Opinion: Late announcements, callous comments — U of T has yet to centre students in a meaningful way

Both research and student experiences show a disappointing history of reactive action on the part of the administration

Opinion: Late announcements, callous comments — U of T has yet to centre students in a meaningful way

Content warning: discussions of suicide.

U of T students are well aware of the horror stories told of the university that scare away potential applicants: professors are unnecessarily hard, students fail half of their classes, and — my personal favourite — the university is full of anti-social, academic-obsessed losers. Nonetheless, the University of Toronto is still the most prestigious school in Canada.

That being said, it maintains its status as an academically competitive school by neglecting the well-being of its students.

Failure to support students

In September, the Bahen Centre for Information Technology witnessed its third apparent suicide in the span of less than two years. Many students believe that this speaks to a lack of support for mental health services at U of T.

Students have criticized U of T’s mental health services and policies, but Dr. Ellen Hodnett, the university’s ombudsperson, accused students of using misinformation to resist the university-mandated leave of absence policy — a policy which “allows the university to place students on a leave of absence if they exhibit severe mental health problems that the university feels pose a potential risk of serious harm to themselves or others.” This occurred during a Governing Council meeting on October 24 — a stance that the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) found “belittling.”

Hodnett’s comments are similar to a pattern we’ve seen among university representatives, who time and again showed that they will not prioritize student concerns above university administration. Unfortunately, Hodnett’s response is just one example of an instance where students feel ignored and belittled. Instances like these discourage students and student representatives from engaging with university policies and, consequently, lead to a resentful student populace.

The subversion of students’ voices extends outside of policy-making; it even includes their basic safety and day-to-day campus life. Last year, the U of T dismissed students’ concerns that inclement weather was dangerous, and Vice-President & Provost Cheryl Regehr suggested that students could simply stay overnight in Robarts Library during harsh weather conditions.

Regehr’s comments gave students two choices: let your grades suffer or suffer hazardous conditions. Recent updates to the cancellation of classes policy acknowledge the error of the university’s untimely cancellations, but this is a change that is well overdue, as U of T is yet again reactively mediating a long-established issue. 

These examples do not include the long history of complaints over inaccessible loan and bursary systems, critiques concerning U of T’s lack of campus culture, concerns about student safety, and frustration over U of T’s mental health services. 

Importance of the student voice

Several academic sources agree that the student body’s voice and culture are both important to universities. Barbara Sporn, a professor at the Vienna University of Economics and Business, noted that “universities are complex social organizations with distinctive cultures,” and Joseph Simplicio, who authored several books concerning university education, argues that “a university’s culture, tradition, and values are not only important, they are vital to the wellbeing of the institution because they provide stability and continuity.”

However, a lack of culture and understanding of students’ needs can make it difficult for administration to properly manage higher education institutions. “Changing environmental conditions exert strong influence on… universities,” explained Sporn. Simplicio further added that “the delicate balance of all [university] interactions can be quickly upset.” Scholars agree that university culture and its impact on students is important, yet it feels like U of T has done little to treat these factors with the weight they deserve.

According to a study published in the Journal of Psychology & Psychotherapy, an unhappy, stressed student body harbours poor performance in studying and learning. It also leads to “low social readjustment,” poor personal hygiene, psychological anxiety, indecision, and depression among students.

According to a 2004 poll from The Princeton Review, U of T has “the least happy students” in North America. In response, U of T’s vice-provost accused The Princeton Review of “trying to sell books” under skewed research methods.

I do not meant to belittle U of T as an institution — quite the contrary. I love this university, the high quality of education it provides, the clubs I get to be a part of, and my work within the community. It is because I love our students and this institution that I care about the strength of our community. I proudly wear U of T merchandise, and I brandish the university’s name on my social media pages.

Although U of T has its fair share of problems, I see that administration is slowly changing to amend some concerns. I know that U of T can do better, and it must.

