Content warning: This article discusses sexual violence and harassment.
The UTSC Campus Council and UTM Campus Council gathered for the second time in the 2022–2023 academic year on November 15 and November 16, respectively.
Both councils heard updates about U of T’s Policy on Sexual Violence and Sexual Harrassment. Revisions to the policy include increased clarity in certain processes and stronger language on zero tolerance for retaliation on survivors.
The councils also discussed COVID-19, key complaints at U of T, and enrolment numbers.
Revisions to the Policy on Sexual Harrassment and Sexual Violence
Vice-Provost Students Sandy Welsh presented the latest revisions to U of T’s Policy on Sexual Violence and Sexual Harrassment to both the UTSC and UTM campus councils. The policy is currently in its final consultation stage, and will be presented to the Governing Council on December 15 for approval.
In July, U of T accepted all 12 recommendations from a review of the policy. At both councils, Welsh presented the three major revisions of the policy after the 12 recommendations were taken into account.
First, the updated policy would require U of T to produce an annual public report that provides statistical information on sexual violence cases at the university. Additionally, it now uses stronger language for the nontolerance for reprisals or retaliation against anyone who reports sexual violence.
The update has also clarified the parameters for nonadjudicative processes — an area of the policy that Welsh said has been critiqued in the past as being unclear or missing. According to the revision, a nonadjudicative process involves discussions about possible resolutions between a neutral facilitator and the “complainant” and “respondent.” Some options for resolutions may include an apology, a no-contact order, or counselling.
The Prevention, Empowerment, Advocacy, Response, for Survivors (PEARS) Project — a U of T student-led, trauma informed organization supporting sexual violence survivors — previously critiqued recommendation seven of the July iteration of the policy. The seventh recommendation called for the university to establish formal supports for individuals accused of sexual harassment or violence. The revised policy now states that such individuals will be “made aware of the supports that are available to them.”
Welsh said that this updated set of revisions is the direct result of feedback collected from an online consultation form, which university members filled out from September to October. The revisions also incorporated “additional final feedback from a student group.”
Ombudsperson Bruce Kidd presented the Report of the University Ombudsperson for 2021–2022 to the UTSC and UTM councils, in which he highlighted the increase in graduate student complaints and decrease in academic integrity cases, among other issues at U of T.
The Office of the Ombudsperson is an independent and impartial body that offers advice and assistance to all U of T members that have unresolved concerns about their treatment at the university.
Kidd highlighted four key issues based on the complaints his office had received. For one, graduate student complaints have increased by 35 per cent, from 72 cases in 2020–2021 to 97 cases in 2021–2022.
“Maltreatment in graduate supervision has been an issue for the university for a long time,” Kidd said. He was “pleased” to report, however, that extreme cases of bad supervision, such as total neglect, have “leveled off.”
Another issue Kidd highlighted is academic integrity. While the number of academic integrity cases decreased, the length of delays increased, which resulted in some cases lasting over two years.
Kidd emphasized the significant impact that these cases can have on a student’s academic career. “In each case, it means that students’ academic plans — and in some cases, their entire degree programs — have to be put on hold,” he said.
He also highlighted other key issues, including mental health challenges that U of T members face and the university’s inefficient communication channels.
Overall, the Office of the Ombudsperson received 405 complaints in 2021–2022, which is 13 per cent higher than in 2020–2021. Of these complaints, the office has been able to settle 338.
UTM enrolment numbers
Amrita Daniere — UTM’s interim vice-principal, academic and dean — reported that UTM had intended to enroll 2,662 domestic and 1,180 international students for the 2022–2023 academic year. As of October 11, however, UTM has only enrolled 2,582 and 737 students respectively.
In particular, the decrease of 443 international students has “some very negative implications” for UTM’s budget, according to Daniere. She said that, as a result, UTM is taking “some significant actions” to manage the shortfall.
Most UTM international students pay approximately $59,000 per year, while students in all Management and Commerce programs and select specialized programs including Computer Science, Communication, Culture, Information, and Technology pay $59,000 in their first year, and up to $67,000 in later years.
The reason for this year’s shortfall in international enrollment is that UTM did not admit as many international students to its more competitive programs — such as management, computer science, and life science — compared to the previous academic year. According to Daniere, UTM underenrolled international students in these areas with the intention to correct last year’s overenrolment in these disciplines.
COVID-19 masking update
At the UTSC meeting, Wisdom Tettey, UTSC’s principal and U of T vice president, said that “we encourage everyone to [wear masks], but we recognize that individuals have a choice in this matter.”
Tettey reiterated U of T’s masking policy in addressing the announcement made by the province on November 14, in which Ontario’s chief medical officer “strongly” recommended the public to wear masks in all indoor public settings. This announcement came as Ontario’s healthcare system continues to face “extraordinary pressures” due to the “triple threat” of COVID-19, respiratory syncytial virus, and influenza circulating across the province.
UTSC and UTM continue to have mask dispensers at major entrances on each campus. Both campuses also have hosted vaccine pop-up clinics: UTSC collaborates with Scarborough Health Network to provide flu and COVID-19 vaccine shots on campus, while UTM books GO-VAXX buses to provide COVID-19 vaccine shots.
Pandemic impact on student performance
Addressing the UTSC council, Vice-Principal, Academic and Dean William Gough reported about the negative “legacy” effects of COVID-19 on students’ academic performances. He said that first-year students often struggle academically during their first term at UTSC, but he observed that “more senior students” have also been struggling.
“Many students are finding exam writing challenging, especially if they come from a school board that eliminated exams [during the lockdowns],” he said.
Gough said that UTSC is currently identifying and developing resources in order to address these gaps.
Meanwhile, UTM has implemented a new application that tracks UTM shuttle buses in real time and will add four new buses to its fleet.
If you or someone you know has been affected by sexual violence or harassment at U of T:
- Contact the Toronto Rape Crisis Centre at (416) 597-8808.
- Visit safety.utoronto.ca for a list of safety resources.
- Visit svpscentre.utoronto.ca for information, contact details, and hours of operation for the tri-campus Sexual Violence Prevention & Support Centre. Centre staff can be reached by phone at 416-978-2266 or by email at [email protected].
- Call Campus Safety Special Constable Service to make a report at 416-978-2222 (for U of T St. George and U of T Scarborough) or 905-569-4333 (for U of T Mississauga).
- Call the Women’s College Hospital Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Care Centre at 416-323-6040.
- Call the Scarborough Grace Sexual Assault Care Centre at 416-495-2555.
- Call the Assaulted Women’s Helpline at 866-863-0511.