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.

Academic Board issues new report on mandatory leave of absence policy

Last board meeting before policy to go to recommendation stage

Academic Board issues new report on mandatory leave of absence policy

The University of Toronto is currently considering a university-mandated leave of absence policy that would affect students with mental issues that impact their academic engagements or pose a serious threat to themselves or people surrounding them. The university has been considering the policy since 2015, when it was part of the Ombudsperson’s 2014–2015 report.

Among the items discussed at the October 5 Academic Board meeting was the discussion on the leave of absence policy. Vice-Provost Students Sandy Welsh presented the policy.

According to the meeting report, “the proposed Policy was a result of a great deal of consultation and related to the Ombudsperson’s report over the past several years, which had identified the need for a policy like this. The proposed Policy had a built-in mechanism to ensure fair process and provides for a review and appeal.”

The document has circulated through several governance structures for information and discussion, first through the University Affairs Board, then the UTSC and UTM campus councils, and finally the Academic Board. The document will then go through the same cycle for approval before going to the Executive Committee for an endorsement and then the Governing Council.

In an interview with The Varsity, Welsh said that if the Academic Board does not recommend the motion, then it would not go to Governing Council.

Welsh justified the proposed guidelines of the policy, citing precedent in Canada and in the United States. “There are many Canadian and US universities that have this as a stand-alone policy or it’s part of a broader policy around students’ conduct or student issues,” she said.

If the policy were implemented, the financial aid status of students, including whether they receive OSAP, would be taken into consideration when imposing the mandated leave. Consultations between the student, their case manager, and the university’s financial aid office would occur. Similar talks would take place for international students being considered for mandated leave — with their student case manager, they would work with an international student advisor on their case. Students are expected to be actively enrolled in their program of study during the validity of their Study Permit, and they could face consequences during extended mandatory leave of absences.

“What we do know is that a leave may provide more options than a student simply withdrawing from their studies,” said Welsh. “A leave is a way that we’re able to look at what our options to support the international students are while they’re getting the care that they need.”

The university currently uses the Code of Student Conduct for potential leaves of absence. “In urgent situations involving serious threats or violent behaviour, the code allows for a student to be suspended under the interim measures of the clause of the code,” she said. The code is designed to be punitive; the proposed policy is not.

The university currently has no institution-wide leave of absence policy. According to Welsh, the School of Graduate Studies allows students to go on a voluntary leave of absence for reasons of serious health or personal programs. Members of the Faculty of Law and students in the MD program of the Faculty of Medicine wishing to take a leave can request one voluntarily, but requests will only be evaluated on a case-by-case basis and are not guaranteed.