Administration ignored human rights commission’s request to review mandatory leave policy, documents reveal

Student groups also kept in dark about OHRC involvement

Administration ignored human rights commission’s request to review mandatory leave policy, documents reveal

The U of T administration did not send a copy of the university-mandated leave of absence policy to the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) before it was slated to be approved by the University Affairs Board (UAB) on January 30, despite the commission’s expressed interest in receiving a copy of the new draft.

Documents obtained by The Varsity, released through a freedom of information request, outline communications between university staff and lawyers at the OHRC about the policy as far back as December 6, 2017.

The university also did not inform the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) of the commission’s involvement despite explicitly informing the commission that it would inform student groups at the meeting.

The contentious policy would have allowed the university to place students on a mandatory leave of absence if their mental health issues negatively impacted their studies, or if they posed a dangerous risk to themselves or others. The policy received significant backlash from the community before it was eventually pulled from the governance cycle in late January.

Reema Khawja, OHRC Legal Counsel, reached out to Archana Sridhar, Assistant Provost at the Office of the Vice-President and Provost, in an email on December 13. “We encourage you to thoroughly consult and seek legal advice as you develop the next draft,” reads the email. “The OHRC will continue to monitor the developments, and we look forward to receiving a copy of the next draft of the policy before it enters the governance path for approval.”

However, the OHRC did not receive a copy of the draft until it was made public on the online agenda of the Academic Board of Governing Council before the board’s January 25 meeting.

In addition, the commission did not have any correspondence with U of T between Khawja’s email and January 29. It was, at that point, one day before the policy was set to go before the UAB, when OHRC Chief Commissioner Renu Mandhane sent a letter to Claire Kennedy, Chair of Governing Council, recommending that the policy “not be approved in its current form” and requesting a delay on voting on the policy.

“I can tell you that the draft policy was made publicly available to everyone to review before it went through governance,” said Elizabeth Church, Interim Director of Media Relations at U of T. When pressed on whether a copy was sent explicitly to the commission, Church repeated the same response.

The UTSU was also unaware of the university administration’s communications with the human rights commission, despite Sridhar explicitly promising to inform student groups. In a December 15 email to Khawja, Sridhar wrote, “We appreciated your time for an informal meeting about the draft University-Mandated Leave Policy at the University of Toronto. It was helpful to hear your thoughtful feedback, and we will share that we have met informally with OHRC staff about the proposed policy when we meet with student groups in the weeks to come.”

However, students were not informed about the meeting. Mathias Memmel, President of the UTSU, said that the union “didn’t know that the OHRC was involved until the UAB meeting.”

Church said that in the consultations with student groups on campus, the university did not necessarily share whom they had spoken with in regard to the draft policy.

“We held many meetings with individuals, one-on-one meetings and also with groups to discuss the policy,” said Church. “In those meetings we discussed the feedback that we’ve received from internal and external consultations. In those conversations we did not necessarily identify the source of specific feedback.”

According to communications obtained by The Varsity, the university corresponded with the commission as early as December 6, when Anthony Gray, Director of Strategic Research at the Office of the President of U of T, connected Sridhar with Mandhane. In an email the same day, Mandhane requested that Sridhar meet with Khawja to hear the OHRC’s concerns about the policy. Sridhar and Khawja eventually met on December 13.

Initially slated to be voted upon late last semester, criticism from students and other members of the university community prompted U of T to delay the vote for two months. The policy was eventually withdrawn, with Vice-Provost Students Sandy Welsh announcing the university’s intention to rework it and reintroduce it at a later, unspecified date.

That date may be in the near future. At the March 6 UAB meeting, Welsh noted that the revised draft of the policy was in the final stage of internal review, and that the university administration would reintroduce it “shortly.” Welsh also mentioned U of T’s commitment to make the revised document available to the public prior to the governance process, and that it would notify the OHRC once it is posted online.

Business Board approves widespread tuition fee increases for all students

Domestic ArtSci, Architecture, Music, KPE tuition to increase three per cent, Engineering five per cent

Business Board approves widespread tuition fee increases for all students

Tuition fees are expected to increase again this year after the Business Board of the university’s Governing Council approved the increases at a meeting on March 21.

