Information about Fall 2020 at U of T

Frequently asked questions

Last updated: July 29, 2020, 2:30pm EDT (updated question 1.10)

1. Students

On May 19, President Gertler announced a planned gradual return to our campuses in the fall of 2020, with a mix of online and in-person learning. As the University develops its plans, the health and safety of our community comes first. We hope to provide as much on-campus activity as is practical, sensible and safe and will follow the requirements of government and public health authorities. 

Different academic divisions and departments are working toward solutions specific to their programs in terms of how best to deliver courses. They are working to provide a variety of options, both in-person and online, that students can select from in order to best meet their needs and interests. Students will have information about the delivery of each course in advance of choosing their courses. 

Students registered with Accessibility Services should continue to contact Accessibility Services to receive accommodations and supports. Accessibility-related COVID-19 updates can be found here:   

Instructors should continue to work with the accessibility services on their campus on the implementation of final exam and assessment accommodations:   

 

We are planning to have students in residence this fall and look forward to welcoming you when you arrive. We want you to have a rewarding experience and know that for some students, residence is an important part of the university experience. Please visit this page for the most up-to-date information about residence

We are planning to welcome new students in many ways and provide support to help them make a successful transition to their studies at U of T. We know how critical orientation and transition programming is to student success and we will be reaching out to new students wherever their location. We’re offering online programming for international and domestic students who can’t be at on-campus events. We will also follow public health guidelines to ensure safety for all in-person engagement. We’ll be adding more information over the summer; please check back for updates.

Graduate and professional students can visit the School of Graduate Studies Looking Ahead page for information and frequently-asked-questions on research recovery and adaptation, various programs types, personal accommodations, and financial support. You can also check your Faculty site or contact your Department’s Graduate Chair.

Student Life on the St. George campus has information on a range of programs and services. You can also visit the Sports & Recreation page and the Hart House page for more information.

University of Toronto Mississauga students can visit the Student Affairs & Services page.

University of Toronto Scarborough students can visit the Department of Student Life page.

We have reduced non-tuition incidental fees that go to student services and recreation programs for the summer session and have made similar reductions for the fall session. No changes have been made to planned tuition levels as academic programs continue to be delivered through alternative means and some will include in-person components where possible in accordance with public health and government.

We encourage students who are facing financial hardship to visit this Funding Opportunity Directory. Undergraduate students can also contact their college or divisional registrar to apply for emergency bursaries, and graduate students can contact the School of Graduate Studies.

Please visit your Faculty’s site for information specific to your program. You can also contact your divisional registrar.

You can find information on technical requirements, adaptive technology, recommended accessories, and internet connectivity on this page. The page also includes an FAQ. We encourage undergraduate students who are facing financial hardship to contact their college or divisional registrar to apply for emergency bursaries, and graduate students to contact the School of Graduate Studies for support.

As of May 25, 2020, the University of Toronto has cancelled future University sponsored activity to international locations for all students until December 31, 2020. University activities abroad on or after January 1, 2021 are scheduled to continue at this time, but please keep in mind that conditions created by the pandemic may require changes. More information on learning abroad is available.

Please visit this FAQ for international students for information. Additional information for newly admitted international students is also available.

For information about U of T support for students during quarantine, please visit the Vice-Provost Students web site.

The University remains open, but with various measures in place to protect the health and safety of community members. We remain committed to the three core activities of teaching, residences and research, and the services to support these activities.

Libraries are not yet open for most in-person services; however, students can book study space through the Technology Access Service at the Gerstein Science Information Centre. Through the HathiTrust Digital Library and other electronic resources, current students, faculty, and staff have access to digitized versions of many of our print books and journals. A Curbside Pickup Service is available on all three campuses, which provides access to many items not available digitally.

Students, faculty, and staff with other library-related questions should use the Contact Us button located at the top of these FAQs, indicating their campus, in order to receive additional information. 

Beginning June 18, computer and wifi access will be available to current University of Toronto students who require it for academic work, within current public health requirements during the COVID crisis. This service will require an advance booking and will operate in the Gerstein Science Information Centre on the St. George campus.

