November 26, 2014

U of T Mississauga Town Hall
Wednesday, November 26, 2014
Spigel Hall

The following questions were submitted by students, faculty and staff prior to the town hall. The sections focuses on themes of: construction and building infrastructure; student experience; international students; health and safety; academics; food services; transportation and parking; and a miscellaneous section. 

  1. Construction and Building Infrastructure
  2. Student Experience
  3. International Students
  4. Health and Safety
  5. Academics
  6. Food Services
  7. Transportation and Parking
  8. Miscellaneous

THEME: Construction and Building Infrastructure 

Responses by: Paul Donoghue, Nythalah Baker, Susan Senese

Can you give us an update on future campus construction and infrastructure over the next 3-5 years, specifically phase 2 of the North Building, the Student Services Plaza, the space in Davis previously occupied by the registrar’s office, and the Meeting Place?

  • 5-year rolling Capital Plan updated regularly; now has 90 projects (new construction, renovations and infrastructure) worth $215m - $270m
  • Major Impact:  budget review; government “ask”
  • North2 approved by governance and is now with government requesting capital in latest funding program; maybe an answer early in new year
  • Davis = 2 parts of Student Services Plaza (student service offices + permanent food court and expanded Meeting Place) – had to wait until registrars office vacated space in Davis
  • Must be staged (student services offices renovation deferred until North2 complete. Why? During construction of North2, the North2 classrooms will be relocated to Davis in space that will eventually be designated for student services)
  • Food court/Meeting Place now going out for design work

Are there plans to build more or larger parking and food service facilities near the recently constructed Deerfield Hall and Instructional Centre to spread these services more equitably throughout campus? Currently it feels as though parking and food services are more heavily concentrated on UTM’s south side.

  • Per approved Campus Master Plan, no additional parking at north end of campus
  • Lot #1 coming out of service for North2 (accessibility spaces adjacent to IB remain in service)
  • Parking Deck#2 going to Campus Affairs Committee Jan. 8
  • North2 will not have large-scale food services. North Side Bistro already in place; expanded Coleman Commons services being added to Instructional Centre; Davis2 will have permanent food court (all within 5 – 10 minute walk)
  • Must avoid over-fragmentation of outlets; permanent food court will have permanent kitchen in Davis

Are there plans for gender-neutral and multi-stall bathrooms, especially in newer buildings?

The Washroom Inclusivity Project will be taking place at UTM next term. This project ran at St. George this past spring, involving students and staff across equity offices and campus services to provide clear and updated information about the washrooms and their features at St. George. The inventory includes identifying where the single-user gender-neutral washrooms are on campus in addition to other accessibility and inclusivity features. At this time, the administration doesn't anticipate proposing all-gender multi-stall washrooms, but we're open to feedback on this. For more information see: http://sgdo.utoronto.ca/programs/washroom-inclusivity-project/

Will UTM be building more prayer spaces on campus?

There are a variety of multi-purpose spaces available at UTM that student groups can reserve for faith, prayer, and spiritual gatherings. Cat Criger, UTM’s aboriginal elder and Nythalah Baker, equity and diversity officer, are currently meeting with different student religious, faith, and humanistic group leaders to learn more about the activities under way on campus and needs their groups have, which includes access to multi-purpose spaces for worship, gathering, and prayer. As new buildings open, more spaces are being identified for multi-purpose use to allow students to access spaces for their spiritual and humanistic practices.

Additionally, Criger and Baker facilitate an Interfaith Council that brings together leaders and members from UTM’s student religious, faith, and humanistic groups to create opportunities for dialogue, shared programming interests, and growing interfaith on campus. 

Can UTM speed up wireless services on campus?

  • Wireless performance is a moving target with ever-increasing number of devices and reliance on the technology
  • We have completed two phases of a three-phase wireless upgrade project – all residences and the Library has been upgraded:
    • access point count has tripled in these buildings to accommodate more devices, increases in density and to support newer technologies
    • 3rd phase is to address the academic buildings and classrooms – work is in progress and will be completed by September 2015

Are there plans to install shelves in campus bathrooms so visitors can place their books, backpacks, and bags on a dry ledge? Counter-tops, floors and garbage can tops are usually wet.

