Review of the University-Mandated Leave of Absence Policy

Review of the University-Mandated Leave of Absence Policy

March 2021


The University-Mandated Leave of Absence Policy (the “Policy“) was approved by Governing Council in June of 2018 and is intended to provide a compassionate and non-punitive option for students who are exhibiting serious and concerning behaviour that threatens their own or others’ safety, or results in negative and material impacts on the learning environment of others. The Policy was developed in response to concerns raised by the University Ombudsperson about the University’s ability to address student behaviours during periods of extreme distress caused by serious health or mental health issues. The intention of the Policy is to ensure the safety of all members of the University community and to support students who may benefit from time away from their studies to engage with supports or other assistance. The University-Mandated Leave of Absence Policy is intended to be applied in rare circumstances, and only after accommodative measures have been unsuccessful, or the student has declined those measures.

During the 2018-19 and 2019-20 academic years, the Policy was invoked nine times. In 2018-19, two of the eight students returned to studies, with accommodations, within six weeks of being placed on a leave. Two additional students who were on leave in 2018-19 returned to their studies in the 2019-20 academic year. One of the students who returned to studies in 2019-20 has now graduated from their program. A report on the Policy and its application is presented annually to the University Affairs Board (2018-19, 2019-20).

University – Mandated Leaves of Absence617
Voluntary Leaves of Absence202
Urgent Situations 606
Returned to Studies224

Although the 2020-21 report on the Policy will not be presented until Fall 2021, an additional student who was on leave in 2019-20 has returned to their studies during the 2020-21 academic year – bringing the total number of students who have returned to studies to five.

The terms and conditions identified in the Policy allow for a tailored approach and considerations for each student. To this end, the University has arranged for tuition refunds, on-going access to health and wellness services, continuation of health and dental benefits through respective student societies, and arrangements to maintain academic progress to support students going through this process.

A Student Case Manager is appointed by the University to liaise with the student throughout the process and to ensure that appropriate accommodations are being offered.

The University Ombudsperson has reviewed the factual specifics of each case and has not identified any concerns with the relevant criteria not being satisfied; however, we know that some students and other community members continue to have questions about the Policy’s scope and application. The Report of the Presidential and Provostial Task Force on Student Mental Health noted that the Policy is sometimes viewed as a potential barrier to students seeking mental health services. The Task Force recommended the University address this potential issue through a comprehensive educational strategy to ensure the supportive and compassionate intent of the Policy is made more apparent and that students understand they will not be put on leave for simply seeking medical care (Recommendation 18).

The University understands the significance of requiring a student to take a leave of this nature and the need to ensure that such actions are taken judiciously and with the utmost level of care and consideration. In recognition of the need for transparency and accountability with regard to the application of the University-Mandated Leave of Absence Policy, Section 79 of the Policy states that “The Provost undertakes to review the Policy in the third academic year of its operation, and to report to the Governing Council about that review.”

As this is the third year of operation for the Policy, the Provost is initiating this review, and has asked Professor Donald Ainslie, Department of Philosophy in the Faculty of Arts & Science, to lead it. Professor Ainslie has had extensive administrative experience, including as Principal of University College (2011-2019) and Chair of the Department of Philosophy (Faculty of Arts and Science) and the Graduate Department of Philosophy (2003-2011). The review team will also include Varsha Patel, Assistant Dean of Student Success and Career Support, University of Toronto Scarborough.

Review Approach

The focus of this review will include:

  • Analysis of the intended purpose of the Policy and the extent to which the Policy and its application to-date align with that purpose.
  • Review of the definition of terms for clarity and consistency.
  • Assessment of the steps outlined for invoking the Policy for clarity, consistency, and the extent to which they align with the compassionate intent of the Policy.
  • Consideration of the extent to which the Policy is understood by students, staff, and faculty across the University.
  • Consideration of any unintended outcomes of the Policy.
  • Evaluation of the annual reporting and periodic review requirements.

Online Feedback

All members of the University community were invited to submit their feedback on the University-Mandated Leave of Absence Policy through an online feedback form on this website. Please note that the Online submission form closed November 30, 2021.

In person (virtual) Feedback Town Halls

The reviewers held virtual Town Halls sessions via Zoom for all U of T community members in Winter 2021 and Fall 2021:

  • Town Hall 1: Tuesday, March 23, 11:00am – 12:30pm
  • Town Hall 2: Wednesday, March 31, 12:00pm – 1:30pm
  • Town Hall 3: Thursday, September 23, 9:30am – 11:00am
  • Town Hall 4: Tuesday, October 5, 4:00pm – 5:30pm

OHRC Submission

On November 8, 2021, the University received a letter from the Chief Commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) as a contribution to the review process. The letter is posted publicly on the OHRC website.

On November 16, 2021, the University submitted a response to the Chief Commissioner

Any questions or comments related to the review process can be forward to