The first step to solving a problem is admitting that you have one, and one of the U of T’s biggest problems is its band-aid solutions. The administration has the capacity to make strides in its policies to better accommodate student concerns it just has to be more proactive.

Morgan McKay is a second-year Criminology student at Woodsworth College.

UTSG: Paddling Down Memory Lane – U of T Concrete Canoe Event

Calling out to all University of Toronto Concrete Canoe friends!

Are you a past/current canoe member? Are you interested in supporting the UofT Concrete Canoe community? This event is for YOU!

With this Mix & Mingle event, we’d like to bring together the canoe community from across generations and trace through the stories of UofT Concrete Canoe with its over 30 years of history.

UTSG: DIY Concrete Ornaments — U of T Concrete Canoe

What’s more special than a DIY Concrete Ornament?

Come make your own and help Concrete Canoe with this seasonal special fundraiser! A variety of moulds will be available or you can get creative and design something completely novel!

You will make your ornament on November 30 and pick up the week after (concrete needs to cure!). Upon pick up, $2 is required to support Concrete Canoe 🙂

If you can’t make it to this DIY session, we would also be selling ornaments everyday 12-2pm in Bahen atrium all week of December 9.

U of T cancels Summer Abroad program in Hong Kong

University cites students’ safety as reason for cancellation, in contact with 20 students in Hong Kong

U of T cancels Summer Abroad program in Hong Kong

The University of Toronto has cancelled its Hong Kong Summer Abroad program for this summer, amidst growing protests, especially on university campuses. In the past month, there have been significant conflicts between police and protestors at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and Hong Kong Polytechnic University.

The university is also in contact with 20 students who are currently registered to study in Hong Kong.

“The safety of our students is a top priority,” wrote a university spokesperson in an email to The Varsity. “We have been carefully monitoring the situation in Hong Kong, and after much consideration, we have decided to cancel the summer abroad program in Hong Kong this year.” U of T is partnered with the Chinese University of Hong Kong for its Summer Abroad and exchange programs.

The situation escalated earlier last week when police stormed the Hong Kong Polytechnic University in a siege on protestors, leaving hundreds of people trapped inside for days. Students from universities all over the world have left the city as the conflict continues. Other universities across Canada, including the University of British Columbia (UBC) and the University of Calgary, have recommended that their exchange students vacate Hong Kong. UBC announced that 20 of its 31 students studying abroad in Hong Kong have left the city, and that more have plans to leave.

A university spokesperson wrote that “We have been in continual contact with registered U of T students in [Hong Kong] throughout the summer and fall,” noting that U of T has 20 students registered in Hong Kong. “We have worked with each student and their partner organization to ensure their safe transition back to U of T and the completion of their fall semester.”

Hogan Lam, an organizer with the U of T Hong Kong Extradition Law Awareness Group (UTHKELAG), expressed ambivalence about the cancellation. “To be honest, I don’t know whether it’s a good decision according to the current situation in Hong Kong right now,” said Lam. “I personally [think] it is a pity because I feel like learning in Hong Kong is so different from learning from any other places, because it’s a really unique city.”

UTHKELAG has also released an open letter asking the university to take action on the situation in Hong Kong, as part of its continued activism efforts, including a hunger strike and multiple sit-ins.

The letter’s demands include condemning the Hong Kong police force, assisting university members in Hong Kong, and contacting the Chinese University of Hong Kong to ensure measures are in place to stop conflicts from happening at the university in the future.

“We heard your concerns”: UTSG adjusts adverse weather closure policy

Administration responds to student outrage, outlines efforts to announce closures by 6:30 am

“We heard your concerns”: UTSG adjusts adverse weather closure policy

On October 31, U of T’s Vice-President & Provost Cheryl Regehr and Vice-President, Human Resources & Equity Kelly Hannah-Moffat released a memo outlining new adjustments to its adverse weather closure policy, which commits to notifying students of closures and cancellations by 6:30 am through the communications department of each campus.

