April 6, 2016
U of T Mississauga Town Hall
April 6, 2016
Vice-President and Principal Deep Saini hosted the annual UTM town hall, this year in a “listening” format, on April 6, Room 2072, William G. Davis Building. Members of the UTM community were invited to send in statements or questions prior to the town hall, and to raise issues and questions at the event itself. Members of the UTM senior administration, faculty and administrative staff have provided the answers, below.
- (via email) The idea of "listening" but not responding seems like an effort to evade accountability. I have an issue about how senior appointments (Dean, VP Research) have been made without broad consultation about the appointees. I would like an answer, not merely a chance to voice a concern that then goes down a wormhole of silence. I don't want a meaningless and predictable response from the Principal: "I understand your concern, and we will take it into account in future." I want somebody to say publicly why these appointments/reappointments were made and why nobody was consulted.
First, I fully respect your right to the opinion but I find it unfortunate that you would think so. To the contrary, the format of this town hall is conceived to listen carefully and then follow up with full information and/or appropriate action. I wish that you had waited to see what actually happened at the town hall.
Appointment of the Vice-Principal, Academic & Dean: The appointment faithfully followed the process outlined in the relevant policy: http://www.governingcouncil.utoronto.ca/Assets/Governing+Council+Digital+Assets/Policies/PDF/ppoct302003i.pdf
In keeping with the policy, a call for nominations was sent to faculty, staff, and students of the University of Toronto Mississauga as well as Principals, Deans, Academic Directors & Chairs across U of T, and was published in The Bulletin on May 13, 2015. Following receipt of nominations, the Co-Chairs of the Committee jointly decided who should be asked to serve on the Advisory Committee as mandated by the Policy on Appointment of Academic Administrators. The President approved the membership of the Committee on July 13, 2015. These individuals were then invited to serve. All accepted and a Committee of 14 individuals representing a cross-section of the university was established.
At that point, a memo was sent (on July 17, 2015) to faculty, staff, and students of the University of Toronto Mississauga and The Bulletin announcing the Advisory Committee’s membership and inviting comments and nominations for the position. Another memo went out to members of the UTM community on October 14, 2015 advising that an extensive international search was under way and, once again, inviting nominations and applications. A link to the job profile was included and posted on the UTM homepage at that time.
The Committee met on September 9, 2015, November 4, 2015, December 18, 2015, and January 21, 2016. During those meetings, a new position profile was created. The Advisory Committee consulted widely. This included receiving and considering written responses to the earlier calls for comments, meetings with external reviewers, a Vice-Deans’ panel, a Chairs’ panel, and UTM’s Vice-Principal, Academic & Dean at the time, Professor Amy Mullin.
To maintain the integrity of the search process and to protect the privacy and reputation of candidates, we do not publicize the names of specific candidates outside of the committee. This is a highly sensitive process, and in order to be able to attract the best potential candidates it is imperative that we offer confidentiality throughout the process. Thus, after deliberations by the committee, four candidates were short-listed (two external candidates and two internal candidates). All four were interviewed on February 18, 2016, and there was a clear consensus amongst Committee members that Amrita Daniere was the most suitable candidate for the role.
Extension of the term of Vice-Principal, Research: The relevant policy dictates that UTM”s Vice-President & Principal can appoint a Vice-Principal for a maximum of one year beyond his or her own term in office. My first term as UTM’s Principal was to end on June 30, 2015. Thus, the current Vice-Principal, Research (Bryan Stewart) could be initially appointed for only three years (from July 1, 2013) even though the normal term for this office is five years. I was subsequently appointed to a second term in office starting July 1, 2015, and was then in a position to extend the term of Bryan Stewart for two additional years to the normal five years. This was not a re-appointment. The broad consultations for any re-appointment or a new search for this office will take place at the end of Bryan’s full five-year term.
- You had said that you would be working on a vision for UTM during your administrative leave. Will you share this vision with the U of T community? Will the new VP-Principal put these plans in place or start anew?
