Know Your Rights

This week, many of your courses which have instructors who are on strike will be meeting as called by the department to discuss a vote to change the syllabus.  Members of the ASSU Executive tonight witnessed a department chair make statements that are not correct in regards to the syllabus.

Over the weekend, you would have received an e-mail from Dean David Cameron in regards to the Faculty of Arts and Science opening up the ability to declare CR/NCR (Credit/No Credit) or drop the course after you have received your marks.  The Faculty website says:

For all courses offered this term (both S and Y courses), and even in cases where numeric grades will be available, students can elect Credit/No Credit (CR/NCR) or choose to cancel (drop) a course  without academic penalty.  The CR/NCR will not count towards students’ 2.0 FCE maximum.  The deadlines for both these options have been extended until after students have seen their final grades.  Precise dates will be posted on the Arts & Science website shortly. Please continue to check this website regularly for updated information.

This applies to all courses. Not just courses on strike, not just courses affected – all courses. If your department chair in the meeting claims that while you have an option, if you vote to reject the syllabus – you may not be able to access the aforementioned options of declaring CR/NCR or dropping the course, please bare in mind that this is not true.

You can vote anyway you like for the syllabus – but keep in mind that the syllabus votes only governs changes to the marking scheme (how things are weighted, when they are due, etc.).  Declaring credit/no credit, dropping a course, or anything else – are not governed by the syllabus.  While ASSU does not agree with the academic continuity measures the Faculty has chosen, we will defend your rights to use it.

We have also heard of courses choosing to pass syllabi changes with caveats – “we will not have the exam if the TAs are still on strike by this date.“. This is not fair to our students, nor do we believe this is allowed. Please report all of these instances to ASSU.

Keep in mind, there is no active policy allowing departments to step into your course and administer it. This includes forcing you to hand in assignments directly to them, or conducting syllabus votes. If you choose to challenge the department in this regard (ask them for the specific policy that allows them to do this) – you will have the support of the union.  

ASSU will be meeting with the Faculty shortly – e-mail: with your questions and complaints.

Latest CUPE 3902 Statement

Statement from ASSU Executive:

Dear students,

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 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, 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

ASSU Candidate Statements

Here are the statements for candidates in our executive elections.

Candidate for President

Abdullah Shihipar

Hey y’all. My is Abdullah Shihipar and I am currently the President of the Arts and Science Students’ Union (ASSU) and I’m running to seek a second term.  This year, together with our students, ASSU council and the executive, we have managed to accomplish a lot.  We have transformed the way students’ see the union.

We host academic talks and lectures – such as bringing Ta-Nehisi Coates to campus, we have held fun distressing events and coffeehouses, we have boosted our presence on social media and we have run effective campaigns this year, from advocating for international students rights to ensuring that students’ know their rights in the classroom.  Our council has been more active and featured in more discussions in setting the mandate of the union.  Even when crises come up, the strike for example:  we have responded with swift action.

As President this year, I am proud of the work my team has accomplished in the short span of a few months and I would like to be able to finish the work we started this year.  As the Faculty embarks on its petitions overhaul, I’d like to see mental health be better integrated. I’d like to continue working towards an improved course evaluation system and I want to continue to ensure that the union and the university are safe, positive spaces for all students. I hope you will give me the chance to work with you and other students as we continue to move the union forward.

 Candidates for Executive (4 positions available)

Lisa Chen

I am finishing my second year, both at U of T and as an executive on the Arts and Science Student’s Union. I started as an executive on ASSU in the first semester of my first year and have seen both the union and myself grow in terms of in terms of accomplishments and future aspirations. During my time as an executive, I have started a web series called ASKU to introduce students to lesser known resources on campus, helped with the International Student Survey to bring awareness to issues faced by International Students on and off campus, sat on the committee for improving course evaluations, and ran a “Decorate Your Own Cupcake” event during Mental Health Awareness Month. I currently serve as the secretary of HPSUS (History and Philosophy of Science Undergraduate Society) and have an excellent understanding of ASSU both as an executive, and as a course union executive. In the Faculty of ArtSci, I also represent students to the administration as a Humanities Rep on the Arts and Science Faculty Council, Student Rep on Curriculum Committee, and Student Rep on the Academic Appeals Board. I understand and experience the needs of the average student and have learnt the culture and policies of the faculty administration during my two years working with them. My plans for the upcoming year are to continue pushing for canned comments and improved user friendliness on the course evaluations, as well as hold more mental health awareness and support events throughout the year.

