Back to Report on the Role Of Campus Safety in Responding to Students in Mental Health Crises

The Role of Campus Safety in Responding to Students in Mental Health Crises: Update on Institutional Commitments 

In October 2022, the Vice-President, People Strategy, Equity & Culture and Vice-Provost, Students released an initial Administrative Response to the Final Report of the Review Committee on the Role of Campus Safety (Special Constable Services) in Responding to Students in Mental Health Crises. The Response identified five key areas to focus the University’s efforts to address the recommendations, and affirmed the need for compassion, collaboration, and expertise in trauma-informed practices to develop solutions best suited to our diverse student population.

The following summary indicates commitments made collectively by Campus Safety teams under each key area. Going forward, progress will be shared in future Campus Safety Annual Reports and through the People Strategy, Equity & Culture website.

i. Achieving tri-campus consistency

Established in tandem with the release of the Administrative Response, a tri-campus safety leadership table (chaired by the Vice-President, People Strategy, Equity & Culture and Acting Vice-President, People Strategy, Equity & Culture) has been meeting regularly to share information and collaborate on standard processes, including institutional responses to students in mental health crises. Meetings frequently include subject matter experts such as the inaugural Senior Executive Director, Student Mental Health Systems, Policy and Strategy to ensure that the perspectives of campus mental health experts are considered in the discussions.

This tri-campus approach moves toward a shared set of standards that will develop consistent, responsive, and accountable practices across the University while still enabling local, tailored approaches that respond to unique student needs at each campus. Initiatives designed and implemented on one campus may inform models for similar initiatives on other campuses.

ii. Continuing to improve the breadth and depth of mandatory training for Campus Safety staff

  • Directors on all Campus Safety teams have committed to enriching tri-campus training initiatives and exploring, in consultation with mental health and student wellness partners, the development of a new framework that embeds more deeply both equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) and mental health considerations into this training.
  • Each of the three Campus Safety teams now have a staff member dedicated to education and training initiatives.
  • A Community Crisis Response Coordinator position, in place for some time at UTSC, is being integrated into the UTSG team, and UTM is working to similarly align its structure. As of June 2023, the UTSG Community Crisis Response Coordinator will begin providing biannual training.
  • Equity offices are consulting with all Campus Safety teams on mandatory training.
  • By December 2023, the UTSC Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Office will complete a review of Campus Safety training and share their findings with other Campus Safety Directors.
  • Joint training sessions with student mental health teams—where not already in progress—will be initiated by late Spring 2023.

iii. Enhancing recruitment, hiring, onboarding, and retention strategies for Campus Safety staff

  • University HR will work with tri-campus Campus Safety Directors to review Campus Safety job descriptions for scope and accuracy. This practice will support both recruitment and retention efforts, ensuring alignment between performance expectations and the delivery of high-quality, compassionate service to our community.
  • The inaugural Director and Special Advisor, High Risk and Divisional Support (OSHR) is developing a Critical Incident Response Team to service the tri-campus community. Upon request, this team will provide support, such as critical incident debriefing, to Campus Safety team members.
  • Currently, UTSC’s Community Crisis Response Coordinator participates in hiring panels, ensures interview questions are designed with an EDI lens, and supports the creation of hiring panels that reflect the diversity of their local communities. UTSG and UTM are working to align their practices with this UTSC model.

iv. Re-examining synergies between Campus Safety, student wellness services, and student groups in responding to students in mental health crises

  • Early work is underway to develop a new collaborative model for Campus Safety, student wellness services, and other internal and external stakeholders to support information-sharing and role clarification and explore how to better define the range of responses needed to support students in mental health crises.
  • Current areas of focus and discussion include the following: reviewing protocols and procedures around conducting wellness checks; the collection of student information; the use of appropriate community supports and agencies; and voluntary or involuntary student transfers to hospital emergency care, ensuring the integration of trauma-informed practices and a “least restraint” approach to transfers.
  • The UTSC Director and Community Crisis Response Coordinator developed a comprehensive student crisis response process map by consulting with key stakeholders about how students engage safety-related resources. This initiative serves as a useful model for other Campus Safety teams.

v. Strengthening communications between Campus Safety and the U of T community

  • The Division of People Strategy, Equity & Culture is collaborating with University of Toronto Communications and tri-campus Campus Safety staff on a communications plan that clarifies the roles and services of Campus Safety, how and when to access their assistance, and the functionality of the U of T Campus Safety App.