The tuition increases were first outlined in the university’s proposed budget for the 2018–2019 academic year, which outlines a for-credit tuition fee revenue of $148 million to fund initiatives and capital projects across the three campuses.

What are the tuition increases?

Domestic undergraduate tuition fees for the Faculty of Arts & Science; the John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design; the Faculty of Music; and the Faculty of Kinesiology & Physical Education are expected to increase by three per cent in the 2018–2019 academic year.

Tuition fees for the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering is expected to increase by five per cent, with tuition to be $15,760.

Tuition for international students in the Faculty of Arts & Science is expected to rise by no more than nine per cent in the 2019–2020 academic year, while international students in the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering will see an increase of eight per cent to their tuition over the same period. According to the budget, “international fees are set at a level to more closely reflect the true cost of educating students.”

Tuition fees for most professional programs will increase by 2.5 per cent to five per cent under the provincial tuition framework.

Tuition fees for international graduate students will be the same as their domestic counterparts in Fall 2018, as per a university decision in mid-January.

As a result of tuition increases, an increase in student financial aid is also expected.

The proposed budget for 2018–2019 puts $224 million towards student aid for the year. In a 2016–2017 report on student financial support, the university committed itself to providing increased aid not only for undergraduate domestic students but also international students.

Why does tuition keep rising?

The overall increase in tuition is meant to address higher enrolment and increased costs, according to Vice-President and Provost Cheryl Regehr. The costs also come in response to the tuition framework mandated by the Ontario government.

“The three per cent overall increase is the tuition framework from the provincial government and the issue is costs… continue to rise as they do everywhere,” said Regehr, noting that the government grant per student “has not increased for many years now.”

Mathias Memmel, the President of the University of Toronto Students’ Union, said that the union was “disappointed, although not surprised, that the university is increasing fees by as much as it possibly can.”

Memmel, like Regehr, pointed to issues in government funding.

“The provincial government needs to step up and make a serious commitment to public education,” said Memmel. “Otherwise, our public universities will cease to be truly public and will become private institutions with public funding.”

Despite the fee increases, the university reaffirmed its commitment to aiding students in positions of financial need.

“We have always had the longstanding commitment that any qualified student who is admitted to the University of Toronto will be able to not have financial barriers that stop them from completing their education,” said Regehr.

The commitments are outlined in the university’s Policy on Student Financial Support.

U of T proposed budget increases financial aid spending, capital projects on all three campuses

$2.676 billion in budgeted operating revenue is expected, an 8.2 per cent increase from last year

U of T proposed budget increases financial aid spending, capital projects on all three campuses

The University of Toronto released their proposed budget for the upcoming 2018–2019 fiscal year, which featured increased funding in financial aid, research opportunities, and graduate programs. The budget reports a total budgeted operating revenue of $2.676 billion, 8.2 per cent higher than the 2017–2018 budget.

Expenses in the proposed budget include large-scale building projects on all three campuses, including an increase in spending toward the total deferred maintenance liability, an increase in student aid, and grants and diversity initiatives.

$224 million is budgeted toward student aid for the 2018–2019 fiscal year. This figure is expected to grow to $260 million over five years. The increase in spending on financial aid can be attributed to the university’s policy on student financial support. The statement principle outlines that, “No student offered admission to a program at the University of Toronto should be unable to enter or complete the program due to lack of financial means”.

The proposed budget also aims to fund diversity and equity initiatives. A total of $3 million over a course of three years will be allocated to coordinate access programs for students from underrepresented groups on campus. Similarly, $3 million over a course of three years will be set aside to fund postdoctoral fellowships for individuals from underrepresented groups. In turn, this will diversify the amount of minority scholars across the country.

Deferred maintenance has been a critical issue, costing the university $549 million in liabilities this year. Of that $549 million cost, UTSG accounts for $478 million with an increase of $4 million compared to last year. UTSC and UTM campuses saw decreases of $2 million and $4 million, respectively. $18 million has been allotted for deferred maintenance repairs, specifically at the St. George campus, while $2.5 million are set aside for the UTM and UTSC campus in their respective budgets.