The memo follows widespread student outrage toward the school’s approach to weather-related closures and cancellations last winter — in particular, delayed notices to students and late closures relative to other universities in the Toronto area, as well as uncleared sidewalks. U of T reassures its students that it “will continue to listen to [the] community” as new information brings about opportunities for new policy and improvements.

Key changes to UTSG’s weather closure policy

The memo highlighted that the university will not only coordinate with other schools, but also with multiple transit systems when deciding whether to close the UTSG campus or not. In particular, U of T has committed to monitor the GO Train service and surrounding highways for closures and delays.

“We know that many members of our community face extended commute times to our campuses, especially in bad weather,” wrote U of T spokesperson Elizabeth Church to The Varsity. “For that reason, efforts will be made to announce any cancellations or closures by 6:30am.”

Updates will be posted to each campus’ homepage and on social media. The university also reminded students that updates can be accessed from the new U of T alert system. Students can subscribe to the system and receive information on cancellations and closures through email or text message.

Campus closures and commuter students

In 2015, U of T participated in a study that focused on student transportation across 10 university and colleges called StudentMoveTO. “The population for postsecondary students is always underrepresented,” said Khandker Nurul Habib, an associate professor in the Department of Civil & Mineral Engineering at U of T and a co-applicant at StudentMoveTO, “because of very narrow population growth, and a significant portion of the student population lives in dorms and apartments, they are basically missed in terms of representation in regional household surveys.”

According to Habib, almost all participating schools allowed the study to access the entirety of its student population for random sampling, however, he claims that U of T only provided a limited sample.

“This survey is bold,” Habib said, “[it gives] a snapshot of your life… so it gives us information to do a lot of statistical exercises.”

“[This] can explain peoples and students’ reactions to different transportation systems.”

Comparing to other universities

U of T’s closure policy statement on its website notes that the school makes closure decisions with information from “University Operations and Real Estate Partnerships, Environment Canada, TTC, city and provincial police, and other relevant agencies and institutions, including [Toronto District School Board], Ryerson University, George Brown College and Sheridan College.”

Ryerson University decides campus and class closures through an internal assessment of weather conditions done by the director of integrated risk management advising the school’s vice-president, administration and finance, who, alongside the president to the provost and vice-president academic, will delegate the final decision.

OCAD University’s website claims that its weather policy is dependent on the school’s president or designate’s decision. George Brown’s website has no mention of its internal decision making procedure.

Can stress-buster events fix mental health at U of T?

How student groups are stepping in to fill the void U of T has left behind

Can stress-buster events fix mental health at U of T?

Content warning: this article contains mentions of suicide.

It’s exam season at U of T. This time of year, stress-buster events are a mainstay, ranging from immersive workshops to meditation techniques to plant potting.

They’re intended to help students take their minds off their worries. However, in the context of the mental health crisis at U of T, they are also a common target of criticism. The general consensus seems to be that these events are attempts by the administration to address the needs of a struggling student population in the most superficial way possible.

Metaphors abound: damming a river with a coffee filter, or launching a Saturn V rocket with Mentos and Coca-Cola. At protests, on social media, in classrooms, and in ordinary conversations, students have been clear: these events simply aren’t enough — they don’t even come close.

However, for many students, stress-buster events can be a helpful way of letting off steam during a demanding and isolating period. Combined with appropriate outside treatment, they can also help students struggling with more severe issues engage with others and combat loneliness. It’s also notable that many stress-busting initiatives are hosted by independent student groups, who are doing what they can to help struggling peers.

However, a critical assessment of these events illuminates the need for holistic mental health reform, both at U of T and in our society at large.

Picking up the university’s slack

U of T students face punishing workloads, issues with mental health, an isolating campus culture, and inaction from the highest level of the university administration.

