At a March 9 meeting, the Academic Board voted to approve the project scope of the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) Roof Community Garden and Indigenous Education Network Social, Cultural Practice Space. The project is expected to impact over 1,500 square meters of space within the OISE building.
These renovations of the West and South terraces of the building are intended to create new outdoor facilities for faculty, students, and staff. Some of the benefits of the project include increasing informal study space for students, improving the community’s health, embracing sustainability, and creating meaningful spaces for various Indigenous practices. The presentation highlighted the demand for outdoor and non-library study spaces — which is predicted to increase due to OISE’s steady growth of students.
The outdoor space is part of the 2017 Academic Plan, and it targets three of the plan’s main goals: Indigenization, Equity and Diversity, and Inclusion.
Shone Joos, a member of the board and teaching staff, questioned the impact the project would have on migrating birds. Joos highlighted that the combination of the garden and the glass of the buildings could create a significant issue for migrating birds. Joos asked what OISE is doing to prevent bird collisions that often plague projects similar to the OISE Roof Garden.
Helen Huang, the Chief Administrative Officer of OISE, said that they plan to put up wires to prevent birds from hitting the glass. Huang did not offer any further details.
Vice-President and Provost Cheryl Regehr presented the 2023–2024 budget, which will be approved at the next Governing Council meeting. The new budget has increased to $3.36 billion from $3.23 billion in the 2022–2023 academic year. Regehr highlighted the negative impact that the continued freeze on domestic tuition fees for Ontario residents — extended again by the provincial government — will have on the budget.
Paul Downes, another member of the Academic Board and teaching staff, asked if U of T — as a public institution — will turn into a private institution due to increasing international tuition fees. Regehr highlighted that the two per cent tuition increase for international students this upcoming year is “considerably lower than other institutions. ”
President Meric Gertler highlighted that U of T recruits a minimum of 40 students every year from each of 14 countries, up from seven countries previously. “We recognize that not all [students can] afford to pay the sticker price, and hence we’re also putting tremendous effort into fundraising [and] getting operating dollars for scholarship support for international students.”
Regehr also presented the enrolment report for 2022–2023. She highlighted that U of T’s full time equivalent enrolments — which refers to how many students would be attending U of T if all of them were enrolled full-time — increased by 0.6 per cent. However, U of T’s overall enrolment was below its five-year enrolment plan’s target by 1.6 per cent across all undergraduate and graduate programs. This included a small dip in domestic enrolment, which was balanced by slightly higher levels of international enrolment. There are currently over 86,000 U of T students across undergraduate and graduate programs.
The next Governing Council meeting is scheduled for March 30, 2023.