You can read the pdf version of this letter here.
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Hon. Chris Alexander, M.P
Minister of Citizenship and Immigration
Citizenship and Immigration Canada
365 Laurier Avenue West
Ottawa, OntarioLetter to Minister Alexander
Dear Minister Alexander,
We are writing to you today as concerned global citizens. Day after day, we continue to watch heartbreaking images of families fleeing the civil war in Syria. Often, this is a treacherous journey – families pile up on dangerously overcrowded boats or trucks and risk their lives in seeking safe refuge. We have seen the human cost of this mass exodus, in dead men, women and children. Those who survive the journey are left in limbo in refugee camps that are overcrowded. As we see the world reacting to this crisis, we are left asking ourselves, what exactly is Canada doing?
The UNHCR and European Union have described the present situation as a crisis, and some EU member states have stepped in and accepted Syrian refugees. Sweden has accepted 40,000 Syrian refugees since the conflict began, totaling 20% of asylum seekers who have reached Europe. Germany has accepted close to 40%. In fact, just this past week, the German government announced that they expect to take in up to one million asylum seekers this year alone.
Canada, in comparison, has only committed to taking in 10,000 refugees over the next three years. This number is hardly proportional to the crisis, which has created over 4 million refugees according to the UNHCR. Instead of properly responding to the crisis, the Canadian government has been content to demonize refugees, attempting to deny them basic health care and use rhetoric that criminalizes people whose only crime is fleeing persecution. As Canadians, we can and must do better. We cannot ignore human suffering.
Today, we are calling upon the Canadian Government to accept more refugees from this crisis. As a students’ union whose membership includes Syrians and Syrian-Canadians as well as people from all corners of the earth, we cannot stand idly by as people continue to die seeking safe refuge.
Canada has a proud legacy of standing up for human rights in the international stage. Keeping this in mind, we hope your government acts swiftly in response to this crisis by accepting more refugees to our shores.
The Executive of the Arts and Science Students’ Union, University of Toronto
Statement from ASSU Executive:
Tonight you may have received an e-mail from Dean Cameron in the Faculty of Arts and Science informing you of your options going forward as the strike enters its fourth week. These options include using a letter grade system or CR/NCR system in place of numeric grades in classes where the instructor has been on strike. In addition to this, the Faculty has said that it will allow you to drop the course or use CR/NCR after you have received your grades. This is quite concerning.
While this may seem like a great thing, we urge you to take a step back and look at the grander picture. The university is throwing its academic integrity and your education out the door. You didn’t come here to just receive the credit and you paid thousands of dollars to receive an education – things you aren’t receiving right now. While these measures may provide a solution that allows students to graduate while not extending the term, they are precarious. We have all worked hard and now the integrity of all of our course work this semester is in jeopardy because of these measures. For a university that normally is quite concerned with maintaining a high standard of difficulty; these types of measures are shocking.
This allows us to save face for our GPA, due to a labour disruption that we did not cause, but it does not make up for the lost class time. These types of measures are in a way insulting. What the university is saying to us undergraduate students is that, here’s your credit to pacify you. That the credit and our GPA is the only thing we are concerned about, that we aren’t here to learn from our instructors. Fundamentally, university is willing to risk its own academic integrity as opposed to addressing the grievances that CUPE 3902 members have put forward.
E-mail email@example.com and tell the Provost’s office to negotiate in good faith.
Many students have also come forward with concerns with regards to the department intervening in interrupted courses and implementing syallabi changes. From our correspondence with the Faculty of Arts and Science, the Faculty believes that this is allowed however has yet to point to a specific policy in the Academic Handbook that allows for this. ASSU believes that a syllabus is a contract between an instructor and a student – not the department and the student. As such, only the instructor can push for a vote to change things.
If a vote is being pushed in your class by the department, you can kindly request that they show you the policy that allows them to do this. The Academic Continuity Policy has not been enacted by the Provosts’ office so therefore – there is no policy. You can challenge departments on this and ASSU will be there to support you.
We’d also like to remind you of your syllabi rights:
– that is you have the right to vote on a change to the syllabus and that this change needs to be announced one class beforehand.
– in the options presented, you must be able to reject any changes or keep the original syllabus. You cannot be penalized for this. This is your right.
– you have the right to a secret ballot.
We have heard reports of coercion and of students not feeling comfortable, to our students, we say stay strong! These are your rights and we will help defend them.
If you have any further concerns or need to report anything – please visit us at SS1068, e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org, tweet us, message us on this Facebook. We may take a while to respond – but we promise, we will respond.
Yours in solidarity,
The ASSU Executive
Statement from ASSU Executive:
It has been a long week. Our first and foremost concern as an undergraduate students’ union is undergraduate education. We did not want a strike but at the same time, the ASSU executive supports the members of CUPE 3902. We have released prior statements affirming this commitment; we believe that the deal the university offered did not come close to addressing the grievances of the union members. We stand by this statement, however today’s statement does not pertain to the details of the bargaining process.
We want to see an end to this strike as soon as possible but we are extremely concerned by what we are seeing being done on the part of the university. For one thing, the university has refused to come back to the bargaining table despite the union’s repeated requests to meet immediately. In the words of the university, they are waiting for a provincial meditator to bring both sides back to the table. They can go back to the table now if they want to.
We have also heard some concerning things from our students. First and foremost, we have received multiple reports of professors changing things on their syllabi without a vote. This is against the rules of the Faculty of Arts and Science, which states that in order for changes to occur to a syllabi (for example: changing the grade distribution or changing when things are due), these changes must be approved by a majority of the class. These votes can be taken in person or via secret ballot. There must be a NO option, i.e: an option to keep the syllabus as is. Providing two alternatives does not suffice.
Even if students get to vote – we ask students to exercise caution. Consider whether this is really in your best interest. Keep in mind that by voting for syllabi changes that may dramatically shift the distribution, you may be taking away from the work that a TA would do. Thus, strike breaking and prolonging the strike. Changing the syllabi to accommodate a strike and mark things more heavily may not be in your best interest. Of course, we ask members to use their best judgment and do what they feel is best for them.
The second issue, consists of undergraduates being sought out by departments to conduct TA labour. Students have reported being e-mailed by departments to take up a job, conducting an interview and then finding out afterwards about the nature of the work. We ask our students to be incredibly careful of this. The departments involved in doing this do not have your best interest in mind. As soon as the strike ends, you will be let go and the duration of your work will suggest you were a strikebreaker. This isn’t exactly the best thing to have on you resume. Tricking well-meaning undergrads into accepting scab labour positions without telling them this, is deceiving and unacceptable. We unequivocally condemn this practice.
Once again, tactics like changing the syllabi (with or without consent) and pursuing scab labour merely prolong the strike and take away from your education – constrained evaluations aren’t exactly the definition of a fulfilling experience. Domestic and international students pay over 7,000 and 30,000 respectively in tuition. Do you really want to get less because the university does not want to allocate the money you pay to salaries of those who teach you?
We will keep you updated as always.