Colby Chubbs

My name is Colby Chubbs and I’m running for the Arts and Science Student Union Executive. I’m a third year student completing a double major in Political Science and Philosophy, with a minor in English; and within my studies, I’ve also taken courses within Classics, Slavic Languages and Literature, and History. My main experience consists of two years’ service within a course union – the Association of Political Science Students – where I began as a College Representative to being elected to the Executive, still currently serving. I have become well acquainted with the essential processes and operations that go into providing the various functions organized by a course union, and the duties and services that a course union must uphold. I intend to take my prior experience in a course union and actively apply it unions on a larger-scale – with three times the vigor and passion – in ensuring that course unions of all stripes are able to meet their objectives that are vital for all students within the Faculty of arts and science.

That being said, my objectives include:

  • Further building on ASSU’s role in communication and deliberation with course unions
  • Ensuring that course unions have the essential resources and space for organizing events and opportunities
  • Ensuring that the services of ASSU and course unions are easily accessible to all Faculty students, fostering inclusiveness and solidarity

Crystal Gao

Looking back, this has been an exciting and productive year for ASSU council. As a current executive, I have witnessed the enthusiasm and important work of our course unions. I have also gained valuable experience and insight on academic issues faced by students.

Next year, I hope to continue building on our advocacy for more equitable academic policies, a more inclusive international student experience as well as a comprehensive course evaluation system which includes feedback on TA’s and student comments. In addition, I will work extensively with the Faculty to improve first-year academic experience and create more experiential learning opportunities. As well, I hope to continue the project I launched this year called #feelbetterdobetter, a series of events to give students mental health resources and fun activities for stress-relief.

Most importantly, I want to give greater focus to our 60+ course unions who I recognize, do the bulk of the work to engage students through weekly and monthly events, workshops and seminars. I want to start the year with a budget consultation with you all to increase funds, support and resources for course union initiatives because I know that your outreach efforts form the backbone of what we do. I also want to revitalize our website so that your events are prioritized front and centre and bring our special projects funding requests online.

Thank you for helping us achieve an unprecedented year of student engagement and advocacy. I hope to serve you again next year on the ASSU executive.

Ondiek Oduor

Hi! I am running to be an Executive on ASSU. I am currently in my third-year studying Social-Cultural Anthropology and Book & Media Studies with a minor in Women & Gender Studies.

I have held a wide array of positions during my three years at the university. I am the Male Head of Non-Resident Affairs at Trinity College – which means that I am the Head of the Non-Resident Affairs Committee, and of all commuter students at the College. On top of politics, I work with a brilliant team of Heads as essentially student dons. I sit on several committees, such as the Finance Committee, Board of Stewards, and the Senate. I am also both the Co-Chair of Students for Gender Equity and the Secretary for Rainbow Trinity at Trinity College.

Additionally, I intern for Life at U of T as a part of the Student Life Community Crew, and have became adept at using social media platforms (cat videos) to engage with students. I will continue ASSU’s expertise in social media to ensure that students are aware of the countless services that the Union provides.

My focus will be to make the student experience more equitable both inside and outside the classroom. I want to work together with Course Unions to help make that their structures and events are equally accessible to students regardless of their identities. I will strive to lessen the academic, social and financial burdens that often seem unavoidable in student life.

Thank you for your consideration.

Harrison Perry-Daiter

My name is Harrison Perry-Daiter and I am running for election to the Arts and Sciences Students’ Union Executive. I am a second year student majoring in International Relations and European Studies, with minors in Russian and Spanish.

I have been a firm advocate of student activism throughout my academic career. Pursuing broad reform, I presented my speech “Sexisme dans la Langue Francaise” before a forum of Ontario secondary school French Language Department heads, for which I was awarded the Emblem of the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages.

Having graduated high school among the highest academic performers in Canada (99.3% average), I was designated one of fifty Class of 2017 President’s Scholars of Excellence.

I hold leadership positions in many student groups, including Vice President-Academic of the Slavic Languages Student Union. Acting upon our members’ right to efficient course evaluations, we are working with the Department to facilitate access to internal reviews, drawing from standardized year-end student feedback. Among my other student leadership initiatives, I serve as Vice President of AFTER UofT. I co-organized our inaugural Professional Development Conference, a full day even that featured thirty guest speakers, and accommodated over three hundred students.