OSAP                                                                                                          

Changes in the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) were also included in the report. The program was changed to include free tuition for students from low and middle-income families, 30 per cent off tuition grants, and opportunity-based grants for students to reduce loan debt. 55 per cent of U of T students receive OSAP payments.

Funding for the University of Toronto Advanced Planning for Students program (UTAPS) is also projected to increase by an additional $13 million over the planning period. UTAPS gives grants to OSAP eligible students based on financial need.

Revenues

Much of the university’s operating revenue is obtained through provincial operating grants, tuition, and various student fees. Tuition and grant revenue for 2018–2019 is projected to be $2.336 billion, a 2.5 per cent increase compared to the $2.279 billion projected last year. Similarly, large endowments from the university’s greater community have also contributed over $2.38 billion to the operating revenue.

This year, a maximum three per cent increase will be added to tuition for Arts & Science students. Tuition fees for graduate and professional program students may also be increased by a maximum of five per cent. The university has also proposed to align tuition fees for international PhD students with the domestic rate.

The university recently signed a new Strategic Mandate Agreement (SMA2) with the province of Ontario. The agreement aims to re-establish the university’s leadership role in research and innovation in Ontario. SMA2 aims to include funding for 631 new master’s student spaces and 198 new doctoral student spaces by fall 2019.

Governing Council will vote on the $2.68 billion proposed operating budget for the 2018–2019 fiscal year on April 5

Improving Governing Council’s communication skills

Increased engagement on social media could bring the council closer to the community that it governs

Improving Governing Council’s communication skills

Staying peacefully ignorant of university affairs became increasingly difficult this winter, as Governing Council candidates’ ads popped up on my social media feeds at least five times a day. These friendly, professional ads piqued my interest, and so I became familiar with the candidates running for the vague position of representatives on ‘Governing Council.’ A quick Google search and a few casual conversations later, I realized that neither the internet nor my peers were able to tell me what role the Governing Council played in campus affairs and student life or how each candidate hoped to fulfill their positions.

Established by the University of Toronto Act of 1971, Governing Council has ultimate authority over the university’s operations. This body has the power to appoint the President, establish programs of study, and fix salary amounts for university staff, among other responsibilities. Eight students sit on this council of 50 for the purpose of overseeing “the academic, business and student affairs of the University,” meaning they are instrumental in managing and overseeing the university’s day-to-day and long-term decision-making.

This information about Governing Council, as it turns out, is readily available, but it is packaged in unfriendly PDFs and a web of hyperlinks. For the average student, it might be easier to shrug off Governing Council as another vague, bureaucratic body at the university. However, the decisions of the council should not be taken lightly. Featuring members appointed by the President and the Lieutenant Governor in Council, this body governs student and faculty affairs that can affect the university’s structure, including withdrawing the proposed mandatory leave of absence policy and potentially approving a new Bachelor of Information program.

The eight elected student representatives require the input, support, and criticism of their constituents to better provide the council with a meaningful student voice. While it is the responsibility of individual students to stay informed, it is likewise the responsibility of Governing Council to provide access to the students that it is governing, especially concerning policy deliberations and general meetings. It is especially important to highlight this need for transparency given Governing Council’s position within our university.

Despite its impressive role within our university, Governing Council does not effectively attract students through social media platforms that are frequently relied upon for scheduling and networking. Facebook event notifications have become instrumental in encouraging community engagement for many student groups and professional events. While opportunities to get involved might be there, they are hard to find, and they could be more welcoming. Though it is encouraging that reports and meeting minutes are made publicly available, these documents are not always the most engaging way to communicate important messages.

The pervasive reliance on social media platforms in the recent elections reveals that students prefer these more accessible mediums. It would be an asset to both the student body and the council itself to increase engagement through social media.

Student groups are becoming increasingly dependent on online sources to connect and attract members across a variety of platforms. The University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU), for example, is highly active on social media, using Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to keep its constituents aware of changes to its benefits, advocacy efforts, and community events. Regardless of your feelings towards the UTSU, it should be noted that it effectively uses social media to keep itself accountable to students in a direct and accessible way. This transparency is commendable and should be looked upon as a model for effectively informing constituents using contemporary technological methods.