In this environment, the idea that our problems can be meaningfully addressed by spending an hour planting a succulent feels insensitive and misinformed at best. At worst, these events seem outright negligent — not because they are harmful, but because they exist within a context characterized by the university’s failure to provide effective and accessible mental health services.

This is exemplified by one student’s comment on the How Many Lives? website, which features anonymous testimony on mental health at U of T: “I’m tired of asking for help and being referred to a session to make DIY bath bombs.”

Indeed, many students need more than arts and crafts and a therapy dog — they need a therapist. But when they turn to Health & Wellness, they can experience unjustifiably long wait times, exhausting bureaucracy, and punitive policies. In the face of this, it is ultimately up to student organizations to fill in the gaps of support.

One such example is Healing Hearts Through Art (h2art). Following the third apparent suicide at the Bahen Centre for Information Technology within two years, h2art was launched in October by Christeen Salik. The group was created in order to facilitate art-based healing opportunities for students.

In an interview with The Varsity, Salik remarked that, though she had always been open about her mental health, she found that art was the only avenue through which she could heal and express the complex feelings that arose after the apparent suicide in March. Art, she reasoned, could also help students without the English-language skills to comfortably communicate with a counsellor, and students who are more comfortable with non-verbal communication.

Salik observed that the university seems “fragmented” on mental health. She called for increased funding for mental health services, as well as for greater collaboration between Health & Wellness, colleges, faculties, and student groups — though she was quick to note that ultimate responsibility falls on the university.

Salik also mentioned that she knew many student activists who have had to take breaks this semester after “pouring themselves” into their activism.

“We’re obviously picking up the slack right now,” she said.

A fundamental lack of resources

StrengthIN is another student group that has grown from the mental health crisis. This student organization works to help students develop practical strategies to maintain their mental health. Originally founded to facilitate mental health workshops for high school students, it has recently begun to host workshops and stress-buster activities on-campus.

I recently attended an event facilitated by the organization: a Harry Potter-themed mental wellness workshop. As the soundtrack of the films played in the background, attendees were seated around tables in the Hart House East Common Room. The event’s facilitators encouraged us to share our experiences with mental health and coping, as well as techniques to combat stress and broader pressures on our mental health.

Later, I sat down with two of the event’s organizers: Zara Mian, an event coordinator, and Kyla Trkulja, StrengthIN’s secretary. They explained that the group does what it can and tries to stay focused on combatting loneliness among students while enhancing students’ coping techniques.

Trkulja spoke about how her past experiences mobilized her to join StrengthIN. She lives with depression and anxiety, and tried to access counselling through the Health & Wellness Centre last year when she experienced a relapse.

Although she arrived at the centre during a moment of crisis, she was quickly sent away with instructions to come back with a doctor’s referral. She claims that when she acquired one, Health & Wellness took a month to send her an automated email indicating that she could book an appointment. The next available appointment? Four months away.

When the opportunity arose to help StrengthIN facilitate mental health workshops for students, Trkulja jumped at the chance. She commented, “We need as many resources as we can get.”   

Both Mian and Trkulja agreed that administrative inaction has put a weight on the shoulders of student groups like StrengthIN.

“They do put like a burden on groups like ours,” said Mian.

This is ultimately a responsibility that they cannot shoulder alone. Providing comprehensive care cannot start and end with stress-buster events and workshops alone.

“[StrengthIN is] realistic [about] what we can do,” said Mian. “We’re not mental health professionals.”

“We need to change everything”

Ramata Tarawaly is the Associate Director of Community Wellness at Trinity College, a role which encompasses two broad portfolios: working to connect individual students struggling with mental illness with supports like counselling, and promoting well-being throughout the college’s community.

Tarawaly told me that she sometimes gets critical feedback from students who ask why the college invests in wellness and stress-buster events when they are not appropriate remedies for severe mental health issues.

“That’s not their intention,” she said. “I think that’s why we need multiple different targets in terms of promoting good mental health [and] engaging with people who are experiencing mental illness. The programming is one aspect of more of a community approach.”