I did work on a vision for UTM and would have shared it with the community for further discussion. However, considering that I will be leaving U of T soon, I feel it is no longer appropriate for me to publicly articulate my vision for UTM. I will, however, share my thoughts and experiences privately with the President and the interim VP-Principal in the hopes that this will help the future leadership in developing their vision. In very broad terms, my ideas include reimaging the academic program mix at UTM; rethinking resource allocation within the U of T system; enhancing experiential learning including introduction of co-op; investing in initiatives that further enhance student success; and rethinking the administrative structure of UTM within the U of T family to reflect the current realities.
- The external review pointed to some problems at UTM. Have our efforts to build out our physical campus overtaken other possibilities and ideas for strategic growth? What are some of our campus’ new ideas?
First, we need to recognize that the report of the external reviewers was largely very positive. They have indeed pointed out some areas of concerns, among these our high student-to-faculty ratio. This is a direct result of the rapid growth in undergraduate enrolment in relation to our ability to hire additional faculty. The latter is, in turn, determined by the availability of funds, additional office and laboratory space for new faculty, and practical constraints that limit the number of faculty searches that can be conducted within a year. Increase in student and faculty numbers also necessitates hiring of more staff. These inextricably intertwined factors have informed our multi-year strategy to balance the space and faculty expansion, and this strategy has often been cited as an excellent example of thoughtful planning. The data show that we have been hiring faculty at the maximum rate permitted by our capacity to conduct searches and the availability of suitably qualified applicants. The same applies to staff. Our projections, which are periodically shared with the U of T community, show that the student-faculty ratio will begin to decline in the coming years. We believe that our plans in this regard are sound, and we intend to stay the course.
Other comments in the review, especially those pertaining to academic programming, culture and UTM’s place in the tri-campus system, are being considered as we develop a vision for the future.
- Has there been any progress made with regards to re-negotiating the budget model with the St. George campus?
The administration submits UTM’s needs and priorities annually to a central committee, a process that helps to determine the campus’ budget. UTM is no longer comparable to a St. George-based academic division. While, for now, we are working within the current budget model, we continue to make the case that, as U of T’s tri-campus model evolves, so should its budget model to reflect the distinctive nature and needs of UTM (and UTSC).
- Does U of T have plans to partner with state-run Iranian universities now that international sanctions have been lifted from Iran?
U of T partners with institutions around the world on the basis of shared interests, and when the quality and reputation of the potential partner match well with those of U of T. While I am not aware of any plans to preferentially engage with Iranian institutions, U of T would be open to working with them based on the above criteria.
- (via email) I wish to see a more diverse selection of majors for chemistry, physics and biology.
The University of Toronto Mississauga has been attracting excellent students because it offers so many choices and some of the best facilities in the world. With approximately 90 programs of study at UTM, the options are very broad. We offer nine programs in chemical and physical sciences, seven in biology. We are, however, always open to the possibility of new options. It is important, though, to keep in mind that it can be difficult to mount a large range of majors with distinct courses – each major needs to have a significant number of courses, enough faculty to teach them and a critical mass of enrolled students. In addition, the development of majors is a long process that requires an external review by the university.
- Does UTM have any campus-wide plans to address the communication deficiencies of our students (as noted by departments in the self-study document) through embedding oral/written communications into our degree requirements rather than year-to-year proposals or one-off interventions?
"Communications Skills" are identified and defined in the University of Toronto Mississauga's Undergraduate Degree Level Expectations (https://www.utm.utoronto.ca/dean/policies) and, as such, are already part of each program's requirements. To this end, the Office of the Dean provides support for individual departments to teach communications skills through the Writing Development Initiative (WDI) program. In recent years, the WDI program has expanded to provide specialized training to TAs to help them teach writing skills in writing-intensive courses. It has also provided longer-term funding for departments that have demonstrated success in integrating writing instruction in their programs. The WDI program supplements existing teaching and learning support provided by the Robert Gillespie Academic Skills Centre.
- Experiential learning is increasingly popular and effective for student success. I’d like to recommend a stronger experiential learning focus on this campus, for example: more projects/funding/resources. How can we build a larger experiential focus at UTM?
Over the years, experiential learning opportunities have been growing in number and scope at UTM, and encompass many types of practical learning, or "learning by doing." Current opportunities include academic internships, community engaged service learning, research opportunity programs, in-class experiences, field trips/courses, research courses, practicums, work-integrated learning, and more.
Experiences take place in outside agencies or in on-campus research settings, with faculty and/or community-based supervision. Learning is accomplished through project-based work, hands-on work and reflection.