Governing Council, a body that holds even more power over students — and certainly more authority over the university — ought to engage its students, faculty, and community in a similar manner. The benefits of doing so are numerous. Keeping up to date with Governing Council provides students with opportunities to become involved with subcommittees or to apply to be a co-opted member. The council meets fairly frequently and updates its online files every Friday. There are plenty of opportunities for students to get involved and most meetings are held in open session — the council just needs to make sure students know about them first.

Looking back at this year’s debate over the proposed mandatory leave of absence policy reveals just how important communication between the council and the student body can be. Intervention from the Ontario Human Rights Commission was necessary to solidify concerns already vocalized by organizations like the Arts and Science Students’ Union and the UTSU — both student groups that directly engage with constituents in person and on social media. In contrast, the majority of the university’s communications were in the form of formal announcements, speeches during Governing Council meetings, and interviews with news outlets like The Varsity. While the outpouring of criticism makes it evident that students do respond to these methods of communication, the painfully long process leading up to this decision brings into question why it took so long for the council and advisors to listen to the university community’s overwhelmingly negative response.

A board dedicated to the well-being of its students should be in tune with their needs. Opening up new lines of communication would better support Governing Council as a body willing to engage and construct policies that directly concern and support the needs of students.

Confidence in Governing Council’s ability to effect positive change to university affairs and student life is absolutely paramount to maintaining trust in the council and preserving relative stability in academic life. Rather than waiting until problems arise, it would be advantageous for Governing Council to take control of its public image by presenting information in a clear and direct way through its social media platforms, leaving no room for confusion or misinformation. In a time where it is quick and easy to disseminate information over online platforms, failing to do so in an active and explicit way is inexcusable, particularly for organizations that have a profound impact on university affairs.

Angela Feng is a second-year student at St. Michael’s College studying Anthropology and Cinema Studies. She is The Varsity’s Campus Politics Columnist.

Student concerns about mental health policy demand the administration’s full attention

Recent events surrounding the mandatory leave policy should spur the university to better prioritize the student voice

Student concerns about mental health policy demand the administration’s full attention

The most recent draft of the controversial University-Mandated Leave of Absence Policy was withdrawn last week in what many have classified as a resounding victory for the dignity and respect of students struggling with mental health issues at U of T.

Having been in the works for the past few years, the policy allows for students struggling with mental health issues to be placed on a non-punitive leave of absence from their studies, under circumstances in which their mental health is ruled to negatively impact their studies or to present a physical threat to themselves or others. The originally proposed draft of the policy was met with widespread concern from students and campus organizations, prompting Governing Council to delay the final vote on the policy’s recommendation pending further feedback and revisions.

The status of the policy currently remains uncertain. In light of the concerns raised, the university may choose to reintroduce a revised draft in the future — and it is fortunate that being sent back to the drawing board provides optimal opportunity for reflection. When it comes to mental health on campus, the past months have demonstrated that students will not back down if they feel their needs are not being met.

University-mandated leaves of absence are currently governed using the Code of Student Conduct. It should be acknolwedged that, in contrast to the existing measures in the code, the University-Mandated Leave of Absence Policy is intended to be non-punitive; unlike measures adopted under the existing framework, it does not result in a punitive mark being added to a student’s record.

Nevertheless, much of the criticism of the policy has centred on its potentially discriminatory treatment of students with mental health issues. The Chief Commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) weighed in to this effect in December 2017, expressing the opinion that it does not meet the legally mandated duty to accommodate the OHRC’s Policy on ableism and discrimination based on disability and the Policy on preventing discrimination based on mental health disabilities and addiction. The university, according to the OHRC, is required to take all steps to accommodate those with disabilities “to the point of undue hardship.” Despite these concerns, the Academic Board approved the most updated draft of the policy at the end of January, prompting the OHRC to request another delay on the policy’s progression.

