U of T responds to allegations of student handcuffed by campus police

Vice-Provost declines to comment on reports, says campus police are trained in “de-escalation”

U of T responds to allegations of student handcuffed by campus police

Content warning: this article contains mentions of suicide.

At the University Affairs Board (UAB) meeting on November 13, Vice-Provost, Students Sandy Welsh was met with questions about the recent allegations that a student was handcuffed by UTM Campus Police while seeking help during a mental health crisis. Welsh declined to comment on the specifics of the case but clarified that such instances would be separate from the university-mandated leave of absence policy (UMLAP), and also defended campus police training.

Allegations

According to an article in The Medium, later reported by CBC News, a U of T student sought help for suicidal ideation at the Health and Counselling Centre (HCC), and was handcuffed when the the HCC called campus police on the evening of October 2. 

The student arrived at the HCC with a friend and developed a safety plan with a nurse. Before she could leave, she was informed that it was protocol to speak with campus police. The student was then handcuffed and arrested when she disclosed that she was having suicidal thoughts.

The Varsity has yet to independently verify the reported allegations.

The University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union (UTMSU) condemned the decision by the HCC to call the police. “The UTMSU believes that this student should have been approached with care and compassion, not handcuffs,” reads the press release.

University responds at UAB

Responding to a question from full-time undergraduate member Daman Singh, the former Vice-President, Internal of the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) and an advocate for the UMLAP, Welsh declined to comment on the details reported in the two articles, but did say that the UMLAP was about concerning behaviour and that it would be irrelevant in a situation where a student is being taken to the hospital.

Welsh, along with UTM Dean of Student Affairs and Assistant Principal, Student Services, Mark Overton, reiterated that police are there to assist in extreme cases and work in accordance with the province’s Mental Health Act.

In response to a member questioning the “authority and knowledge” of campus police to “put people in handcuffs,” Welsh replied that campus police officers are trained in de-escalation and work closely with the health and wellness offices of the three campuses.

A university spokesperson wrote in a statement to The Varsity, “Campus police become involved when an individual makes specific statements that [indicate] they have an intention to do harm such as suicide and are unwilling to go to the hospital.”

“U of T is reviewing its police practices in this respect. Our existing practices are consistent with those of local municipal forces.”

Community responses

The UTSU endorsed the UTMSU’s statement, writing that they “stand in solidarity,” and described the incident as an “injustice.” Other campus organizations including the Association of Part Time Undergraduate Students and the U of T Students’ Law Society also supported the statement. 

Spadina–Fort York MPP, Chris Glover, condemned the incident, writing: “What is the state of our services on campus if students looking for mental health support are turned away and led in handcuffs.” Glover also criticized the Ford government for removing services and thereby creating barriers to success for postsecondary students. 

UTSU President Joshua Bowman weighed in with a tweet asking “What University can stand by a protocol that actually ‘arrests’ a student seeking help?” 

Diana Yoon, former federal candidate for Spadina–Fort York, described the traumatic experience of being sent to the emergency room “without any reasonable discussion” after seeking help for mental health issues from a guidance counsellor while in high school. Yoon declared that it is “outrageous to see this now from UTM.”

This story is developing, more to follow.


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.

U of T still awaiting final guidelines on Student Choice Initiative

University Affairs Board passes fee increases for Student Life, KPE, Hart House

U of T still awaiting final guidelines on Student Choice Initiative

In anticipation of the Student Choice Initiative (SCI), Vice-Provost Students Sandy Welsh gave some of the first comments on the university’s progress on the issue at the University Affairs Board (UAB) meeting for March. The UAB also passed fee increases for Campus Life incidental fees, which include those for Student Life, the Faculty of Kinesiology & Physical Education (KPE), and Hart House.

As the Senior Assessor, Welsh reported that the university is currently waiting on the provincial government to provide more details on the SCI before any determination of essential and non-essential fees can be made.

The SCI is the provincial government’s plan to implement opt-out options for “non-essential” student fees, which could see many student clubs and services lose a significant portion of their funding.

Welsh brought up the current loose guidelines given for determining which fees are essential, showing a slide from a presentation made by the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities (TCU). The full presentation was obtained by The Varsity in early February and includes enforcement and rollout guidelines for the SCI.