  • This is now under way; 5 to 6 have been done; will work through others in months ahead; new construction will include shelves

Are there plans to add paper towel dispensers to campus bathrooms so visitors can wash and dry other parts of their bodies, for example, their faces?

  • No
  • $70,000 - $100,000 per year cost
  • Paper towels are no longer recyclable
  • Plumbing problems from abusive use

Can UTM build more lockers, or free up currently existing locker space, for undergraduates to rent?

  • Now about 551 lockers
  • Relocated 348 of those moved for renovations; down about 10
  • Rentals managed by UTMSU
  • Fixed building envelopes and budgets: more lockers can be considered, but is it priority for buildings?

Can UTM install more garbage cans on campus so there isn’t so much littering?

  • Now have 61 outdoor garbage cans
  • Will install more whenever asked for specific location
  • Problem is NOT too few garbage cans
  • Problem IS (like the smoking at doorways) a behavioural issue, for which we all need to take accountability

 

THEME: Student Experience

Responses by: Mark Overton, Dale Mullings

Last year’s town hall noted plans to enhance the student experience? How’s this going?

The three major highlights over the past year aimed at enhancing the student experience include departments and services:

  1. working even more closely to support students who are transitioning from high school to university studies, including  greater coordination between academic and out-of-class/co-curricular supports through our programs like utmONE,  rezONE, and  our First in the Family program
  2. fine-tuning new student orientation and even moving some of our resources typically made available during orientation earlier, and in some cases online so that students-to-be can access those resources from wherever they are in the summer before enrolling, and
  3. focusing on mental health support, from educating students on how to better manage the natural stresses that occur in a university setting through to how to support students who are experiencing severe stress and anxiety that requires one-on-one medical and psychological  intervention. 

What are the requirements for activities to be recognized on the co-curricular record, particularly so that UTMSU-related activities can be recognized?

The university recently began offering a co-curricular record, which is an official document of students’ university-related skills and experiences that aren’t typically captured on their academic transcripts.  It is based on building competencies, like leadership and civic engagement.  Because it is an official university record, one of the criteria for an activity to be included is having a university staff or faculty member assess and validate those activities.  UTM Student Life has been actively working with UTMSU and other student groups on how to recognize more opportunities.  Student organizations who want more information are welcome to contact UTM Student Life staff.

 

THEME: International Students

Responses by: Diane Crocker, Dale Mullings

What is our long-term strategy for international student recruitment? In what ways does our strategy differ from St. George and UTSC?

UTM has successfully attracted excellent international students from a wide variety of countries, particularly in the last five years.  We believe we currently have the right balance of international versus domestic student (20% of our incoming class are international students). We work together with the other divisions of the university in our international recruitment efforts.  The University of Toronto has developed an international recruitment strategy that recognizes the need for diversification, evidence-based allocation of resources, and a coordinated approach in terms of recruitment activities.   Unique to UTM, we have developed the ACE@UTM program to assist students whose first language is not English and it has been very successful in growing and providing students with the language skills they need for success.

Can we establish some scholarships for international students?

UTM already offers entrance scholarships for international students.

Why can’t the university retroactively adjust tuition fees when international students become permanent residents during the academic year?

The University has a comprehensive international fee exemption policy found here: http://www.fees.utoronto.ca/sessions/2014_2015/tuition_fees/international_fee_exemptions.htm .  Governing Council approves fee policies. The deadlines to submit proof of status change is before November 1 for a Fall/Winter session fee adjustment and before February 1 for a winter term only fee adjustment. These deadlines coincide with the dates that the government uses to capture university enrolment numbers of domestic and international students. The government transfers Ontario taxpayer funding to the university to offset the cost of education for domestic students. The Ontario government does not subsidize the cost of the education of an international student. A retroactive adjustment for a student who becomes a permanent resident after those dates would leave the university without government funding for the full cost of that student’s education.