It is disconcerting that the OHRC’s intervention appears to be the tipping point in the university’s final decision. The OHRC’s insistence that the policy could possibly be in contravention of Ontario human rights law — and therefore a legal liability — finally incentivized the administration to reconsider. In comparison, the numerous, repeated, and profound concerns raised by students and campus organizations over the better part of this academic year apparently did not provide sufficient impetus to substantially revise the policy in a way that could meaningfully accommodate their concerns.

A profoundly inspiring grassroots movement has formed in opposition to the policy, bringing together students from across the three campuses. The St. George Round Table, representing the student heads of colleges and undergraduate faculties, sought out concerns from students to streamline the feedback process. Petitions opposing the policy were circulated by Students for Barrier-free Access and the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. The U of T Graduate Students’ Union Executive Committee came out against the policy, and students from iStudents for Mental Health united to present a panel discussion reviewing the tenets of the policy. Online, students gathered in a Mandatory Leave Policy Response Group to present a line-by-line breakdown of the policy and compile student criticism.

The ultimate outcome of the draft being withdrawn would not have been possible absent the hard work of these organizations and of all the individuals involved. But despite the overwhelming amount of feedback the administration has received in this regard, the amendments to the policy remained nominal. Of the 14 concerns raised by the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) with respect to the policy, only three were ultimately addressed by the time the most recent draft was completed.

Firstly, the word ‘essential’ was added to Section 1.c.21 of the policy to narrow the scope of the “activities” with which the student’s mental health condition could be ruled to interfere. Secondly, in response to a concern that the policy’s invocation would disproportionately impact international students given their enrolment-dependent immigration status, an amendment was made to provide students with access to a Student Immigration Advisor “where appropriate.” Finally, a provision was added to ensure the university’s compliance with the Personal Health Information Protection Act, which outlines the guidelines for the collection, use, and disclosure of personal health information in Ontario.

Much of the rest of the policy remains exactly the same, and numerous issues have been left unaddressed. The policy contains no explicit requirement for the involvement of medical professionals in the process and places the power to make these determinations in the hands of the Vice-Provost Students. While health professionals have the training to properly and accurately assess mental health issues and determine the extent to which students’ lives may be affected by them, the same cannot necessarily be said for members of the administration who do not receive this training.

Concern has also been raised that the vague language of the policy poses limits to student autonomy by granting overbroad powers to the administration. Students’ ability to stay in school, as well as to return to their studies if they are placed on leave, falls entirely under the discretion of the Vice-Provost Students. Any appeals must be made within 15 business days of the decision to the Discipline Appeals Board of the University Tribunal. The Senior Chair will hear and make a final decision on the appeal.

Finally, in a sad twist of irony, a policy intended to relieve mental health stressors may actually cause even greater distress by potentially forcing students in already precarious situations to take time off school. At a competitive institution like U of T, assignments can pile up after just a day of neglect, so prospects like falling behind by a semester or more, or being unable to complete one’s degree, can be harrowing. It is hardly an uncommon occurrence for mental health related stressors to interfere with students’ studies at U of T — the highly pressurized atmosphere is often considered to be a disturbingly ordinary part of the student experience.

To its credit, the administration has maintained that the policy is non-punitive and meant to be exercised in students’ best interests. Nevertheless, a number of the policy’s provisions have sparked monumental and understandable resistance from the student body, centred on fears that it will work to unduly marginalize some of the most vulnerable people on campus. If the university truly wants the policy to work for students, it is vital that it be receptive to their concerns moving forward — only then can it begin to develop a meaningful solution to addressing mental health issues on campus.

Now that the policy is once again at the drawing board, the university has the chance to issue a more meaningful response.

U of T can be a deeply isolating place, and a comprehensive approach to addressing mental health on campus is sorely needed here — such a policy has the potential to be a progressive addition if implemented in a way that is designed to serve those to whom it applies.

Fortunately, the past months have demonstrated the passion students at this institution have for supporting one another through mental health struggles. And while we hope that any future drafts of this policy will address its current flaws in a way that is more sensitive to students’ concerns, we know students will continue to push for change if these efforts fall short.

The Varsity’s editorial board is elected by the masthead at the beginning of each semester. For more information about the editorial policy, email editorial@thevarsity.ca.