The slide, titled “The Ancillary Fee Classification Framework,” listed athletics and recreation, career services, health and counselling, academic support, student ID cards, transcripts and convocation processes, financial aid offices, walksafe programs, student buildings and centres, and student transit passes as essential. Health and dental plans will also remain essential fees, while those with outside coverage can continue to opt out, which is in line with the current system for U of T.

Susan Froom, the UAB member representing part-time students, urged the university and Welsh to categorize as many fees as possible as essential.

Froom also raised concerns about how the SCI could impact Student Life, which provides services that could be categorized as non-essential, such as the Multi-Faith Centre, the Family Care Office, and the Sexual & Gender Diversity Office. Welsh replied that the university and her office do not have enough information about the classification process to provide further information, and are awaiting the final details from the provincial government.

Welsh also did not rule out the university centralizing or otherwise subsidizing impacted student societies when asked by another member of the UAB.

In a statement to The Varsity, TCU Ministry Issues Coordinator Ciara Byrne wrote that Minister Merrilee Fullerton had heard concerns from “many post-secondary students” about mandatory fees and that guidelines for the SCI would be released to institutions “shortly.”

The UAB also approved a 4.8 per cent increase for Student Life fees charged to full-time UTSG students, who will pay $164.24, an increase of $7.52 from this year. All fee increases must continue to move through the governance process and be passed by Governing Council before taking effect.

Senior Director of Student Experience David Newman also reported on Student Life, whose accessibility and Health & Wellness services would be considered essential. Newman explained that the administration would try to decrease reliance on student fees for Student Life programs and services, as additional staff had been hired this year.

The UAB also passed a $4.82, or 2.55 per cent, increase for KPE co-curricular programs, services, and facilities. Full-time students would pay $193.82 for services like U of T Sports & Rec, the Goldring Centre for High Performance Sport, Athletic Centre, Varsity Centre, and the David L. MacIntosh Sport Medicine Clinic.

Pending approval by Governing Council, students could see a fee increase for Hart House of $8.56, a 9.57 per cent increase totalling to $97.96.

John Monahan, Warden of Hart House, reported to the board that Hart House was preparing for its centennial celebration and would use the funds for continuing renovations in the Arbor Room, replacing the pool skylight, and increasing security.

Proposed smoking ban one step closer to full approval after passing at University Affairs Board

Ban described as “educative” over disciplinary, few details on enforcement

Proposed smoking ban one step closer to full approval after passing at University Affairs Board

The University Affairs Board (UAB) voted to pass the smoking ban at its November 19 meeting, moving the policy one step closer to full approval at the next Governing Council meeting on December 13. Cigarettes, cannabis, and vaping will all be covered in this ban, but certain smoking areas will be designated in the interim.

One area of concern that many attendees raised during the meeting was how the ban would be enforced. Vice-President Human Resources & Equity Kelly Hannah-Moffat said that the ban would be primarily an educative policy, not a disciplinary one.

A primary focus of the policy is to address the issue of secondhand smoke, and the effects it can have on students, even ones who don’t smoke.

University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) Vice-President University Affairs Josh Grondin agreed that the policy was a step in the right direction, but urged the UAB to take more time to review this policy.

Last week, Grondin created an online forum where students can give feedback on the smoking ban. One major concern that students had, according to Grondin, was its effect on marginalized students.

Many people were concerned that Campus Police would target students by their ethnicity. Grondin also pointed out that many students smoke cigarettes or cannabis as a stress reliever, and vaping should not be dismissed as an alternative to cigarettes.

Association of Part-time Undergraduate Students (APUS) Vice-President Internal Susan Froom also had many concerns about the policy.

She pointed out that the UTSU, APUS, and possibly many workers’ unions had not been consulted about the policy, and recommended that Governing Council take more time to review areas in which the policy could be improved.

She also pointed out that the designated smoking areas at UTM and UTSC were few and far between, and that students and workers may have to walk up to a kilometre just to smoke. These concerns were also raised at the UTM and UTSC Campus Council meetings.

The next stage of approval will be at the Business Board meeting on November 26.