October 21, 2013

U of T Mississauga Town Hall
Monday, October 21, 2013
William G. Davis Building, Room 2074

Microphone in front of town hall meetingThe following questions were submitted by students, faculty and staff prior to the town hall. They were grouped into general themes for ease and clarity of responses by members of UTM’s senior administration. Some of the submitted questions on the same topic were amalgamated into one comprehensive question.  

Questions on: 

THEME: Transportation and infrastructure

Responses by: Paul Donoghue, Deep Saini, Mark Overton

  1. Why is parking so expensive and why aren’t there more parking spaces?

UTM currently has 2,400 parking spaces including special allocations for less accessible, residents and carpool. There are 2,064 spots for permit holders. As is the case every year as students sort through their schedules, we experienced overflow conditions on the first 3 Tuesdays in September during peak parking times (11:15 – 1:15).

This year, permit wait lists were slightly lower than last year; the list is down to 66 (as of Oct. 23). By Nov. 15, we expect all people on the wait list, who want permits, to have them.

In planning for parking needs, we try to balance supply with demand so we don’t over-build and have empty spots that are not generating any revenue.  Current estimates indicate another parking deck will be needed in 2016. To plan for this, any surplus parking revenues are put into Parking Reserve to pay for a new deck. Our reserve now stands at $1.6 million; a new parking deck is expected to cost around $8 million. If we did not raise rates or if we operated strictly on a break-even basis, we would have no funding reserve for a new deck. This would result in huge parking increases when it came time to build the new deck.

For rate comparison, our reserved permits (at $934) are lower than UTSC, York, McMaster (or locally, Credit Valley Hospital); the same is true of our unreserved permits ($667 - $645).

  1. Why are drivers allowed to speed on UTM roads and why isn’t there more enforcement?

Drivers are not “allowed” to speed. Some drivers  “choose” to speed.  The speed limit is 30 km/hr and is well-marked around the campus. To discourage speeders, we have installed speed bumps and warnings; crosswalks have warning signs and flashing lights. Police use a radar speed warning sign that is moved about the campus and they use a hand-held radar gun to clock vehicles; those caught speeding are pulled over and warned (about 200 per year).  Repeat offenders are interviewed in the police services office and warned that they could lose parking privileges (outsiders may be banned from campus).

Additional enforcement in the form of speeding tickets is not possible; the Highway Traffic Act is not enforceable on campus as it is private property. I encourage everyone to share in the responsibility to drive safely on campus, through peer pressure and obeying all traffic signs on campus.

  1. What is UTM doing to encourage cities such as Brampton to improve public transportation to campus?

We are very aware of the difficulties our students from Brampton face in travelling to UTM.  The situation has been eased a little with the addition of Zum service to Square One, where a direct MiWay service to UTM is available. The LRT now under construction will further help. But we are engaged in conversations with the highest levels of administrations at the Cities of Brampton and Mississauga and the Region of Peel to find even more efficient and region-wide solutions to this problem.

  1. What is UTM doing to encourage public transportation to campus within Mississauga, and to and from the St. George campus?

We work in partnership with UTM’s student unions and student governments on both the shuttle service between campuses and the City of Mississauga on transit initiatives. UTMSU has been very effective in negotiating the U-Pass, a Mississauga Transit pass that now serves UTM undergraduate and graduate students, both part- and full-time, in both the regular academic year and summer term.  UTMSU and UTMAGS are currently negotiating a new U-Pass contract with the City, and look to your and our support.  As Professor Saini mentioned, we also know that the City of Mississauga is working to speed and ease transit connections through things like the new transit way and better connecting points with GO Transit, Brampton, Oakville and Toronto’s transit systems.

The shuttle service offers more than 45 daily departures to St. George on most weekdays.  The service is very responsive, reacting quickly to ridership trends and surges, particularly at the start of each term when students’ schedules are in flux.  A student advisory group provides feedback to the service’s manager to assist in planning.

THEME: Food services

Response by: Paul Donoghue

  1. Why doesn’t UTM offer healthier, more affordable and diverse food options, and what improvements in food services can we expect to see in the near future?