All university buildings are closed to the general public. Members of the University community will need key or fob access to enter them or present appropriate identification to campus security. 

U of T daycares and athletic and recreation services are closed.

The status of these facilities will change as public health guidance is revised.

2. Faculty, librarians and staff

If you have HR-related questions about COVID-19 or plans for the 2020-21 academic year, please visit the HR & Equity COVID-19 website.

If you are concerned about someone in the workplace who is ill and exhibiting flu-like symptoms or have concerns about safety in your workplace, speak to your Manager,  Chair, or Department Head. Managers, Chairs or Department Heads are advised to contact environmental health & safety

Employees in the workplace who are ill with flu-like symptoms should advise their Manager, Chair, or Department Head,  stay home, complete the Employee Absence Self-Declaration form, and seek out medical advice accordingly.

There have been reports of discriminatory behaviours towards some members of our community. Behaviours and comments that perpetuate stereotypes are harmful and should not be tolerated or condoned. Assessment of risk should be based on exposure history and not on race or ethnicity. We encourage members to reinforce messaging of the University’s commitment to human rights and our values of diversity, inclusion, respect and civility.

The University remains open, but with various measures in place to protect the health and safety of community members. We remain committed to the three core activities of teaching, residences and research, and the services to support these activities.

All libraries are closed. Beginning June 22, Robarts Library will offer a Curbside Pickup Service for print books not available through the HathiTrust Emergency Temporary Access Service. Students, faculty and staff are eligible to use this service. Initially, the service will only provide access to books housed in the Robarts Library building stack and storage locations, including in the East Asian Library within the building. Students, faculty, and staff with other library-related questions should use the Contact Us button located at the top of these FAQs, indicating their campus, in order to receive additional information.

Beginning June 18, computer and wifi access will be available to current University of Toronto students who require it for academic work, within current public health requirements during the COVID crisis. This service will require an advance booking and will operate in the Gerstein Science Information Centre on the St. George campus.

All university buildings are closed to the general public. Members of the University community will need key or fob access to enter them or present appropriate identification to campus security. 

U of T daycares and athletic and recreation services are closed.

The status of these facilities will change as public health guidance is revised.

If you have research questions related to COVID-19, please visit the Research & Innovation COVID-19 web site.

The Centre for Teaching Support and Innovation has a range of resources available, including on planning for next term. The Quercus Support Resources page may also be useful as you plan. Finally, you may wish to consult your divisional head for additional guidance and resources. The University has also made recommendations to students on minimal technical requirements needed to access remote/online learning.

Since March 16, a significant portion of U of T’s workforce has worked remotely, and will continue to do so until further notice

The province is strongly recommending that all work that is able to be done remotely be done in that manner. Some employees work in roles where there is a requirement to be physically present on our campuses to maintain these essential services identified by the province. Divisional HR offices are in communication with these individuals.  

The COVID-19 Temporary Special Telecommuting Work Arrangements Guideline is available on the HR & Equity COVID-19 website as a resource for employees and managers. Information Technology Services (ITS) has also prepared technical work-from-home resources to support employees accessing work material while telecommuting.  

For the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic, employees who are requesting work-from-home arrangements due to being immuno-compromised themselves can work directly with their Manager, Chair, or Department Head. These requests do not need to be reviewed by Environmental Health & Safety, and supervisors should approve these requests wherever possible. 

If employees are unable to secure child care, they may utilize the following options:   

  • Request to work from home and telecommute (if the duties of their job and their child-care responsibilities allow).
  • Use personal / flex days in accordance with their employment policy or collective agreement.  
  • Access overtime banks. 
  • Request to use vacation days. Any limits on using yet-to-be-accrued vacation are waived at this time.  

We ask Managers, Chairs, and Department Heads to approve these requests wherever possible.  

In addition, please note that based on the recommendation of public health officials, all University of Toronto childcare centres were closed effective Monday, March 16.

