The University of Toronto has approved a new policy that gives it more options to help students whose concerning behaviour indicates extreme mental health challenges or serious health issues.
Approved by Governing Council on June 27, the policy includes a review of existing supports provided to the student and a voluntary leave option before a university-mandated leave is considered. The mandated leave option will be applied only in rare cases and only after accommodations and supports have been unsuccessful. That includes cases where a student has declined supportive measures or has not agreed to a voluntary leave.
The policy, which was signalled in U of T’s existing Mental Health Framework, provides a non-punitive option when students are exhibiting serious concerning behaviour that is threatening or results in negative academic consequences. Previously, the only tools at U of T's disposal were disciplinary in nature – the Code of Student Conduct and the academic penalties of probation, or suspension for one or more terms.
“The policy was developed in response to concerns raised by the U of T ombudsperson about the university’s ability to address student behaviours during periods of extreme distress caused by serious health or mental health issues,” said Sandy Welsh, vice-provost, students.
“This policy provides an added layer of support for students facing mental health challenges. It reflects the responsibility of the university to our students who are experiencing distress and provides us with a non-punitive course of action to support our students.”
The policy was developed after 18 months of consultation. U of T released a revised version of the mandated leave of absence policy in April, seeking feedback from students, faculty and staff after a request by Ontario’s human rights commissioner to further review the policy.
“This policy comes from a place of compassion,” said Cheryl Regehr, vice-president and provost. “It is responding to students in need, including when a student poses a risk of serious harm to themselves or others.”