The key limitation to expanded food services has been space but we are making significant improvements with the Temporary Food Court and Instructional Centre. More food services space will be added when the Innovation Complex and North Building, phase one, open next year.  We will also be expanding the food court in the Davis Building in the future.

All outlets currently provide healthy “grab and go” and made-to-order menu items. We will be adding more vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options each year. We have an international kitchen in the TFC, and halal options in Coleman Commons, the Grill station, Instructional Centre and TFC. As requested by students, we offer a mix of national brands and in-house concepts. 

In terms of costs, pricing in a university environment is always a challenge due to our unique operating conditions. But we do compare our prices on an annual basis with the CCUFSA, and UTM consistently ranks at the lower end for food prices among Canadian universities. And we do ensure that food price increases are at or less than inflation. UTM has two food advisory committees that meet regularly – one specific to residence, and a broader committee for the general UTM community (that includes two representatives from UTMSU, two from Residence Council, one graduate student, two faculty, and two staff).   

THEME: Facilities management and planning (construction, study space, sustainability)

Responses by: Mark Overton, Paul Donoghue

  1. Why doesn’t UTM fully fund the student centre expansion project?

[Updated answer] U of T typically uses a model of joint funding for certain types of non-academic spaces like student centres. Since 2008, UTM has offered to add 50 cents to every dollar raised by a student levy (to a maximum of $1.5 million) to expand the student centre. We increased this to a dollar-to-dollar match (to a maximum of $2 million). This offer was in place through the most recent referendum. While the referendum did not pass, 48% of students voted in favour of a levy. When the student union contemplates its next referendum, UTM will consider what level of contribution or match it can afford at that time. Renovating existing spaces and building new ones is always a funding challenge as we try to balance needs and opportunities. Like UTMSU, we hope to see this project move ahead in the future.

  1. What is the administration doing to increase study space and library space?

We continue to add, wherever possible in renovations or new projects, study spaces of different kinds; in some cases, study and library space can be combined. In the summer of 2012, on the lower level of the library, we removed some of the library stacks and replaced them with 128 student spaces.  By adding a fire exit on that level, we are now in a position to replace more stacks as the opportunity arises.

When we built the Instructional Centre, we included 11 bookable study rooms (in addition to the 19 in the library) and 60 spaces in the adjacent, computer-equipped space.  That model has worked well. In North, phase one, we have included bookable study rooms and more than 300 spaces that can be used for studying.  In the Innovation Complex, the main rotunda is designed to be flexible and used as informal study space but could be used at certain high-demand times of the year for more formal study space. The North Building, phase two, now under development, will also include additional study space, as will the Davis Building renovation project that can start once the Innovation Complex opens.

Students are encouraged to visit www.utm.utoronto.ca/study for study options based on categories such as noise level, time of day and building.

  1. What are we doing to improve water accessibility on campus now that we’re water-bottle-free?

We have been working with a number of student groups as we completed our phase-out of bottled water on campus.  We have installed 8 new or replacement water-filling stations.  Their locations can be found on the UTM website under Maps, and on our digital interactive maps in the RAWC, Instructional Centre, library and Davis Building (under “Green UofT” layer).

We have identified about 15 additional locations and will be working to install filling stations in these locations. We expect to install at least another five this year.

  1. How can we plan for enrolment growth and preserve green space at the same time?

One of the key guides for the continued development of the campus is the Campus Master Plan that was updated in 2011. That plan indicates potential locations for future development and possible massing of structures on each site.

Protection of green space is fundamental to that plan, and it focuses on intensification of development inside the Outer Circle Road for most new development.

  1. What is the administration doing to increase multi-faith space on campus?

The campus lacks enough multi-purpose space to support small and large events. This includes spaces that work for large gatherings of students pursuing faith practices, like Muslim students’ Jumah prayers and Catholic students’ masses as two examples. The Student Centre project identified additional multi-purpose space as a significant component of an expanded building. Like UTMSU, we hope to see this project move ahead in the future. In addition, UTM is making more conscientious efforts in planning to include smaller spaces in buildings across campus so that a student of any faith, or no religious or spiritual belief for that matter, who wants to meditate or reflect, can slip into a quiet and comfortable space for a few minutes then return more easily to their day. We’re working on this with a variety of offices such as Facilities Management and Planning, and the Equity and Diversity Office.

