U of T approves policy that could place students with mental health issues on leave

The University of Toronto has decided to implement a policy that could place students with mental health issues on a mandatory leave of absence if the school deems it necessary.

Policy has been criticized by student groups as well as the Ontario Human Rights Commission

The University of Toronto has decided to implement a policy that could place students with mental health issues on a mandatory leave of absence if the school deems it necessary. (Google Maps)

The University of Toronto has decided to implement a policy that could place students with mental health issues on a mandatory leave of absence if the school deems it necessary.

The policy, which drew criticism from students groups and the Ontario Human Rights Commission, was approved by the university's governing council at a meeting Wednesday evening.

Under the policy, a mandatory leave would be considered if the university's administration becomes aware of a student who poses a risk of harm to themselves or others, and mental illness is believed to be involved.

According to the university, the policy states that a regulated health professional will be consulted as part of the consideration of a mandated leave of absence.

Policy 'not to be punitive'

"The policy emphasizes that the mandated leave of absence is not to be punitive," Sandy Welsh, the university's vice provost for students said in a statement. "It is to be applied in rare cases, only after accommodative measures have been unsuccessful, or the student has declined those measures."

The university made several changes to its original version of the policy after consulting with students, Welsh said.

Outside the meeting where the policy was voted on, Cristina Jaimungal, with the University of Toronto Graduate Students' Union, said there was a "lack of a concerted effort" by the university to address concerns laid out by disability advocate groups. 

One of those groups, Students for Barrier-Free Access, which represents disabled students at the university, had said it was concerned the policy could deter students from disclosing mental health issues and from seeking support or treatment offered by the university.

The university's various student unions also released a joint statement earlier this week saying the policy discriminates against students with mental health issues.

The policy was created after recommendations were made by the university's ombudsperson in the 2014-2015 school year. The university said there have been more than 18 months of consultations on the policy.