The University of Toronto will be holding student consultations on its University-Mandated Leave of Absence Policy through town hall meetings on September 23 and October 5.
There has been much debate and criticism on the policy, specifically around how it stigmatizes students living with complex mental health issues, and discriminates against those students with disabilities. We’ve provided a breakdown of what the policy is and means for students, and what students need to know before joining the town hall.
What is UMLAP?
The University-Mandated Leave of Absence Policy is meant to be a non-punitive, compassionate way for the University to address serious mental health issues in students, without academic consequences. It allows the University to step in and remove a student they have been involved in scenarios where there is concerning behaviour or misconduct due to a mental health issue, and one of the two conditions below are met:
- A student’s behaviour poses a risk of harm to themselves or others.
- Accommodations to support the student have been unsuccessful for a student whose mental health issues mean they are unable to complete “essential activities required to pursue an education at the University.” This does not cover all situations in which students are academically unsuccessful (in which case normal academic standards would apply), only those which involve serious behavioural issues as a result of mental health.
How does it work?
If the Division Head (dean, principal or director of a faculty) believes that a student meets the conditions of UMLAP, they may request the Vice Provost of Students (VPS) to invoke the policy.
If the VPS agrees, the student in question will be given a Case Manager and Support Team who will work with them on accommodations so that the student does not need to be placed on leave. If these accommodations are unsuccessful, the VPS may ask the student to take a Voluntary Leave of Absence. If the student agrees, the Voluntary Leave of Absence process begins.
If the student disagrees, the VPS may determine whether a University-Mandated Leave of Absence is appropriate. The student can appeal this decision.
In both cases, the student works with the Case Manager and Support Team to address the terms of the leave, including when the student can return and tuition refunds.
Since 2018, the Policy has removed 9 students from their studies, with only 2 taking voluntary leave. Of those 9, only 4 have returned to their studies.
So what’s next?
The University is now holding student consultations on the policy. Many student groups, including the UTSU, continue to condemn the policy for its stigmatization of mental health, and are calling for more supports and resources for students, not a policy that scares them out of seeking support.