She noted that easily accessible programs like stress-buster events can actually help support the treatment and goals of students struggling with mental illness.

“Students that are having [issues with] anxiety, depression, or stress have… reported to me that [stress-busters and community building events] are helpful,” she said.

Furthermore, she told me that Trinity’s approach to wellness programming has been attentive to the needs of the students that she works with. This year, the college has been increasingly oriented toward activities that require less overt socialization after students expressed that social anxiety was a barrier to attendance.

She noted that, “You don’t have to socialize, but you’re in a social space.”

As conversations surrounding mental health have become more prevalent, Tarawaly has noticed a positive trend of students actively indicating their needs, critiques, and recommendations to the administration.

“We’ve worked really hard to meet those needs and be responsive,” she said.

Tarawaly’s position is a model that could be usefully applied across the university. Her position is a centralized role with the resources and capacity to support mental health at U of T by working with various entities such as students, Health & Wellness, community advisors, and the wider college administration.

However, the resources and funding available to the university and community as whole makes it difficult to replicate this role. A registered nurse, Tarawaly is no stranger to interacting with health care systems and thinking about the overarching remedies that must be made to better them.

“We need to change everything,” she said.

The dangers of a partial fix

Although the overwhelming lack of available institutional mental health resources has led to student groups running stress-buster events, it still must be acknowledged that these events are not sufficient and sustainable support structures for students.

Lucinda Qu, one of the founding members and organizers of the student group called the UofT Mental Health Policy Council, emphasized the importance of developing “continuums and networks of care.” This would necessitate improved coordination of mental health strategies, services, and resources across levels of administration, ranging from leaders of mental health programs to professors, as well as improved communication between the administration and students.

For Qu, the prevalence of stress-busters and student perceptions of administrative inaction on mental health is connected to a broader phenomenon.

“A certain proportion of U of T’s resources could, and perhaps should, go toward the implementation of stress-busters,” she said. However, she also believes that the university relies too heavily on the promotion of stress-buster events and interventions, as opposed to meaningful strategies to address the root causes of mental illness on campus and to provide adequate support for individuals struggling with a mental illness.

In addition, the mindfulness that’s often practiced at stress-buster events is not comprehensively enough on its own in order to address the prevalence of mental illness on campus. Some events that teach meditation methods can actually be detrimental to student health.

According to a 2014 study in Future Medicine, the practice of mindfulness through meditation can trigger side effects such as panic attacks, dissociation, or suicidal feelings.

That means that students who lack this information beforehand may attend stress-buster events that advocate for mindfulness or meditation and come out feeling worse than before, which has the potential for serious emotional harm.

A path forward

Though they are an easy target of criticism — much of which is warranted — stress-busters aren’t all bad. In fact, their prevalence and pitfalls are largely visible symptoms of a deeper systemic issue: U of T’s lack of meaningful action on mental health. Intentionally or unintentionally, stress-busters have ended up helping to fill the void that has been left behind.

The experiences of student groups, activists, and even some administrative staff are instructive. Across the board, those interviewed agreed that more funding, better coordination amongst staff and between staff and students, centralization of a mental health mandate, and clear pathways to comprehensive care are needed.

If U of T provided extensive, easy-to-access mental health care and undertook academic, cultural, and financial changes to reduce the burdens shouldered by students, then stress-buster events would function as they are intended to. They could be fun, helpful ways to ease stress, lighten moods, and connect with others during stressful times.

However, right now, stress-buster events serve as an inadequate stopgap intended to help keep the student population afloat, many of whom are struggling in the absence of institutional support. The abilities of stress-busters are limited, which is largely recognized, but they do what they can.

“If we can help one person [who is] struggling,” Trkulja said, “then I feel that all the effort is worth it.”