The Experiential Education Office (EEO) at UTM aims to enrich the undergraduate education experience by promoting and nurturing unique opportunities and approaches to learning both within and outside the classroom. For more information, visit uoft.me/experience.
- (via email) At the last career fair I noticed almost all of the booths were hiring commerce and business majors and there were barely any booths that were looking to hire chemistry, biology or physics majors. In the future, I hope to see proportional representation of the different disciplines at career fairs or, if needed, separate career fairs for different disciplines of study.
The Career Centre invites employers from a wide variety of industries to our fairs, knowing students are looking for a diversity of opportunities. Employers choose to attend fairs due to reasons such as needing to hire a large number of students, wanting to reach a niche group of students, and hoping to raise their profile. Not all employers wish to attend fairs or view them as a helpful recruitment tool.
The Career Centre works with employers to offer other recruiting alternatives such as information sessions, employer “pop ups” and postings on the Career Learning Network (CLN). Employers may also participate in non-recruiting opportunities such as panels, roundtables, and the Extern Job Shadowing program.
Many employers rely on the "hidden job market" to fill positions, using their networks to publicize openings, and meet with networking job searchers. Job searchers who use these methods are seen as more enthusiastic and motivated because of their initiative, and their credentials may be more easily verified by trusted sources. The Career Centre offers workshops and individual appointments on networking, career planning and job search techniques to assist students in developing these skills. This past term, it also placed a career counsellor in the Department of Chemical and Physical Sciences.
- (via email) UTM degrees and jobs. Many universities have seen a shift in the expectations of students in connecting degrees with future jobs. What we provide is lip service in some of our disciplines. We aren’t connected with the workforce and we don’t steer students towards careers as we teach. It isn’t all our fault. As soon as a student has an expectation that a given degree will magically provide a career in X, they are falling into the trap of missing an opportunity to work proactively with the educator. What is needed is a shift in the culture of the educators at UTM hand-in-hand with that of the students (undergraduate and graduate). I believe that faculty need to pore through their curricula to identify elements in all programs that students could leverage toward becoming entrepreneurs or garnering employment. The spirit of entrepreneurism is very much alive in the UTM culture and we need to find a way to ignite this. If I may give an example, we are currently discussing the idea of refocusing the undergraduate biological chemistry degree to one with a medicinal chemistry focus. Note that one description sounds like science while the other sounds like an application. We plan to build a network of contacts with industries in the GTA, and introduce students to these contacts through invited talks, and literally help students prepare a professional portfolio. I became inspired to think about this disconnect between education and jobs when I heard Deep Saini speak about two years ago to the City of Mississauga. There, he spoke about the immigrant culture at UTM and I started to think that maybe this is the impetus we need to undergo a culture shift in our degree programs. One excellent way of representing this culture shift is through I-CUBE which is tiny at the moment but, with the backing of IMI and UTM, might be a starting point for students to think about becoming entrepreneurs and transforming society. Every department could start by creating a competition for I-CUBE sponsored projects that makes use of their said disciplines.
We agree that career development is best integrated in all our campus activities, and many partners on campus are already working towards this end. Each discipline is unique and provides students with transferable skills that can be used in the job market.
The UTM Career Centre supports all areas of the university that engage in career education with students, and encourages all departments to meet with them to work together. In terms of entrepreneurism, the Career Centre has noticed great interest at its career fairs from both external entrepreneurial organizations and students; it is currently working with I-CUBE on developing new strategies to further engage students in this area.
The Career Centre offers many programs for both students and departments to build an environment of career success. It helps students assess themselves, assess the labour market and make a balanced career decision. Among its strategies, it:
- works with faculty to help students assess the skills they develop through their courses and articulate these in a relevant manner to prospective employers
- helps students develop networking skills through career events
- encourages departments to host a career counsellor on a weekly basis to discuss students’ career concerns (this was done in the chemical and physical sciences department this year)
- assists students with career decision making by publicizing resources such as the Career Centre’s Careers by Major.
- In the 2014 Report of the Provostial Advisory Committee on Student Mental Health, the University laid out a series of recommendations, a framework, for how to better, more holistically, support student wellbeing within and beyond the traditional classroom. Can you speak to the role that senior UTM administration is playing in moving towards achieving those recommendations?
