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Blocked from Canada’s largest classroom by striking teaching assistants, a University of Toronto professor made a sudden decision Tuesday to hold his lecture outside — using a mobile microphone provided by the union — and reviewed lessons on mental illness for more than two hours to students gathered on a chilly lawn.
Psychology professor Dan Dolderman made the move to an open-air class after pickets of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) 3902 prevented entry to Convocation Hall as part of their ramped-up protest against the university’s failure to meet the union’s demand for what it calls structural change to the funding of grad students.
Some students were delighted by the al fresco academics.
“Dolderman’s really ‘chill’ — he’s a trouper, and he knew it wasn’t feasible to get into the building, but it wasn’t fair not to have the class,” said fourth-year student Abeer Kedwai. “He told us that holding the class outside wasn’t a political act, but it was done because of logistics, and it was a good thing.”
U of T spokesperson Althea Blackburn-Evans said “the university fully supports Dr. Dolderman’s decision to hold his class outside. His decision is a great example of our community at its best: being respectful, being collegial, being creative and fulfilling our academic mission.”
A number of students did complain on social media about pickets blocking them from class.
CUPE 3902 voted to reject the U of T’s latest offer and is angry the university is letting professors amend courses at the end of the year to adjust for material not covered during the strike. The union believes this will compromise academic integrity and wants the university to get back to bargaining. A rally of support for strikers is planned Wednesday at 3 p.m. outside Simcoe Hall by professors.
Union spokesperson Omar Sirri said the integrity of students’ marks is at risk, citing one professor who told students their final exam will be cancelled and their final mark will simply be the mark they received on their first essay, on which the class average was 92 per cent.
“I feel this is the U of T’s Oprah moment — ‘You get an A, and you get an A, and you and you’ — but for just 20 per cent of the work,” said Sirri.
Meanwhile, York University presented a new offer Tuesday to its striking teaching assistants. CUPE 3903 president Faiz Ahmed said, “We are pleased the university has returned to the bargaining table. There’s more work that needs to be done to reach an agreement. We are hopeful that the negotiation process will continue.”