On November 27, the Business Board of U of T’s Governing Council held its second meeting of the 2019–2020 academic year.
The Board continued its discussion on missed appointment fees at the Health and Wellness Centre, received reports on the University Pension Plan (UPP), and provided an update on the Divisional Court of Ontario’s strike-down of the Student Choice Initiative (SCI).
Health and Wellness missed appointment fees
After students expressed concerns on waiting periods, fees associated with student mental health services, and the stigma surrounding mental illness during the previous Business Board meeting, Vice-Provost Students Sandy Welsh presented a report on missed appointment fees regarding student health services to the Board.
Currently, U of T charges students missed appointment fees ranging from $40–100 for health and wellness services, mental health services, and group therapy sessions. The university collected $210,000 in missed appointment fees in the 2018–2019 academic year.
These fees help subsidize the income doctors and medical professionals lose when students fail to show up to their appointment. Welsh further explained that the fees aim to deter students from last-minute cancellations, as missed appointments increase wait times and hurt students who are waiting for care.
In 2018–2019, U of T’s health and counselling services charged six per cent of the students they saw for missed appointments. Before U of T implemented missed appointment fees, the number of students who missed appointments was more than double, at 15 per cent.
Data shows that missed appointment fees are effective in helping reduce late appointments and no-shows. However, several board members expressed concerns that the U of T is implementing an uncompassionate practice which financially punishes students who may have missed appointments due to anxiety and distress.
Board member Dr. K. Sonu Gaind noted that the missed appointment fee policy will harm the public perception of U of T regarding mental illness.
“It’s going to be very hard for the university — with whatever rationalization — to get around that perception,” Gaind said.
“Even… if the fees are effective, are they compassionate? Is the effectiveness worth the other consequences that happens?” another member asked.
UPP Board of Trustees Chair announced
Together with the University of Guelph and Queen’s University, U of T is currently working with faculty unions and other staff associations to develop the UPP Ontario, a new pension plan which will cover employees across the three universities.
The Governing Council previously determined the terms and benefits of the current pension model — known as the U of T Pension Plan. The U of T Pension Plan has been in effect since it was established in 1966.
The UPP is aiming to increase transparency and provide employees with an equal voice toward pension plan management. In order to achieve this objective, the new model will subject pension plan administration to oversight by a Board of Trustees, which will be comprised of both employees and employers.
Angela Hildyard, Vice-President HR & Equity, announced that the UPP’s joint sponsors — members representing the faculty associations, United Steel Workers, Canadian Union of Public Employees, U of T, University of Guelph, and Queen’s University — unanimously selected Gale Rubenstein as the inaugural chair of the UPP Board of Trustees.
Rubenstein, a partner at the corporate law firm Goodmans LLP, has represented the province of Ontario on the corporate restructuring of both Chrysler and General Motors in 2009.
The remaining members of the UPP Board of Trustees will be announced by the end of January.
Vice-President and Provost Cheryl Regehr reported that U of T is currently evaluating the technical impact of the divisional court decision that deemed the SCI unlawful. Implemented in September of 2019, the SCI previously allowed students in Ontario to opt out of incidental fees that the provincial government had deemed non-essential, such as clubs and various student services.
As of press time, access to the opt-out portal on ACORN has been suspended.
The next Business Board meeting will be held on February 3, 2020.