Universities across Canada and elsewhere are increasing support for students experiencing mental health concerns, from mild cases of stress and anxiety all the way to serious cases of students harming themselves. At UTM, we’re engaging across campus on the report’s goal of creating “conditions for students to flourish,” particularly in our services and programs. Some of the ways we are doing so are listed below:
- Students, through student governments such as our students’ union, Residence Council, Association of Graduate Students, and Athletics Council, have added nursing and counselling resources to UTM’s Health & Counselling Centre, to expedite assessment of mental health and crisis situations. Those with needs are triaged and matched with mental health professionals on campus and in communities, and we help those in crisis access emergency care. Our Department of Student Housing & Residence Life has also added a counsellor to ease access for students living on campus and to help staff who support them.
- Safe Talk suicide awareness educates student leaders, faculty and staff who don’t have formal training in mental health assessment to be attuned to signs of suicidal thought, ask appropriate questions and link to mental health professionals
- Exam Jam helps students build academic knowledge and stress management skills, and have fun while de-stressing before exams
- Fall Reading Week provides time for an academic pause and a mental health break, particularly helpful for first-year students transitioning to university
- Enhanced training helps UTM campus police assist students experiencing mental health difficulties
- Student-to-student peer health teams and equity and diversity staff run programs to decrease mental health stigma generally and within specific communities
- Shared programming by campus recreation staff, student leaders and health-care professionals reinforces the connection between healthy bodies and healthy minds.
- We need to have better student representation on U of T and UTM’s governance and planning bodies. How can we encourage this?
Numerical representation of students on our governing bodies is a function of the need to accommodate all key stakeholders. The total number of student representatives on UTM’s governing bodies compares very favourably with that at other institutions of similar size. So far, the quality of students elected to Campus Council and its standing committees has been excellent, and we – especially the student leaders – must continue to encourage the most thoughtful amongst our students to run for these spots.
- How will the new Ontario Student Grant program be implemented at U of T, and how will the university ensure equitable access to financial support?
The new Ontario Student Grant (OSG) is slated for launch in the 2017-2018 academic year. The goals are to ensure that available financial support is easy to understand, timely, and supports those students with the greatest financial need. It is anticipated that more students from low-income families will now apply to post-secondary study because they will understand that financial aid will be available.
The University of Toronto, upon official dissemination of policy and procedures from the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities (MTCU), will develop implementation plans for the new program across its three campuses. In the meantime, MTCU has provided an OSAP Transformation FAQ that answers a number of questions students and parents might have prior to release of finalized details. U of T is committed to providing equitable access to financial support (see U of T Policy on Student Financial Support). The assessment of need is currently based, in part, on a common mechanism that includes the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) and appropriate modifications as determined by the Vice-Provost Students and the University Registrar, in consultation with academic divisions. The University will continue to advocate for well-designed programs of government financial support for students and will endeavour to transition successfully from current programs to the new OSG with minimal impact on student services.
Students who have questions or are concerned about the financial support available to them are encouraged to come to the Office of the Registrar for a walk-in financial aid advising appointment.
- How will the university support students who don’t fall into the Ontario Student Grant qualifications (household income above $50,000, working 40 hours a week)? Is there a plan for the university to work with UTMSU to offer free education for everybody?
U of T will continue to support students with financial need that is not met by the new OSG. In a recent article, President Meric Gertler wrote, “U of T is the Canadian leader in ensuring accessibility, providing some $165 million per year in student financial support”. U of T will continue to provide access to financial aid advising, scholarships, grants, and bursaries. For example, the UTAPS program is available to students on all three campuses whose assessed need is not fully covered by government aid. In addition to that, UTM students with financial need may apply for the UTM Grant each year, and are also considered for other needs-based awards.
While free education was not part of the recent provincial budget, the changes announced to student financial aid in Ontario do mark a significant change to the current system, with a goal of simplifying and consolidating access to funds for students in need. UTM and UTMSU can work together to help inform students of what these changes mean, as more information is made available and the new program is implemented.
- International students pay high tuition fees, and many struggle financially. How can U of T better financially support international students?