While building upon ASSU’s successes, my targets for 2015-2016 include efficient course evaluations, by offering accessible sessional feedback on professors, course instructors, and teaching assistants. I would also apply ASSU’s broad student outreach to promote engagement in Course Union events of all sizes.

Natalie Petra

My name is Natalie Petra and I’m running for the ASSU Executive. I hope to complete my degree with a double major in Public Policy and Peace, Conflict, and Justice Studies. Over my five years at the University of Toronto, I have held a wide variety of leadership positions, including Director of Finance of Hi-Skule, Chair of Leadership Development during Frosh Week, Annesley Representative on Victoria College’s Sustainability Council, and member of the University of Toronto New Democrats. Outside of school, I have extensive experience, and was appointed to the Bradford Public Library’s Board of Directors, as well as elected President and LGBT Representative of the York—Simcoe NDP, and to the Ontario NDP’s highest governing body, Provincial Council.

I’m passionate about undergraduate student issues, both academic and social, and I hope to be able to make a difference and improve our community. If elected, I hope to:

1) Work with Course Unions and the University to implement mid-term course evaluations in Arts & Science courses (particularly Y courses) so that professors can listen to feedback and adjust to better help students achieve success.

2) Fight for fairer fee structures and financial support for struggling and low-income students.

3) Fight for better mental health support and services.

4) Work to increase funding for Course Union events and outreach.

5) Work with Course Unions to increase advocacy and support for students who feel unsafe in class.

I would love to have the opportunity to learn and serve on ASSU.

Alexandra Rusu

The increased collaboration between course unions and the ASSU is the basis on which my platform stands. Better access to course midterms and exams can be facilitated through better communication between unions such as the EEBU, ESU, and CSSU. This will better allow students to be more comfortable with the subject matter of the course that they are taking, as well as make them more comfortable with taking courses outside of their specific disciplines. Better communication means the ASSU being in closer collaboration with the student unions encouraging social ties through social events and encouraging the promotion of ASSU and past-midterm collection in their courses. I am also for the bringing back of the anti-calendar into students hands.

On the Ali Saeed Memorial Award

This week, we awarded our inaugural Ali Saeed Memorial Award to an international student who has accomplished a lot. It’s a busy time of year with the strike and all, but I just wanted to write down some thoughts about Ali. Ali served with me on the ASSU executive last year from 2013-2014. He was an international student from Pakistan but that description does not do him justice. From the moment he walked into the students’ union office, he instantly lit up the environment with that radiant smile of his. I legitimately cannot remember a time when Ali was angry. He put his time and effort into various projects of ours, including the syllabi project we compiled last year but his real passion was with working with international students.

Being an international student himself, Ali knew the challenges they face. A population that contributes so much in cash to the university yet does not get its fair share in return. I’m pleased that we were able to take steps this year to begin to address this with our survey – something Ali I’m sure would’ve appreciated.  He had a passion for photography and I recall just weeks before he passed, arranging a time with him for a photoshoot for the new executive.

Ali sadly passed away nine days into my presidency. This year especially, but also during the past few years, I’ve noticed on campus that people especially online can be particularly harsh. Often times dragging people through the mud for the sake of politics, or how its popularly phrased “to do what’s right”. This is what makes Ali even more special, he never resorted to that. He never had anything bad to say about people, never sought to put people down. He just smiled. Nobody had anything bad to say about Ali.

Today, I congratulate the winner of this year’s award and future winners, for you exemplify everything Ali stood for. Service and compassion to one’s fellow students.



Latest 3902 Strike Statement.

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.

2015 ASSU Award Winners

Congratulations to these amazing students!

ASSU is pleased to announce the winners of our leadership awards. The winner of the William R. Gardner Leadership Award is Kaleem Hawa. The two runner up awards went to Winnie Lieu, and Amitpal Singh.

The winner of the Gavin Nowlan Leadership Award was Charles Dalrymple-Fraser, with Maya Deeb and Emily Tsui both receiving runner up awards.

The awards will be presented at a special ceremony hosted by The Arts and Science Students’ Union, and Dean Cameron of the Faculty of Arts and Science later this month.

Thank you to everyone who submitted applications, this year was an incredibly competitive group of students.