H1N1 & Student Absences

PDAD&C#13, 2009-10


From:   Cheryl Misak, Vice-President and Provost
Date: September 9, 2009
RE: H1N1 & Student Absences

In keeping with the University of Toronto strategy on managing the possible effects of H1N1, teaching staff members will make reasonable accommodations for students who are unable to attend classes or complete academic requirements due to suspected or actual H1N1 illnesses. Alternative arrangements for fulfillment of academic requirements will be determined by the course instructor in consultation with their divisions.

As individuals suffering from flu-like symptoms may be told by Public Health or by their physicians not to visit a physician's office, the university will not at this point in time require a medical certificate for absences due to suspected H1N1. In lieu of a medical certificate or doctor's note, students will be required to document periods of absence through a declaration on the Student Web Service of ROSI. After declaring an absence, a confirmation page is displayed and students are instructed to print this page. Students may then present this print out to instructors upon their return to classes. Instructors can also contact the college or faculty registrar for confirmation of the student's declaration of absence. This practice will be assessed as we move through the term and additional information and guidelines are available through Public Health authorities.

The following information is being distributed to students:

Students who suspect they have H1N1 influenza or who are experiencing flu symptoms should stay at home or in their residence room in order to help minimize the spread of the disease.*

In order to receive academic accommodation, students will need to record all flu-related absences through a new tool on the Student Web Service of ROSI (www.rosi.utoronto.ca). At this time, students will not normally be asked to supply a doctor's note or medical certificate in relation to absences for flu or flu-like symptoms. This practice will be assessed over time and as the University receives additional information and guidelines from Public Health authorities.

The University will also rely on this absence record to monitor the numbers and locations of student absences for academic planning, so if at all possible, students should record their absence as soon as it begins. They should also remember to record the last day of their absence as soon as they are able to return to classes. The absence declaration may be completed online while the student is absent up till and including the day that the student returns to class; those who miss this opportunity may contact their registrar's office.

Some professional programs may require additional steps as well as the absence record on ROSI. Students should check their Faculty or Campus website for further information.

While the University will make every effort to provide needed academic accommodation, students are advised that they continue to be responsible for meeting course requirements as determined by their instructors.

Communications with students about preparedness have been a high priority. To date, the following steps have been taken:

1. A dedicated page for student information has been created on the Pandemic Preparedness website:

2. An H1N1 influenza information sheet was included in all University of Toronto Students' Union orientation packages for new students. A PDF version of the sheet is online at:

3. An H1N1 influenza information sheet for students living in residence has been provided to residence deans and directors for distribution to residents, and is shared with parents and family members of resident students through the new Parent and Family website and electronic newsletter. The information page sent to residence students can be found at:

4. Up-to-date H1N1 influenza information and announcements are being posted on the Portal and the UTSC Intranet. Currently, a letter from the Vice-Provost, Students, Jill Matus, is posted.

5. H1N1 influenza information is included as an item in the September Grad Student e-newsletter sent to all graduate students on all campuses.

6. H1N1 influenza information is included as an item in the Arts & Science e-newsletter sent to all Arts & Science students (St. George Campus).

7. A direct email message to all students is being planned for the coming days.

8. An academic planning guide for students is in the final stages of preparation and will be made available on the Pandemic Planning website.

The key messages to students have been as follows:

1. The University is prepared to manage flu on our campuses, and with their help, we can minimize the impact of the flu on academic and co-curricular activities.

2. Public health authorities recommend following three simple actions to help prevent the spread of flu: Wash and/or sanitize your hands frequently; cough and sneeze into a tissue or a sleeve; stay at home (or in their residence rooms) if they are ill.

3. For ongoing updates on the University's H1N1 preparations, visit http://www.preparedness.utoronto.ca.  

The academic planning guide for students will provide advice on how to best plan for an absence with special attention to maintaining communication with the University and instructors. Students are asked to undertake a number of actions: 1) update contact information in ROSI, including a U of T email address; 2) make sure they know how each of their instructors plans to communicate with students in case academic arrangements need to be changed; 3) confirm how on-line tools (e.g., Portal/Blackboard or Intranet) will be used in the event of an absence; 4) identify fellow students with whom notes and class announcements can be shared; and 5) in relation to placements, service learning activities, field work, and other off-campus academic activities to make sure they understand what they should do in the event of an illness or closure of an off-campus site.

The University will continue to communicate with students via the Pandemic Planning website, electronic newsletters and/or the Portal and Intranet as updates to our procedures or information occur. I would encourage you to link to the University's preparedness information from your unit's website.

* See www.preparedness.utoronto.ca for information regarding flu and flu-like symptoms.