The financial commitment of investing in post-secondary education can be significant. Expenses include tuition and student fees, living expenses, books, supplies, transportation, etc. In Canada, education is a provincial responsibility and in Ontario, the MTCU invests about $3.5 billion annually amongst the province’s 20 publicly assisted universities to support their teaching, research and service missions. The province controls the level of domestic tuition fees that universities may charge. For international students, universities cannot use provincial grant money to offset tuition fees. This means that international students must be self-funded, paying the full cost of their education while, for domestic students, a significant percentage of the cost of their education is subsidized by Canadian and Ontario taxpayers.
In order to apply for a student permit, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada requires that international students demonstrate they can financially support themselves and their family in Canada, covering tuition fees and living expenses. That said, international students whose situation has changed due to extenuating circumstances also have access to the resources and services provided by the university, including access to financial aid advising, scholarships, grants, bursaries, and on-campus work.
- (via email) I am a masters student in the MScSM program at UTM and my main message is concerning the waste bin situation at UTM. We have a ton of inconsistency in the bins at UTM. My team and I did a study regarding the bins and we found 17 different bin designs and inconsistent signage throughout the campus. As part of our capstone project, we partnered with CleanRiver (a recycling solutions company), and brought in two pilot bins to campus that you can see in the Instructional Building and the IMI Rotunda. These bins are well designed, have clear labelled items that are sorted in the correct streams, and have been approved by use by Facilities and Planning at UTM. During our study, we interviewed students and caretaking staff and received positive feedback from both parties regarding the bins. The students liked the clear signage telling them exactly what goes where while the care taking staff loved the easiness of adding and removing the waste bags. In addition, our study included waste audits of the bins at UTM versus the CleanRiver pilot bins. The bins at UTM have a waste diversion rate of 20% versus the CleanRiver bins have a waste diversion rate of 48%. I can provide you with the details of the study if required. My request is to invest in the bins from CleanRiver and ensure that we have the same bin design and consistent signage throughout the campus to help increase waste diversion. UTM claims to be an innovative and sustainable campus and I believe tackling this waste problem will only move it forward in that direction.
The thoughtful work conducted by you and your team is recognized and appreciated. The experience with the CleanRiver bins will be helpful to us in developing a replacement program for existing waste bins – which will be done on a phased basis. Please forward the details of your study to Paull Goldsmith, executive director of facilities management and planning, at email@example.com
- (via email) Art and sculpture. UTM has a beautiful campus and architecturally beautiful buildings. We are missing art and sculpture indoor and outdoor that reflects our multi-ethnic background and our shared vision for the future. Take a look at the Stuart Collection at UCSD. It’s bold shocking and inspiring and it’s something outside a textbook that students can share with their family and parents as they walk around the campus. We need to put functionality aside for a moment and look like a university with aspirations. We could start by forming student/faculty committees who would be charged with identifying aspects of our many cultures (history and vision) that we might want to depict. These elements are so very important if we wish to be part of a culture shift.
The UCSD Stuart Collection is indeed a superb model for UTM to emulate, one that succinctly encapsulates what a campus with aspirations can look like. UTM’s award-winning architecture and beautiful setting would be immeasurably enriched by a series of world-class public art projects that engage with our diverse cultures and histories as well as our shared values and hopes for the future. While public art at UTM will require fundraising and must meet the criteria outlined in the university’s Art Collection Policy, UTM’s curator, Professor Christine Shaw, wholeheartedly espouses this vision for the campus and will begin a consultation process next year.
- (via email) Once the North building, phase 2, is completed, will the offices in Davis that are currently being used by sociology and political science be used to expand on Science, Technology, Engineering, Math (STEM) faculty?
The allocation of space is handled by UTM’s Space Planning & Management Committee, typically on an application from a department chair or unit head.
- Currently prayer rooms are over-crowded or located in high-traffic areas. This causes some students to resort to stairwells. Students request prayer rooms in every building, with increased capacity and greater privacy.
The recognition and celebration of diversity is a core value at UTM, and by extension, we are continuously working to improve the availability of spaces appropriate for faith-based and spiritual practices on campus. Existing options for daily use include dedicated space in the Student Centre annex and two former teaching spaces in the CCT building. In response to student interest, recent additions include four ‘reflection bays’ in Deerfield Hall, which are small shared-space lounges in low-traffic areas for use by individuals who wish to quietly reflect, meditate, pray, relax or study. Individuals are also welcome to use undesignated spaces for faith-based and spiritual practices, while respecting the many and diverse needs and interests of other community members. With planning, group faith-based and spiritual practices can occur in spaces like Davis 1102 and other bookable rooms on campus, depending on frequency, timing, and availability.