If you or someone you know is in distress, you can call:

Canada Suicide Prevention Service phone available 24/7 at 1-833-456-4566

Good 2 Talk Student Helpline at 1-866-925-5454

Ontario Mental Health Helpline at 1-866-531-2600

Gerstein Centre Crisis Line at 416-929-5200

U of T Health & Wellness Centre at 416-978-8030.

Warning signs of suicide include:

Talking about wanting to die

Looking for a way to kill oneself

Talking about feeling hopeless or having no purpose

Talking about feeling trapped or being in unbearable pain

Talking about being a burden to others

Increasing use of alcohol or drugs

Acting anxious, agitated, or recklessly

Sleeping too little or too much

Withdrawing or feeling isolated

Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge

Displaying extreme mood swings

The more of these signs a person shows, the greater the risk. If you suspect someone you know may be contemplating suicide, you should talk to them, according to the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention

Opinion: Expand and promote on-campus vaccinations

Bringing health care to students is a great step toward accessible well-being

Opinion: Expand and promote on-campus vaccinations

It’s that time of year again. As lecture halls fill with sounds of coughing, sneezing, and sniffling, courtesy of students who refuse to cover their germ-laden mouths in class, you can be sure that flu season is upon us.

As a child, I dreaded going to the doctor and getting stabbed in the arm with an obnoxiously long needle — and honestly, I still do. However, one thing I do appreciate is how easy it is to go in to my local walk-in clinic and get vaccinated. This ease of access — a privilege that many do not have — saves me tons of time.

The availability of immunizations on campus is a huge step toward establishing health care that is both equitable and accessible.

For commuter students like myself, the act of getting a flu shot has become an afterthought. When I’m commuting an hour and a half to get to class, where I’ll be from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, when will I find the time to get a flu shot?

However, this November, I was able to get my flu shot after just a two-minute walk to Sidney Smith Hall. Instead of having to miss a lecture — or worse yet, a tutorial quiz — I was immunized in just a few minutes.

While the university has taken a step in the right direction, there are still a number of ways that administration can improve the availability and awareness of these programs.

For example, the lack of advertising was astounding. I only heard about the flu shots through word of mouth, which, given the university’s resources, is not a very effective method for conveying this information.

U of T should further utilize online resources such as social media posts to communicate these beneficial programs to students. As of the time of writing, U of T’s Instagram account has roughly 105,000 followers. By amplifying the presence of on-campus immunizations, U of T could foster a larger turnout for next year. Increasing the total number of students who are able to get their flu shot ultimately helps the entire school community.

Moreover, in-person advertising, such as an information booth outside Sidney Smith Hall, would also increase general awareness of these vaccination areas.

Additionally, in order to increase ease of access for students living in residence, it would be specifically helpful to have immunization centres inside colleges. It’s important to keep in mind that these are students who might be taking responsibility of their own health for the first time ever. Personally, if St. Michael’s College hosted pop-up immunization stations at Brennan Hall, I would certainly take advantage of this opportunity.

Bringing accessible health care to the student body, rather than expecting students to access it outside of campus, has been a positive development for U of T students, especially commuters. Moving forward, we must continue to expand these efforts, not only through increased advertising, but also by diversifying the locations of on-campus flu shots beyond just a few near the centre of campus.

Vaccinations are crucial in ensuring that student health is maintained. Complications that arise with failing health impede physical wellness and academic functionality. Ensuring that students are able to prevent illnesses in a free and accessible manner gives everyone more time to study for those awful finals that are coming up.

Angad Deol is a first-year Life Sciences student at St. Michael’s College.

Planning and Budget Committee approves space lease for the Faculty of Arts & Science

Strategic Mandate Agreement, Student Choice Initiative, new Rotman academic plans discussed

Planning and Budget Committee approves space lease for the Faculty of Arts & Science

On October 31, the Planning and Budget Committee (PBC) of U of T’s Governing Council voted to recommend leasing the 17th floor of the Ontario Power Generation Building, located at 700 University Avenue. This would serve to accommodate additional space needs for the Faculty of Arts & Science (FAS).