How are we supporting international students on campus?

There are many initiatives supporting international students including:

  1. UTM is offering more support for new international students before they arrive.  We’re increasing contact, including electronic and virtual in-person support, not just for students who are citizens of other countries, but also Canadian citizens who’ve been living abroad, some for a few years to others almost all of their lives, on how to prepare for success here.
  2. The ACE@UTM program (Academic Culture and English) helps international students whose first language is not English, develop their English language skills and learn about our academic culture prior to entering university level studies and while they are beginning their university studies.   It also allows them to live in residence the summer before their first year so that they can more successfully adjust.
  3. Our International Education Centre is growing and supporting more students every year.  We now have a certified immigration advisor to help with things like student visa issues, and help graduating students to be eligible to stay in Canada to work, and eventually become Canadian citizens.  The IEC now has a staff member who is devoted to helping more UTM students study, conduct research, or complete an internship abroad.  We’re particularly focused on exchanges with other universities with strong matching programs to UTM’s, identifying courses that will be recognized towards a UofT degree, and introducing global opportunities that are unique to our students.
  4. This past fall, in partnership with the Office of the Registrar and T-Card Office, the International Education Centre introduced an Expiring Study Permit Alert System. This is significant because international students who allow their study permits to expire are unable to attend classes until a permit is reissued, and may be required to leave Canada immediately or face penalties from Citizenship & Immigration Canada, which impedes a student’s ability to complete his or her degree. All first-year and upper-year students who opted to register their study permit expiry dates, now receive 90-, 60- and 30-day notifications in advance of their permit expiring from the International Education Centre, and within the 30-day period, students receive phone calls from staff to encourage them to engage with services to renew their permits.

 

THEME: Health and Safety

Responses by: Paul Donoghue, Chad Jankowski, Nythalah Baker, Deep Saini

If the university is promoting a healthy lifestyle, why does it locate cigarette butt receptacles near to rather than farther away from exterior doors, forcing people to walk through a wall of smoke on exiting a building?

  • We tried locating receptacles further from door; only impact was large pile of cigarette butts near door

Why is the “No Smoking Within 9 Metres” signage never enforced?

  • Public Health has no authority on private property if not covered by law (e.g. bars/restaurants)
  • We need to question who would enforce this? Should we take away Campus Police from other duties?
  • There is need for peer-to-pressure enforcement and personal responsibility; “someone else” cannot solve the problem

How can students assist their peers facing mental health challenges?

One of the best things students can do to help support each other is to educate themselves about the mental health resources and supports that are available on campus and in our community so that they can share that information with their friends and classmates who are experiencing difficulty.  For example, the UTM Health & Counselling Centre offers educational programming and activities that promote mental health (such as MoveU and Exam Jam), Centre clinicians offer short-term counselling and support for students experiencing specific mental health challenges, and the Centre can provide referrals to community mental health specialists when complex or on-going care are needed.  All students also have access to Good2Talk, a free, confidential and anonymous telephone helpline that is staffed by professional counsellors and available 24/7.

In the past few years, UTM has trained over 500 community members, most of which have been students, in safeTALK, a suicide alertness program that helps participants recognize when students are experiencing difficulty, and provides them with the skills to ask about thoughts of suicide in clear and direct way, and ways to effectively connect someone with thoughts of suicide to helpers within our community.  In addition to required training for many student leaders, we offer monthly trainings that are open to any student.

UTM continues to be involved in the U of T Framework on Mental Health, which provides a shared direction for how we, as an institution, can strengthen mental health supports across all three campuses.  The framework highlights the need for a systems approach where the responsibility for student mental health is shared by students, faculty, staff and administration alike.  You will be hearing more about this as policies, procedures and practices are aligned with the new framework so that mental good health is front and centre in what we do.