Cost of deferred maintenance at U of T drops slightly from last year

UTSG’s delayed repairs rise to $478 million

Cost of deferred maintenance at U of T drops slightly from last year

 

The university’s annual report on deferred maintenance reveals that the total cost of repairs required on U of T’s buildings is $549 million, down $2.5 million from last year. The cost of deferred maintenance represents the amount of money in repairs that the university is delaying, typically as a cost-saving measure.

The majority of the liability for this year is at UTSG, which accounts for $478 million, up by $4 million since last year. About five per cent of this figure — approximately $24 million — represents deficiencies that must be addressed within the next year, while approximately $287 million represents deficiencies that must be handled in the next three to five years.

UTSC’s deferred maintenance repairs this year totalled $42 million, down $2 million from last year. UTM accounts for $29 million of the total cost of deferred maintenance, down $4 million from last year’s figure.

The report also stated that the university’s combined facility condition index (FCI) — a number obtained by dividing the cost of repairs required by the cost of replacing the building — stands at 13.4 per cent, higher than the 11 per cent the Council of Ontario Universities last reported in 2015, but 0.5 per cent lower than last year. If an FCI is over 10 per cent, then repairs are needed.

The FCI of the 10 buildings at UTSC is 11 per cent . The 14 buildings at UTM have a combined FCI of 6.7 per cent.

UTSG’s FCI currently stands at 14.7 per cent, down slightly from last year’s 15 per cent. Of the 101 academic and administrative buildings audited for the report, 71 were classified as being in poor condition.

The report also noted that the majority of UTSG buildings were built post-war and have lower construction quality than pre-war buildings and modern, complex buildings on campus. These post-war buildings tend to require a “fundamental renewal of building systems.”

The report also pointed out that the combined internal and federal funding is “approaching” the roughly $28 million needed to reduce the FCI to 12 per cent within 10 years at UTSG. According to the report, the university “can maintain and even start to improve the condition of our academic and administrative buildings [at U of T]” with this funding.

The document also detailed changes to be made to how the deferred maintenance figures are assessed, including shortening the auditing frequency from every seven years to every five years, incorporating costs associated with professional services and consulting fees, and providing more accurate building information.

U of T forecasts $391 million in annual net income, according to new CFO report

Debt expected to rise above $1 billion due to capital projects

U of T forecasts $391 million in annual net income, according to new CFO report

U of T is expected to report a net income of $391 million for the fiscal year ending April 30, 2018. This income shows a decrease of $26 million from last year’s $417 million, according to a report from Chief Financial Officer Sheila Brown to the Governing Council’s Business Board. Net assets are projected to be approximately $5.8 billion, increasing by $313 million from 2017.

The report details revenue, expenses, net income, and net assets for the university. It was prepared using a combination of forecasting methods, including projection to April 30 using current year-to-date figures and estimation based on trend analysis of prior years.

Key assumptions made in projecting these numbers are a 5.4 per cent investment return, an $84 million endowment payout, $100 million in divisional savings, and $444 million in capital asset additions, or property.

Revenue and deficits

Based on the report, U of T’s revenue should be $3.36 billion this year, principally generated through a projected $1.57 billion in student fees. Expenses are forecast to come in at $2.97 billion, meaning U of T is making and spending a little more than it did last year, based on totals of $3.22 billion in revenue and $2.8 billion in expenses from 2017.

A deficit of $95 million is projected for 2018. Last year’s report projected a deficit of $93.9 million, but the actual deficit came in at $59 million.

The deficit is comprised of a $43 million operating fund surplus, with $35 million more in tuition fee revenue earned than in budgeted due to international undergraduate enrolment, $5 million in utilities savings, $4 million in additional government grants, and $3 million in investment returns.

An unrestricted deficit of $138 million in other funds is attributed to the internal debt component of the university’s debt program. These will be repaid over a longer period of time.

Debt projections

U of T places its outstanding debt at $1 billion, whereas its debt policy limit, or the amount it can borrow, stands at $1.5 billion. The Business Board approved $1.26 billion in allocations, which includes borrowing and contingency for donations, targets, and pledges, leaving $241 million remaining for future allocation throughout the next four months.