The University is committed to ensuring that wherever possible faculty, librarians, and staff will continue to be compensated in the event of any event cancellations, programming reductions, government required shutdowns, or any other operational closures. More information on pay continuity is available on the HR & Equity COVID-19 website.

The University has Working Alone Guidelines that include resources available to support members of our community while on our campuses.

We are aware that the COVID-19 pandemic may cause significant challenges for pre-tenure and pre-continuing status faculty members at the University of Toronto with respect to their research, scholarship and teaching. 

In response, any pre-tenure or pre-continuing status faculty member may request a one-year delay in their timeline to tenure or to continuing status on the grounds of “serious personal circumstances beyond their control” associated with COVID-19. 

Faculty members should submit any request for a delay in writing through their Dean/Chair/Director/Principal following the normal process. 

A tenure stream faculty member may request a delay to their interim review, their tenure review, or both. A teaching stream faculty member may request a delay to their probationary review, their continuing status review, or both. 

In line with the provisions of the Policy and Procedures on Academic Appointments, we ask faculty members to submit any request at the earliest opportunity in the review process (i.e., as soon as you know or reasonably ought to know that your review may warrant a delay).

Yes. Any pre-permanent status librarian may request a delay in the date of their review for permanent status for a period of time equivalent to the time they are unable to physically work at the University due to COVID-19. 

We ask librarians to submit any request at the earliest opportunity in the review process (i.e., as soon as you know or reasonably ought to know that your review may warrant a delay).

As of July 31, 2020, the Ontario government is permitting regions in Stage 3 (including Toronto and Peel) a maximum of 50 people at organized indoor public events and social gatherings and 100 people at outdoor events.

At this time, and knowing that events take time and resources to plan, the University is recommending the postponement or cancellation of all events in August that cannot be hosted remotely. We would also recommend the consistent use of the following language for communications on postponements or cancellations:  

"The health, safety and well-being of our community members is very important to us. We regret to inform you that owing to the current situation with COVID-19, _________________ event has been postponed/cancelled until further notice."

If you choose to postpone the event, you may wish to add the following:  

"Once conditions permit, we will be in touch with further information about the possible rescheduling of this event. In the meantime, please accept our apologies and our best wishes for your continued health and wellbeing."

We are also recommending that events beyond summer 2020 be considered for transition to virtual meetings where possible, and postponement where virtual meetings are not feasible and where alternate dates in 2021 are possible. Those planning meetings need to bear in mind that physical distancing requirements will likely remain in place as well as international travel restrictions, including quarantine requirements.  We recognize that the landscape continues to change and so, for events beyond August, we would recommend the following language:   

"Please note that while planning for this event continues, the current pandemic conditions may require cancellation or postponement on short notice. We are actively monitoring the situation and will advise of changes as soon as we are able."

3. Health and safety

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that originate in animals but are known to cause respiratory illness in humans, particularly during the fall and winter months. Other novel coronaviruses have included Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV). 

In January 2020, a novel (new) coronavirus (COVID-19) was identified as the cause of an outbreak of pneumonia originating in Wuhan, China. The provincial government provides updated statistics for Ontario.

The situation is rapidly evolving and the University of Toronto has been monitoring the situation very closely and taking action as necessary in light of the global situation, the advice of public health authorities and the interests of our community. 

The risk of more severe illness may be higher for individuals with weakened immune systems such as older people or those with chronic diseases such as diabetes or heart, renal or chronic lung disease.  

Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health is strongly recommending individuals over 70 years of age and those with compromised immune systems or underlying medical conditions self-isolate. This means only leaving home or seeing other people for essential reasons.

Symptoms range from common to severe respiratory illnesses and include: 

  • Fever 
  • Cough that’s new or worsening
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sore throat
  • Runny nose (not related to seasonal allergies or other known causes or conditions)
  • Feeling unwell

Many of these symptoms are similar to seasonal influenza. Should you experience these symptoms, avoid contact with others and you should use this Ontario Ministry of Health self-assessment tool

A number of dedicated assessment centres have been established across the Greater Toronto Region to facilitate assessment and testing. Information on locations is available on local public health websites including Toronto and Peel Region. If you live in other regions you can find your local health unit here: http://www.health.gov.on.ca/en/common/system/services/phu/locations.aspx

If you are advised by a public health authority that you have tested positive for COVID-19, please contact ehs.occhealth@utoronto.ca immediately. 

