Reminder of Procedures for Cancellation of Classes and/or Closure Due to Adverse Weather Conditions (PDAD&C #22)

From: Cheryl Regehr, Vice-President & Provost 
Kelly Hannah-Moffat, Vice-President, Human Resources & Equity 
Date: October 31, 2019
Re: Reminder of Procedures for Cancellation of Classes and/or Closure Due to Adverse Weather Conditions (PDAD&C #22)

As the winter season approaches, we wish to both remind and update you on steps the University has taken to refine its communication and decision-making processes around managing operations during adverse weather conditions, specifically for the St. George campus. 

We heard your concerns 

Last year’s weather conditions were particularly harsh, impacting thousands of classes, exams, tests, labs, and tutorials on a number of occasions during the winter term. The decision to cancel classes or close a campus is always challenging. There are a number of factors considered in the decision-making process with the safety of our students, faculty, and staff being the most important. Last year, we received a great deal of feedback on ways to further improve information-gathering related to community needs during incremental weather with respect to travel, child care, accessibility and on-campus services.  

We did our research 

In response to community feedback, we identified two significant trends that suggest the need for changes to the procedures for class cancellations and/or campus closure, most acutely for the St. George campus. The first is that weather is becoming increasingly erratic due to the climate crisis, and we can expect to experience additional days of extreme weather conditions during the winter season at U of T in the coming years. The second major trend shows that at least one-third of university students in the Toronto region commute two-plus hours per day to the University, and many of them also have children and families who are impacted by school closures. In particular, the St. George campus is no longer primarily a place for residence and downtown students as it may once have been. This past fall, it was announced that 10 post-secondary institutions from across the region have joined the StudentMoveTO study, the largest-ever collective of colleges and universities in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area to embark on a first-of-its-kind study on student transportation. The study will help identify the changes needed to increase quality of life for commuting students and will in turn help inform our decision-making process around travel needs and challenges during adverse weather conditions.

We updated our internal procedures and protocols 

For all three campuses, U of T Communications will distribute more regular community updates using U of T social media channels when Environment Canada issues a winter weather statement, watch, or warning.  

With respect to the St. George campus only, our procedures have now been updated to reflect more systematically new and evolving information. This includes the expansion of public transportation monitoring to transit conditions beyond the GTA, such as local and regional highways, and the GO Train. We have also created a direct line of communication with other Toronto higher education institutions in the downtown area to help streamline the decision-making process and expedite notice time.  

Communications and updates will be posted on the U of T homepage, the UTM homepage, and the UTSC homepage as necessary. Institutional social media channels (Twitter and Facebook) will also be used to alert the community at regular intervals. The U of T Alert system (UTAlert) will be used in the event of class cancellations or closures only; please register and/or update your contact information here. You can also opt to receive text messages through the U of T Alert system for the fastest notification. 

As a reminder, the procedures for the cancellation of classes and/or closure due to adverse weather conditions are available on the website for the Office of the Vice-President & Provost.