverse materials earlier on in their studies at UTSC, and implement additional introductory courses that pertain to “Indigenous and Black knowledges, racialized perspectives, and international and intercultural perspectives.” More specifically, the Working Circle recommends that the sciences and management programs provide their students with more opportunities for engagement with “diverse knowledges and perspectives.”

The second category, pedagogical development and related supports, focuses on the cultivation of an “equity-based, inclusive, anti-racist, and anti-colonial” pedagogy at UTSC. It details ten recommendations for developing pedagogical resources and outlets for staff and faculty education in order to achieve this. 

In the sixth category, institutional structures and supports, the Working Circle recommends an expansion of similar reviews to “all existing teaching and learning resources at UTSC.” 

The seventh category pertains to the future of the Working Circle, and recommends that the Working Circle transition to a more permanent role as a standing committee at UTSC. 

The other categories address the institution of dedicated academic spaces for Black and Indigenous excellence at UTSC, the diversification of staff and prioritization of hiring Black and Indigenous faculty and staff, and the promotion of relationships that encourage learning and accountability within the Scarborough community.

Implementation of recommended actions

As part of the larger plan to realize the recommended actions of the Working Circle’s review, UTSC launched the Pedagogies of Inclusive Excellence (PIE) fund in 2022. 

The university plans to allocate $1.36 million to this fund annually. This amount will be subject to reassessment “after a three-year period and adjusted if necessary to ensure sustainable support for the implementation of the curriculum review recommended actions.”

Research and innovation report

Irena Creed— vice-principal research and innovation, UTSC — presented the annual report on research and innovation. The theme of this year’s report was perseverance. 

Creed discussed the effects of the pandemic on the mental health of faculty and students. “The pandemic has fundamentally altered our ability to do research,” she explained.

Creed pointed to data collected from UTSC faculty members at the end of 2019 and in September 2020 as evidence of increased feelings of burnout. 

Creed shared the Office of Research and Innovation’s response to this burnout, which it developed to alleviate the increased mental toll of the pandemic. The office onboarded additional administrative staff in an effort to better address the needs of faculty and employ established COVID-19 relief supports. 

The office was successful in securing $14.1 million in total research funding for the 2021–2022 academic year, with over 70 per cent derived from federal granting agencies. 

Other reports

UTSC’s Chief Administrative Officer Andrew Arifuzzaman presented UTSC’s operating budget for the 2022–2023 academic year. The net expense budget is $338.3 million and budget revenue is $416 million. 

The council also heard from Linda Johnston— dean, Bloomberg School of Nursing — and Allison Burgess — director, sexuality and gender diversity office — who presented the review of the sexual violence and sexual harassment policy. The review concluded with 13 recommendations. Any revisions to the policy are to be presented at the beginning of the 2022–2023 governance cycle.