The PBC also presented updates from the university’s Strategic Mandate Agreement (SMA) with the province, as well as the Student Choice Initiative (SCI). It further proposed changes to the Rotman School of Management’s long-term academic plan, and discussed the ongoing Budget Model Review.

The PBC, which is overseen by the Academic Board, is responsible for “monitoring, reviewing, and making recommendations” on issues that involve the use of U of T’s resources, such as funds, land, and facilities.

Leasing the 17th floor of the Ontario Power Generation Building

The PBC unanimously voted to recommend the leasing of the 17th floor of the Ontario Power Generation Building to accommodate space needs for the FAS, mainly to house the Department of Sociology.

The project, if approved, will move the Department of Sociology to this more central location, as the department is currently located in the northwest corner of UTSG by Bloor Street West and Spadina Avenue.

Part of the Vector Institute and several other FAS units will also be housed on the same floor.

Strategic Mandate Agreement

The SMAs are bilateral agreements between the province and each of Ontario’s 45 publicly assisted colleges and universities, and determine the amount of funding they receive. The current SMAs are set to expire in 2020.

The provincial government has introduced new performance-based funding frameworks for existing funds for universities and colleges across Ontario. The 10 performance metrics fall into the broader categories of skills and jobs, community impact, and economic impact. For example, graduation rates and employment rates fall under the area of skills and jobs.

To evaluate U of T’s performance as an academic institution and determine the amount of funding allocated for U of T, the provincial government will look at the trends over time for each metric. U of T will work with the provincial government to finalize the allocation of provincial funding across the ten performance metrics by March 21, 2020.

In 2020–2021, U of T projects that it will receive $170 million — 12 per cent of its total operating budget — through its SMA with the provincial government, and anticipates this amount will grow to $400 million by 2024–2025.

Student Choice Initiative

The provincial government’s SCI, which took effect this fall, allowed students to opt out of incidental fees that are categorized as “non-essential.”

Meredith Strong, Director of the Office of the Vice-Provost, presented the opt-out numbers and data on the effects of the SCI on student services and societies for the fall 2019 term.

There were a total of 523 optional fees across U of T, with 30 or more fees deemed optional for each student, depending on their program.

Fees which students could opt-out of ranged from $15 to $380 per term. If a student opted out of all their incidental fees, they saved anywhere from three to 36 per cent in incidental fees, depending on their program and campus.

Opt-outs from non-essential incidental fees resulted in a $300,000 reduction in total revenue for student services, and a $1 million reduction in total revenue for student societies.

In response to a member’s question on what would happen if the Canadian Federation of Students–Ontario’s (CFS–O) and the York Federation of Students’ (YFS) judicial review of the policy was successful, Strong said that U of T is monitoring the case and that the SCI would continue to be implemented until the government directs the university to do otherwise.

On Thursday, the Divisional Court of Ontario ruled in favour of the CFS–O and CFS, deeming the SCI unlawful and ultimately finding that the provincial government lacked the legal authority to regulate the collection of student union fees.

Miscellaneous items

Trevor Rodgers, Assistant Vice-President of Planning & Budget, spoke on the ongoing Budget Model Review. U of T adopted a new budget model in 2006, which has five pillars: inter-divisional teaching working, alternative funding sources, Strategic Mandate Agreement, operational excellence, and tri-campus budget relationships.

New recommendations from the review include aligning academic priorities according to the provincial government’s performance metrics and implementing teaching methods from UTSG to UTM and UTSC.

The Dean of Rotman School Tiff Macklem presented changes for Rotman’s academic plan for 2019–2024.

The plan centers on four core goals: advancing research scholarship, focusing on experiential learning and personal development, extending thought leadership in the global community, and strengthening alumni engagement and Rotman’s global network.

Members of the PBC also discussed a proposal to construct a new building for undergraduate Rotman students.

The next PBC meeting is on January 9, 2020.