  1. Why did the campus build a new entranceway feature on Middle Road and were students consulted on this beforehand?

Discussions on the need for a new entranceway date back several years; over time, there has been a growing sense that we needed a significant presence at the Mississauga Road main entrance to better reflect our dramatic growth. The agreed-upon approach was an entranceway that provided a suitable welcoming presence and was consistent with the history of the campus

Work on a formal project proposal began in 2011; a formal proposal was taken to SPMC in April of 2012 as are all projects less than $3 million; SPMC comprises 20 members including one student representative.

The project included:  removal of old sign; construction of main signage and structures; remediation of dangerous pedestrian crossing conditions; removal of old retaining wall; replacement of crumbling sidewalks; replacement of electrical infrastructure; improved lighting for the entire area; landscaping and irrigation system.

After the tendering and contract award, construction started in July, 2012. A project update was included in the capital projects report to ECC in October, 2012. The project was completed in March, 2013.

THEME: Student finances (tuition, residence fees, textbook costs)

Responses by: Amy Mullin, Mark Overton, Diane Crocker

  1. Is UTM going to introduce flat fees?

UTM has no plans to introduce program fees at this time.

  1. Why are fees for deregulated programs so high?

The province determines which programs can charge deregulated fees, and these fees reflect extra expenses associated with completion of the programs. Since we have a variety of different deregulated programs, the reasons for the extra fees differ, but always reflect extra costs, such as higher costs for certain kinds of learning experiences, higher costs associated with equipment and facilities, or higher instructional costs.

  1. What effort is U of T making to ensure tuition is affordable and accessible?

The University of Toronto advocates ceaselessly with the province for increases in provincial funding but, unfortunately, provincial funding increases have not kept pace with our costs. We strive to be as efficient as possible in terms of delivery of our programs, but are committed to maintaining quality programs; consequently, there are investments we are required to make in people, buildings and services. It is important to understand that, according to recent figures, UTM domestic undergraduate students pay on average only 55% of their tuition with the remainder funded by OSAP or U of T grants. This is prior to factoring in the Ontario Tuition Grant for those students who are eligible.

  1. How are tuition fees determined for international students?

While the province provides partial funding for domestic students, it provides no funding for international students. We need to ensure that their tuition covers all the expenses associated with the delivery of our programs.

  1. How are residence fees determined for students?

Residences are required to be self-funded ancillary operations; in other words, we don’t use tuition or government funds to support them – financially, UTM’s residence operation has to cover its own costs. To establish our residence fees, we determine what’s necessary to provide a good residence system (in terms of both physical facilities and the kinds of student support that add value), look to other resources to generate some revenues so that students pay less (such as selling conference housing during the summer), and compare our costs with other data like rental rates for comparable housing in our region and at other universities to make sure that we are affordable within reason.  We have a great consultation process with students who live in residence through our Residence Council so that we are quite transparent with the data we use to determine our rates.

  1. Who is eligible for the tuition tax refund?

The elements that determine provincial and federal taxes are based on each individual’s circumstances so it is difficult to generalize. However, tuition, education, and textbook expenses allow students and families to reduce income tax owed.  We encourage all students to check the Canada Revenue Agency website and use tax clinics offered on campus by your student government; for international students, we encourage you to visit UTM’s International Centre to help you understand and benefit from tax relief options.

  1. What are you doing to keep the cost of textbooks manageable for students?

We encourage our faculty to make resources available to students electronically when this option is available and appropriate. We also order copies of textbooks to be placed on short-term reserve in the library. However, there are few options that we have, as one institution, to influence publishers or affect their costs.

  1. Why does the university charge fees to sign confirmation of enrolment forms or to write confirmation of enrolment letters?

Fees charged to students for services provided by the Office of the Registrar are known as “Administrative User Fees” and, as such, must be approved by Business Board and posted in the University Schedule of Administrative User Fees and Fines prior to implementation. Fees for services such as Confirmation of Enrolment Letters or specialized enrolment forms have been pre-approved and are standardized across the University of Toronto.

