The controversial University-Mandated Leave of Absence Policy (UMLAP) continues to be a source of concern for students. In an email interview with The Medium, University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union (UTMSU) President Mitra Yakubi discussed the union’s efforts to push back against the policy.
Approved by the Governing Council in June 2018, the policy was developed to address mental health issues of students during times of distress, such as exam periods.
“This policy has been frowned upon by the Ontario Human Rights Commission, students across all three campuses, and across the country for its lack of care, and the University’s perceived desire to dispose of students who are experiencing mental health issues,” states Yakubi.
Since the implementation of the UMLAP in 2018, eight U of T students have been put on leave, which, according to Yakubi, is a much higher number than any other North American university with a leave of absence policy.
Several students have expressed concerns regarding the UMLAP to the UTMSU, criticizing the policy for further stigmatizing mental health. Students have also indicated that the policy does not provide them with sufficient support.
“Alongside our sister unions, the UTMSU will continue to advocate against this policy that takes away students’ consent and further marginalizes and stigmatizes mental health,” stated Yakubi.
On October 26, the UTMSU hosted a UMLAP Phone Zap to push against the policy. During the event, more than 300 emails and 30 phone calls were made in only 30 minutes to those working within the Governing Council.
“The purpose of the phone zap was for students to share their thoughts, feedback, and demands about the UMLAP directly with decision-makers on Governing Council who will receive recommendations and a report from the committee reviewing the policy,” indicates Yakubi.
In upcoming months, these recommendations will be presented to the UTM Campus Council, the UTSC Campus Council, and the Governing Council. In the meantime, the UTMSU plans on hosting several more events to let the university administration know how students feel about the policy.
“Our end goal is to remove the UMLAP completely because there is no way to amend or improve the policy without negatively impacting students,” mentions Yakubi. “We are here to remind the University that students need comprehensive and empathetic mental health support and resources, not policies that penalize students who are going through a challenging time.”