Everyone with symptoms of COVID-19 (e.g., fever, cough, difficulty breathing, etc.) should stay home, not work, and self-isolate. Please follow this Ontario Ministry of Health self-assessment tool. A number of dedicated assessment centres have been established across the Greater Toronto Region to facilitate assessment and testing. Information on locations is available on local public health websites, including Toronto and Peel Region. If you live in other regions you can find your local health unit here: http://www.health.gov.on.ca/en/common/system/services/phu/locations.aspx

If you are advised by a public health authority that you have tested positive for COVID-19, please contact ehs.occhealth@utoronto.ca immediately.

Our caretaking staff is increasing the frequency of cleaning of high touch-points areas such as handrails, door handles, elevator buttons and public counters.

Cleaning protocols are based on public health guidance.

Learn more about how U of T plans to keep students, faculty and staff safe on campus this fall.

Please see section 4 of this page for questions pertaining to masks.

As usual, continue to practice good hand hygiene and other infection prevention and control practices. This includes washing thoroughly with soap and water, using hand sanitizer, coughing or sneezing into your elbow, and staying at home or in your residence room if you are experiencing flu-like symptoms.

Practice physical distancing, including waiting for the next elevator or taking the stairs, using a less busy hallway and allowing others to pass before proceeding.

Guidance from public health authorities indicates that passing encounters such as walking by someone with COVID-19 or being briefly in the same room at less than two meters is not be considered a close contact and does not put you at an increased risk of Infection. 

Those with symptoms should stay home.

Learn more about how U of T plans to keep students, faculty and staff safe on campus this fall.

We understand concerns about possible flare ups or a second wave of the pandemic. U of T will continue to follow the requirements of government and public health authorities and is putting plans in place for a transition to remote learning from in-person instruction if necessary. All on-campus activities will include proper physical distancing protocols, and caretaking staff are increasing the frequency of cleaning of high-touchpoint areas. 

By offering a wide range of remote learning opportunities and co-curricular programming, our Faculties and divisions are working to minimize the impact of a potential second wave. 

Residences will be open, and students will be assigned single rooms for the fall term. Students who wish to live in residence but who are unable to come to campus in September, may be placed on an Active Applicant list. More information regarding residences is available at https://www.viceprovoststudents.utoronto.ca/covid-19/#ResidenceFall2020

4. Masks

Wearing of medical grade masks may be required for protective purposes in certain occupational settings for tasks where there is risk of exposure such as health clinics or research labs.  EHS will determine whether the use of masks is required and if so, whether N95s, surgical masks or other types of masks are appropriate.   

Non-medical masks became mandatory for passengers on the TTC on July 2. Municipalities including the City of Toronto and the City of Mississauga have enacted temporary by-laws that require the wearing of a mask or other face covering within enclosed public spaces. Public health authorities recommend that a non-medical mask be used to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 when physical distancing may be challenging or not possible. Such use protects others if the wearer of the mask is infectious. While those with symptoms should stay home, there are cases of transmission of disease from asymptomatic individuals.   

While the municipal by-laws do not apply to post-secondary institutions, the University of Toronto has enacted similar measures that call for individuals who are in a space in one of our buildings that is normally publicly accessible to wear a non-medical mask or face covering when measures such as physical barriers are not available.

The University is arranging for the distribution of two non-medical masks for all members of the community for their personal use.

The University’s measures are temporary and include exemptions for specific groups such as those with an underlying medical condition which inhibits their ability to wear a mask, individuals in areas that are not intended for public use, those who are behind a physical barrier and children under the age of two. There is no requirement that individuals who need such an exemption provide proof of the reason.   

Masks or face coverings may also be removed when taking part in an athletic or fitness activity or where necessary for purposes of receiving services.  

