Undergraduates at the University of Toronto say they are facing lower marks and cancelled assignments and classes as a strike at the school that has gone on for almost a month went into another week after teaching assistants and instructors rejected the latest deal between their bargaining committee and the administration.
"We just had a chemistry mid-term and did poorly. The professors have office hours, but you can't always make those," said Shadi Mousavi Nia, a first-year student in life sciences at the downtown campus. "With tutorials, we have extra help."
The university has kept classes running during the strike in a bid to minimize the effect on undergraduates. But students on campus on Monday morning said some departments have discussed cancelling courses taught by PhD students. According to the university, these account for 6 per cent of all courses.
Spring assignments are also being dropped.
"After so many rounds of disagreements, I think no one cares about us. We are the ones that are affected," Ms. Nia said.
The university has not invoked its policy on academic continuity. That would allow it to change the curriculum or the length of the term, but it could be seen as interfering with the academic freedom of faculty to determine course content.
"If we choose to [invoke academic continuity], and that is still to be determined, it could be implemented at a variety of different levels. One does not need to impose it blanket-like across the entire institution," said Meric Gertler, the university's president.
Professors are caught between the administration and striking TAs and instructors, the university's faculty association said.
"Faculty are saying, 'What happens if I don't take on struck work, if I don't change my course? On one hand, I don't want to do it, but on the other hand, what is going to happen?' Nobody knows," said Scott Prudham, the association's president.
The association met with the union and the administration on Monday afternoon.
"We will impress upon the parties that they really, really need to roll up their sleeves and get a deal. We want to see them get creative and try and make this work. Obviously, it's not working so far," Dr. Prudham said.
The latest agreement was rejected by a narrow marginof 109 votes early on Monday morning. Just more than one quarter of the 6,000 members voted. It was the second deal members have turned down.
At issue is the terms of the funding the university provides to graduate students through salaries for leading tutorials, scholarships and tuition fees. U of T said the offer would have included a $1-million bursary fund.
The university has refused to make the funding package part of the labour deal, saying the agreement covers students in their capacity as part-time employees.
Some of the funding for graduate students, Dr. Gertler said, comes from faculty research grants and is not predictable.
Ryan Culppepper, vice-chair of CUPE 3902's striking units, said teaching assistants fear the proposed increase to $17,500 could drop if more graduate students are admitted or departments' financing declines.
"That number is nowhere in the agreement. … If they are going to improve our financial situation in the way that they say they want to, put that in writing," he said.