On January 11, the Committee on Academic Policy and Programs held a virtual meeting to discuss the current state of campus life, as well as to provide updates on the state of existing and future programs at U of T.
The meeting began with Vice-Provost and Undergraduate Education Professor Susan McCahan who provided a report on the university’s latest decisions. Professor McCahan started by reviewing the cancellation of in-person exams for the Fall 2021 semester.
With the rise of the Omicron variant late last year, academic disruptions were declared to inform students and faculty that academic operations will not proceed as normal. The disruptions provide the university with the authority to make changes to its academic activities such as courses and programs.
The disruptions, which were declared in a total of 270 courses, enabled professors to cancel exams and reweight assessments to provide an accurate term mark. Additionally, the return to in-person learning was delayed until January 31, with the exception of a small number of in-person instructional activities.
When asked about when students and faculty could expect an update on the return to in-person learning, McCahan was unable to provide an exact date, stating that they were taking the situation day-by-day. However, McCahan states that the expectation was for in-person learning to resume this term for many classes.
“We know that instructors and students need time to adjust, but we also want to try to make the best decision possible. It’s about balancing those two.” McCahan acknowledges that both staff and students are eager to receive these updates as soon as possible.
Professor Leah Cowan of Molecular Genetics and Vice-President in Research and Innovation and Strategic Initiatives provides a report on research activities in light of the Omicron variant.
Following Ontario’s return to a modified version of Step 2 of the Roadmap to Reopen framework on January 5, U of T put into effect several measures in order to limit the spread of the variant.
Among these was the requirement that all research that can be conducted remotely should resume until January 31. In-person research may only take place if virtual efforts are not possible and if a two-metre physical distancing rule can be enforced. At this time, research involving human participants and face-to-face interactions is paused.
When asked about residences and international students travelling from outside of Canada, McCahan states that residences would remain open, as they did throughout the holidays. She also states that the date of January 31 was given to allow students to be able to plan accordingly for travel to Canada while considering the necessary quarantine period.
Program changes were also on the agenda for Tuesday’s meeting. The MSc and the PhD programs in Speech-Language Pathology are closing and to be replaced by new Speech-Language Pathology fields in the same programs. According to McCahan, job prospects for graduates of the Rehabilitation Sciences have improved, which was part of the reason for this decision.
Admission to these programs was administratively suspended as of January 2021, and the date of closure is not until August 31, 2027, by which time existing students of these programs are expected to have completed their studies.
McCahan also introduces a new addition to the Faculty of Arts and Sciences: the Work and Organizations Program. As stated by McCahan, “The proposed major takes an interdisciplinary approach to [equip] students with an in-depth understanding of work and organizations.”
The program was conceived in consultation with several faculties, and the proposed start date is September 2022.
During the meeting, both students and faculty were commended for their flexibility and resilience during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent changes to academic activities. The U of T community can expect frequent updates on any future decisions.