When you wear a non-medical mask (or other items such as gloves) when commuting, please ensure that you change masks (and gloves) when coming on campus. Please wash masks regularly. Perform hand hygiene between changes. 

For more information regarding use of masks, please consult this provincial website. Also see section 4 of this page for additional detail.

This measure, and similar moves by the cities of Toronto, Mississauga, and others, is aimed at indoor spaces where large groups of people mix, making it challenging to maintain physical distancing. In addition, it’s often difficult to track down who was in these spaces at any given time if a person who has used these areas tests positive and contact tracing is required.

The changes affect areas in buildings that are usually accessible to the public because these are the places where we expect people from different parts of our campuses, as well as visitors and contractors, will come into contact with one another. These are places where people are moving about and physical distancing might be challenging. Examples include the foyer of a building, the reception area of an office or a food court.

The University will be extending its measures regarding non-medical masks to classrooms this fall. Work is underway to provide more guidance on the wearing of masks in classrooms and other settings on campus in the coming weeks. The guidance will consider issues of enforcement, accommodation for those who can’t wear masks for medical reasons, and equity. Staff are also working to adjust classroom seating to meet physical distancing guidelines and are adding signs and stickers inside buildings to direct foot traffic.

Wearing of medical-grade masks may be required for protective purposes in some labs. Where PPE is not required the same considerations as for a classroom can be applied. One important safety measure is that masks used in labs where there are flammable materials present need to have at least as high a flame resistance rating as a lab coat. Many cloth face coverings may not meet the required safety standards. For questions regarding which face coverings are appropriate for certain lab environments please review FAQ 4.6 and 4.7 on the VPRI Research FAQ page or contact Environmental Health & Safety at ehs.ppe@utoronto.ca.

A face shield is an extra layer of protection that is usually used in clinical settings in combination with a mask. It does not offer the same kind of protection as a mask because it does not fit securely around the chin, mouth and nose. The benefits of using a face shield on its own without a mask to either provide personal protection or reduce community transmission are unclear, although shields should certainly provide some protection. So, their use as an additional protection to physical distancing and other measures by those who choose to do so is a personal choice. The university will provide a face shield for cIinical settings where they are required based on an EHS assessment.

That will depend on certain factors such as whether the public usually has access to the space and are physical distancing or other measures such as physical barriers in place.

We are following the same exemptions as the City of Toronto bylaw. Exemptions include people with an underlying medical condition that inhibits their ability to wear a mask, individuals in areas that are not usually accessible to the public, those who are behind a physical barrier and children under the age of two. As is the case with the city bylaw, we are not asking people who require an exemption to provide proof of the reason.

They should arrive later this summer and we will be providing more information about distribution then.

We expect that people will own their own masks given municipal and TTC requirements. The University is providing two cloth masks to every member of our community as part of our return to campus efforts. People should likely own several in order to allow for laundering. There is good information about the use and care of masks on the province’s web site.

We know that some members of our community have conditions that place them at higher risk. If you have concerns, there may be other measures that can be taken. These individuals should contact Environmental Health & Safety at ehs.occhealth@utoronto.ca

We know from research that the virus spreads mostly in enclosed spaces, so that is why the measure is focused indoors.

As with the city’s bylaw, we are focusing on education. We know some members of our community may have conditions that make it difficult to wear a mask and there is no requirement for individuals to provide proof of their exemption. These are unusual times and we need to be understanding and respectful of one another. In some work areas, based on an occupational health and safety assessment, employees may be given instructions to wear masks as a condition of employment, which would be implemented in the normal course.

This measure is intended for areas where groups of people mix and where physical distancing can be challenging. Whether or not a mask or face covering is beneficial after hours would depend on whether others are also using the space.

This is new territory for all of us and the guidance from government and public health advice is evolving. It’s important that we treat each other with respect. If you have questions about the proper use of masks, our Environmental Health & Safety office can help.

The City of Mississauga has enacted similar measures and all three campuses are following the same approach.

Yes. This policy applies to all indoor spaces including leased buildings where U of T activities take place that are accessible to the public. The common-use spaces of off campus buildings may have separate requirements that will also need to be followed.

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