On September 29, the UTSC Campus Council gathered for the first time in the 2022–2023 academic year. The Council discussed an unprecedented donation to UTSC, COVID-19 updates, and Indigenous initiatives. The Scarborough Campus Students’ Union (SCSU) also gave a presentation about its campaigns, services, and events for the year.

Unprecedented donation to Scarborough and UTSC

On September 28, U of T announced that Orlando Corporation — Canada’s largest privately-owned industrial real estate developer and landlord — has donated $25 million to support the construction of the Scarborough Academy of Medicine and Integrated Health, UTSC’s upcoming medical academy. 

The Orlando Corporation has also donated $50 million to Scarborough Health Network (SHN), making it the largest donation in SHN’s history. Taken together, the 75-million dollar donation aims to strengthen the eastern GTA’s ability to train health-care professionals and provide exceptional care for the community.

Administrators celebrated this donation at the Council meeting. “We’re going to be working with a future generation of scholars, professionals, and researchers who would help to sustain a thriving healthcare system for us as we go forward. We are very proud that Orlando Corporation was able to set us on this path,” said UTSC Vice-President and Principal Wisdom Tettey.

For UTSC Chief Administrative Officer Andrew Arifuzzaman, this donation indicates that people are starting to pay attention to the “amazing things that are happening” in the eastern GTA. 

COVID-19 updates

UTSC Vice-Principal, Academic and Dean William Gough reported that 97 per cent of UTSC courses are in person this fall. He said that the remaining online courses were granted on “an individual basis depending on the personal circumstances of the instructors.” 

Gough reiterated that COVID-19 is still active, which is why he urged community members to remain flexible and accommodate the absences of students, faculty, and staff. He noted that some instructors have already fallen ill and switched their courses online for one to two weeks while they recovered. He urged students who are symptomatic to fill out the self-declaration absence form.

Gough also reported that some new international students faced challenges and delays in obtaining study permits. In particular, 80 students did not get their visas on time, resulting in most of them having deferred starting their studies at UTSC to either January or the next academic year.

Indigenous initiatives

In light of the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on September 30, the Council reflected on UTSC’s progress in achieving the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s (TRC) calls to action. 

Gough noted that UTSC has hired three self-identifying Indigenous faculty members this year, raising the total number of Indigenous faculty members at UTSC to 10. Gough had said that when the TRC report was published in 2015, there were no Indigenous faculty members at UTSC.

In particular, UTSC appointed new faculty member Mike DeGagné to the Department of Sociology and the role of Special Advisor on Indigenous Initiatives at UTSC. DeGagné is Ojibway from the Animakee Wa Zhing 37 First Nation, and was previously Nipissing University’s president and vice chancellor, making him one of the first Indigenous presidents of a Canadian public university. 

In June, UTSC also invited 16 Indigenous students from North Bay, Québec, and Nunavut to take part in the Valuing Indigenous Learning Leadership and Academic Growth in Education (VILLAGE) pathway program, according to UTSC Dean of Student Experience and Wellbeing Neel Joshi. Through VILLAGE, the Indigenous students were able to experience campus life for a week and see the academic opportunities available to them in Scarborough.

SCSU’s plans for the year

The SCSU executives presented the campaigns, events, and services that they have lined up for the 2022–2023 academic year.

They reported that 1265 Bistro — SCSU’s restaurant, located at the Student Centre — finally opened this month. 1265 Bistro replaced Rex’s Den.

“Our goal this year is to make the Bistro the go-to place for food on campus, not only for students at UTSC, but for other students as well,” said Mathooshan Manoharan, SCSU’s vice-president operations. He added that 1265 Bistro has an “adaptable menu system” and a QR code raffle to solicit feedback.

Some of the SCSU’s campaigns this year include lobbying for better academic support for students, more voting seats at decision-making bodies, cheaper transit, and reduced tuition fees. The SCSU executives also mentioned the Undergraduate Research Symposium that they will be hosting later in the year, the theme of which will revolve around decolonizing education.

Lastly, the Council discussed the housing shortage in residence as well as ongoing capital projects, which the Campus Affairs Committee also discussed earlier in the academic year.