What sort of prevention and safety precautions or policy does UTM have in place for sexual assault and sexual harassment?

Like the rest of U of T, and Ontario’s and Canada’s other universities, we know that sexual harassment and sexual assault is under-reported.  UTM continues to make progress with many partners, including UTMSU, the Women’s Centre, Peel’s Interim Place, and others, to raise awareness, strengthen support for victims, make care easier to access, and encourage reporting by those who wish to do so.  We’re particularly aware that most perpetrators of sexual assault know their victims – they aren’t typically strangers but are more typically boyfriends, partners, spouses, family members, or other types of acquaintances.  We want the resources that are available to be known and used when any of our university community members need assistance. 

To make access of support services easier or know where to report harassment or assault, the Community Safety Office has a very helpful resource: the CSO card. This card and online version, lists supports available on campus such as healing supports and counselling, personal safety planning, reporting options, and immediate safety assistance. The university also has a sexual harassment policy and campus services that work to prevent sexual violence through education and training.

Other sexual violence prevention activities that UTM has undertaken were identified in the CampUS Safety Project, a two-year community partnership with Interim Place that wrapped up this past May. These activities included providing more information about the reporting process if someone chose to contact Campus Police as well as improvements to physical infrastructure such as lighting and emergency phones. See the CampUS Safety Project page for more information http://www.utm.utoronto.ca/health/health-promotion/camp-us-safety-project.

 

THEME: Academics

Responses by: Diane Crocker, Amy Mullin

What are UTM’s plans for a fall study break?

Last spring, UTM conducted a town hall meeting where the options for a fall study break were presented and discussed.  At that time, we committed to conducting a survey of our community (faculty, staff and students) to determine whether there was support for a fall study break.  This survey will take place in January 2015.  Plans for 2015-16 are already in place so the introduction of a fall study break, if there is support for one, will take place in the fall of 2016.

How would a fall study break affect the December break prior to exams?

UTM remains committed to the 12-week academic term.  We also remain committed to supporting a summer session with many options for our students.  In order to retain the December break, consistent with the rest of the university, the introduction of a fall study break would result in the need to shorten the end-of-term study break.  The impact, over the next five years, will be presented as part of the survey tool.  A website is being developed where the future sessional dates will be presented.

Why is there opposition to changing the university’s policy that does not allow students to drop their lowest grade on their transcripts?

A transcript is supposed to be an accurate reflection of a student’s academic progress and accomplishments. Students already have adequate opportunities to drop courses in which they feel they are not performing in accordance with their abilities (by late withdrawal), and to experiment with courses outside their comfort zone, by taking these courses as credit/no credit. A blanket policy of removing a student’s worst grade from a transcript would not yield an accurate reflection of performance, and the integrity of the transcript in accordance with the high standards of the University of Toronto would be compromised. When a student’s grade is not an accurate reflection of his or her performance and abilities, and when the student has documentation to show he or she was dealing with circumstances beyond his or her control, then the student has options to request removing the grade from the transcript. 

Is it possible to repeat a course if a student gets a low grade?

Students may not repeat a course that they have already passed except in one of the following two circumstances: 1) The student requires a specific grade in a 100 level course to gain access to a limited enrolment program (such a repeat is permitted only once)  2) The student needs to repeat a course for reasons other than that noted in 1, above, for example to demonstrate a level of performance for an external credential.  These exceptions are noted in the academic calendar. Permission to repeat a course is granted by the Office of the Registrar. Repeated course marks will appear on the student transcript as “extra” and will not be included in the calculation of the GPA.  More details are provided in the academic calendar.

 

THEME: Food Services

Responses by: Vicky Jerierski

Why are there so few vegan options on campus? Why isn’t there more halal food available?