The annual debt strategy review states that debt “primarily supports capital projects and pensions.” Over the next five years, the review estimates that approximately $560 million of additional debt will be needed for capital projects that have not yet been approved by the Business Board but that are under consideration.

Some of these capital projects include a second instructional centre at UTSC, renovations to some Arts & Science buildings at UTSG, and the Landmark project to renovate front campus.

“In assessing the appropriateness of a debt strategy, we considered the need for debt together with the need to remain affordable, and for debt servicing to continue to be financially responsible,” reads the Debt Strategy Review.

By April 30, 2023, the debt policy limit is projected to increase to $1.85 billion to accommodate these new capital projects. Moody’s Investors Service gave U of T an Aa2 credit rating, which is unchanged from recent years, meaning U of T fulfils its financial commitments and repays the money it borrows in an effective and timely manner.

The Breakdown: Governing Council

The structure and role of Governing Council in the lives of students

The Breakdown: Governing Council

Governing Council elections will run from February 5–16, and campaigning is already underway. There are 47 student candidates running for eight seats. With the elections coming up, here is a breakdown of how Governing Council works and how it affects U of T students.

Evolving history

U of T was previously governed by a senate and a board of governors, but the University of Toronto Act of 1971 merged those two bodies into one: Governing Council.

The University of Toronto Act stipulates that members of Governing Council and its boards and committees must put the interests of the university first, regardless of the constituency they represent.

More recently, the Task Force on Governance, established in 2007 by former U of T President David Naylor, established six themes by which Governing Council would shape itself: Oversight and Accountability – Quality of the Governing Council’s Meeting Agendas; Overlap/Duplication, Deficiencies, Ambiguities – Board and Committee Mandates; Delegated Authority for Academic Divisions – Lack of Clarity, Inconsistency; Delegated Authority in the Tri-campus Context – Levels of Oversight and Accountability, Redundancy; Quality of Governors – Experience Mix and Representation; and Roles of and Appropriate Interfaces between Governors and the Administration.

Structure

Governing Council’s role is to oversee academic, business, and student affairs. Its composition is based on the five ‘estates’ of the university: government appointees, teaching staff, alumni, administration, and students.

The council is composed of 50 members — U of T Chancellor Michael Wilson and President Meric Gertler are members by virtue of their positions. Sixteen members are appointed by Lieutenant Governor-in-Council Shirley Hoy, and two are appointed by Gertler. Thirty members are elected: 12 teaching staff, eight alumni, two administrative staff, and eight students. Of the eight student members, four are full-time undergraduates, two are part-time undergraduates, and two are graduates.

A series of boards and committees are part of Governing Council, though not all board and committee members are Governing Council members. The three main boards are the Academic Board, the Business Board, and the University Affairs Board. Students sit on all three boards, and the various committees are beneath them.

The Academic Board handles matters affecting the teaching, learning, and research functions of the university. It establishes priorities and objectives, plans initiatives, and determines how to effectively use resources in the interest of academic progress. There are 123 voting members of the Academic Board: 88 teaching staff; two elected librarians; four administrative staff; six “lay members,” who are alumni or government appointees to Governing Council; 16 students, four who are elected members of Governing Council and 12 who are appointed by the Academic Board’s striking committee; four voting assessors selected by Gertler; and the President, Chancellor, Chair, and Vice-Chair of Governing Council.

The Business Board is made up of 27 members, including two students. It oversees policy regarding funding, student fees or ancillaries, and approves Hart House’s operating plan. Governing Council’s website describes the Business Board’s responsibilities as “ensuring that resource allocations are responsible and cost-effective, and approving policy and major transactions in the business-management of the University.”

The University Affairs Board is also made up of 27 members, including nine students. It is responsible for non-academic policy that concerns quality of student and campus life. It appoints six members to the Discipline Appeals Board, while the other six members are appointed by the Academic Board. It handles policy involving campus security, childcare, co-curricular programs, and university-wide campus issues at UTSG. Ceremonials, equity issues, community relations, representative student groups, use of the University of Toronto’s name and incidental fees also fall under the purview of the University Affairs board.