As campus infrastructure expands and the pressure for academic space lessens, we will continue to identify spaces across campus where students can more comfortably and conveniently engage in faith-based and spiritual practices. While we wait for new spaces to be constructed, repurposing existing space (as was done in Deerfield Hall) can lessen immediate pressures. Opportunities in the existing Student Centre and that building’s expansion, for example, could help address current pressures.
UTM Student Affairs & Services and the Equity & Diversity Office are engaged in an ongoing conversation with chaplains and leaders from the Multi-Faith Centre at the University of Toronto about interfaith programs, chaplaincy services, and spaces for faith-based and spiritual practice at UTM, which we hope will have concrete, although possibly not immediate, outcomes. Our long-term goals are to have a variety of locations across campus that support UTM community members’ needs for reflection and mindfulness, including individual and group faith-based and spiritual practices, and to increase awareness, respect, and support for these UTM community members.
- Can we have more picnic tables on campus?
Six additional picnic tables will be placed around the campus as part of the annual spring clean-up. Once done, we will communicate with community members to let them know where the new tables have been located.
- The basement of the Davis Building is scary. How is UTM planning for campus safety in new and existing buildings, and what plans are there for student input into these plans?
Campus safety is an ongoing priority that UTM takes very seriously. Campus Police Services, under the leadership of manager Rob Messacar, is very proactive in this regard, and regularly consults with all campus constituencies on safety initiatives. If you have specific questions or suggestions, please forward them to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- (via email) UTM and the world. Recently we observed a number of small organizations across the country step forward to support refugee applications. We have the capacity to put aside two campus housing units for 2 refugee families. The idea would be to support 2 families on campus, but literally allow students to take the lead on welcoming and embracing these new families. Families would stay on campus until such time as they are ready to move into their own domiciles and take on jobs. We would serve as a safe haven and possibly a connection point for education or jobs. You might argue that this is not UTM’s agenda and you would be right. However, this type of on-campus activity would be a powerful cultural force for our student body to such a degree that I predict it would cost us nothing after fund-raising, except the loss of 2 on-campus housing units. (via email)
UTM is active in supporting UN refugee resettlement, hosting a new undergraduate student each year since 2007 through a partnership between U of T, UTM, UTMSU, and the World University Service of Canada program. This helps us take into account the world-wide refugee situation (with UNHCR activity in 125 countries, supporting 14.4 million refugees of the 19.5 million world-wide) and deploy our strengths in support of academically well-qualified students. Local support includes, in each student’s first year, the provision of on-campus room and board, tuition and fees, living expenses, and even more critically, transition support through advising, counselling, social opportunities, and immigration support, with many of these supports extending into upper years as well. It is resource-intensive, with key contributions of support and finances including UTM Student Housing & Residence Life, the International Education Centre, Hospitality & Retail Services, Student Affairs, the Office of the Registrar, and many, many student volunteers. We are restrained in broadly publicizing the program, so that the students who arrive here can settle in and adjust without unnecessary attention, but it’s something in which the broad UTM community can take great pride.
- Could UTM administrative staff in management positions or aspiring to management positions be offered UTM-specific HR training as a professional development opportunity?
Lynda Collins, director of human resources at UTM, will survey staff to identify opportunities for UTM-specific training and professional development offerings in concert with the university’s central Organizational Development & Learning Centre (ODLC).
- How can we encourage more cultural awareness between faculty and students?
At UTM, we are dedicated to ensuring that all members of our community—faculty, staff, and students—have the required knowledge and capacity to create inclusive learning spaces. To realize this commitment, the UTM Equity & Diversity Office, in collaboration with campus partners, will facilitate a series of workshops in the upcoming year that will help faculty to promote inclusion and access in the classroom and related learning contexts. In order to ensure that we are meeting student needs, if you have specific suggestions for what issues these workshops should address, please send them to the UTM Equity & Diversity Officer, Nic Weststrate, at email@example.com.