Over the last few months, UTM Hospitality and Retail Services, in conjunction with Kaizen consultants, conducted several information-collecting sessions in preparation for the Food Service RFP. From the information collected, it became evident that most UTM food outlets currently provide many of the frequently requested menu items, including vegan, vegetarian and Halal items; however, based on this finding, the consultants concluded that students are not aware of the availability of these items due to poor communication and advertising. Over the next few months, Hospitality and Retail Services will be working together with Chartwells Food Services to improve communication, advertising, and labeling of food offerings.  In addition, Hospitality and Retail Services will be adding a communications person to its team with a mandate to improve departmental communication, specifically focusing on effective and targeted communication of key messaging to UTM stakeholders.

How do we lobby for more balanced and healthy food options?

Although our food services currently provide many healthy and balanced options, they are only as “balanced” as the decision maker wants them to be.  It is our responsibility to provide as many options as possible, and allow customers to make the final decision. What is considered healthy and balanced for one person may not be for somebody else. Through our many locations, we currently provide over 60 lunch and over 40 dinner options daily, and many of them are vegetarian, low carb, gluten free, Halal and vegan.  We are happy to talk to anybody who has a special or specific request and will do our best to facilitate a meeting with our executive chefs to resolve issues.

Why are food services staff not trained in cross-contamination procedures, such as using different tongs and gloves to handle meat and veggie burgers?

All Chartwells employees must complete mandatory food safety and health and safety training each year. All food service outlets are also regularly inspected by Peel Health, which looks for food safety issues including cross-contamination. In addition, over the last year, Hospitality and Retail Services employed external auditors who make unannounced visits to all food services outlets at UTM including all Chartwells locations, the UTMSU’s Blind Duck, and food trucks. We would like to encourage anyone who witnesses a specific incident to bring it to the attention of the food services managers immediately for corrective action.  

 

THEME: Transportation and Parking

Responses by: Paul Donoghue, Mark Overton

Why isn’t there more parking on campus, and why is it so expensive?

  • 2,413 spaces on campus: 93%-97% occupancy during peak
  • About to lose Lot #1
  • Approval for building parking deck #2 going to governance Jan. 8, 2015
  • Parking is ancillary operation of university, and must be self-supporting
  • Rates are set at time of ancillary budget approval each year; in past couple of years, 3% increase approved; 3% increase recommended for next year; going to Campus Affairs Council in January, 2015
  • Parking increase will support deck #2; all surpluses go to Parking Capital Reserve

Why doesn’t UTM wrest control from the City of Mississauga of parking bylaw policing, and thereby parking revenues, a move that would help UTM’s bottom line?

  • UTM would likely lose money on this scenario; we would need additional enforcement staff
  • UTM would need mechanisms to enforce fine collection, appeal decisions, etc.

Can UTM eliminate shuttle bus fees for post-doc fellows who need to travel to and from St. George for research purposes?

UTM offers a shuttle service between UTM and St. George, and between UTM and Sheridan College’s Oakville campus.  All registered UTM students are charged a fee as part of their tuition to support this service, which allows them to ride without an additional fare.  All others, including faculty members, staff, and post-doctoral fellows, pay a fare each time they ride, so that UTM students aren’t subsidizing their transportation. Providing the shuttle service currently costs about $6 per passenger each way, which determines the fare for riders who aren’t UTM students.  Frequent riders can check with UTM’s parking and transportation office about purchasing a season pass.

 

THEME: Miscellaneous

Responses by: Diane Crocker, Mark Overton

Why do students have to pay service charges, starting in November, for courses that start in January, since the second installment of OSAP doesn’t kick in until January?

The university informs OSAP of the cost of a student’s education, which includes any university service charges that are assessed on an outstanding balance if a student pays only the 65% minimum tuition amount required to register. These costs are then used to calculate a student’s OSAP entitlement. The university's current service charge schedule is based on a sessional fee payment schedule that will be changed to a term-based fee payment schedule next year. The details of the new service charge schedule have not yet been finalized.

Why are pub nights always on Thursdays and not on Fridays?

This is a question better addressed to UTMSU, the student government of UTM undergraduate students, which organizes most pub events on campus.