Panel Discussion on UofT’s Mandatory Leave of Absence Policy

Summary of Discussion

We are graduate students of the Faculty of Information and Department of Philosophy, and we are concerned about intransparency of the policy-drafting process of the University-Mandated Leave of Absence Policy, as well as the punitive and stigmatizing elements of the policy.

The Governing Council’s final vote, January 30th 2018, is soon approaching, and the new draft of the policy has yet to be released to students and concerned groups.

  • Governing Council delayed the vote from Nov 2017 to Jan 2018 to incorporate voiced student concerns, but since the delay, the Council has made no offer or attempt to engage student voices further in the process.

Concern about the optics of this policy, re-stigmatizing mental health

  • Lack of clarity on behaviours of “harm” or “risk of harm”, and how the university seeks to identify them as related to mental health.
  • The Policy states it is not intended as punitive/disciplinary, but requires a student appeal the decision of Mandatory Leave to the UofT Disciplinary Appeals Board (same process as appealing a violation of Code of Student Conduct).
  • Stigmatizing optics of the policy are likely to reduce the willingness of students in distress to communicate with faculty or admin, or reach out to health or accessibility services on campus

There is a lack of data to support the need for the Policy over alternative or complimentary solutions to supporting student mental health

  • Health & wellness, and accessibility services, are resources essential to helping support a student placed on Mandatory Leave, but the UofT presents no data on the operational efficiency of Health & Wellness, and Accessibility services to determine adequacy of these resources to meet current and future levels of demand
  • The 2014 research report and Ombudsperson reports (2014-15; 2015-16) list mental health-related resources available to students on campus, but do not specify availability of counselors or services per student in need. As students at UofT, many of us have experienced these services overwhelmed by demand and difficult to access. This ought to be the focus of any policy efforts to support student mental health.

See Google Doc for full notes 

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