Administrative user fees are fees related to the costs of the services provided, and may not exceed them, or reasonable estimates of them. The only administrative user fees that may be charged are those shown on the University Schedule of Administrative User Fees and Fines. The fees and fines shown on the Schedule may be adjusted annually by administrative authority (the Vice-Provost, Planning & Budget), provided that the adjustments relate to the costs of the services provided. All changes must be reported annually to Business Board for information.

THEME: Health

Responses by: Mark Overton

  1. Can UTM bring back the flu shot?

UTM’s student health and counselling centre has offered flu vaccinations each year and will do so again this year for students. The centre is working with Peel Public Health to arrange and announce its dates for this year, which will likely be held in residence, in the Student Centre, and in the health and counselling centre itself. Watch the Medium, the Office of the Registrar’s e-newsletter Hotlink, digital message boards and bulletin boards for more information.

Flu shot clinics will no longer be offered for faculty and staff due to the increased and widespread availability of clinics off-campus.

  1. Why aren’t there more severe penalties for smokers who light up in high-traffic pedestrian areas such as outside the library and Instructional Centre?

We appreciate this concern being shared – it’s quite important for a number of reasons.  Just this past month, the Region of Peel strengthened its bylaw on this, which bans smoking on municipally owned property and within nine metres of entrances to municipal buildings.  Our campus is private rather than municipal property, so we ask for compliance but can’t always enforce it. We utilize alternatives when we can, including signage, messages that reinforce that second-hand smoke can have particularly harmful effects on people with asthma and other breathing concerns, and smoking reduction and cessation efforts like Leave the Pack Behind through our Health and Counselling Centre.  One of the most effective things we can each do is to exert peer pressure, respectfully but firmly, when we see someone smoking near a building entrance, by asking the smoker to move away from the entrance to be respectful of others. That same peer pressure works effectively when you spot someone littering, spitting, using offensive language, or other breaches of common decency.  We really need everyone’s help to create a situation of common, mutual respect.

THEME: Academics (academic calendar, programs, policies)

Responses by: Amy Mullin, Diane Crocker

  1. Why doesn’t UTM have a Reading Week in October? Are we considering one?

This question is currently under consideration. 

  1. Will UTM be introducing co-op programs or more internship opportunities across all disciplines soon?

U of T Mississauga has no plans at present to introduce co-op programs. We are committed to increasing opportunities for experiential learning or learning by doing, which includes internships but is much broader than that. In addition to our existing internships in areas such as Biology, Psychology, Women’s Studies and CCIT, we have recently introduced new internships in Sociology and Economics, and have expanded our range of internship courses in Geography and the Environment. Plans are currently in the works for new internships in Language Studies and Visual Studies.  A key factor in expanding our range of internships is identifying suitable partners and building appropriate relationships with members of our extended community.

It is important to note that students receive course credit for our internships and must not only meet the expectations of our community partners but also, crucially, our faculty with respect to learning outcomes. I would also like to stress that experiential learning occurs not only in internships but also in a host of other ways such as field trips, lab work, case studies and case competitions, research opportunity courses, and in courses that incorporate service learning into their curricula. Furthermore, the majority of our campus-based masters programs involve internships, typically paid, in these graduate programs.

  1. Will UTM adopt academic policies that allow students to drop 1.0 credit from their transcript?

We are not interested in changing our academic policies in this way, and neither are our colleagues on our other two campuses. We offer our students the opportunity to take 2 full courses or 4 half courses credit/no credit, and we also offer the opportunity for students to withdraw late but before taking final exams in up to 3 full courses.

Our academic advisors in the registrar’s office and in our departments counsel students who are struggling to reduce their workload to an appropriate level, so that they can be successful in the courses they take. Our departments and our Robert Gillespie Academic Skills Centre staff offer supports for students.

If there are unusual circumstances that can be documented and that support a student’s claims that he or she was unsuccessful in a course for reasons beyond his or her control, students can petition to have the course removed from their records. Students would then have to take and pay for an additional credit; given this, it is far better for a student to start with a reasonable workload and to drop courses early or withdraw late if circumstances arise that threaten a lack of success. In general, academic records are expected to be a faithful record of the courses students have taken and the grades they have received, and we are committed to ensuring that they continue both to be and to be recognized as accurate records.