Julien Balbontin/THE VARSITY

An unacceptable mishap, especially for those applying to graduate school

Re: “Bug affected student GPAs on ACORN, U of T says”

To many of us, ACORN has become synonymous with technical difficulties. However, none may have as negative long-term consequences as ACORN’s newest technical mishap with many affected by a wrongful GPA calculation following the Fall 2018 semester.

I was surprised to log into ACORN early January to find that my 4.0 sessional GPA from the fall did not increase my cumulative GPA (CGPA). While site crashes during course enrolment are certain to occur, I expected ACORN to at least be a reliable calculator. And as a fourth-year student with several grad school applications looming just around corner, I submitted my transcripts with ACORN’s incorrectly calculated GPA with only a mild annoyance and confusion as to how a 4.0 could lead to absolutely no improvement to one’s CGPA.

It was only days later when I logged back into ACORN to see that my CGPA suddenly improved by 0.03. While this may not seem like much to many, small incremental differences in CGPA can be the deciding factor for many of us applying for graduate school. But now we will never know the degree to which this malfunction has affected our chances.

While frustration over U of T’s web services are often justified by the fact that the system needs to service such a large student population, this latest ACORN mishap will be costly to students through no fault of their own. Also, I expected the administration to inform students more broadly about the mishap beyond simply posting about it on social media, as many students may have failed to have received the news at all.

More work should be done to improve student web services to ensure that issues like these don’t arise again. Not getting into a class you wanted to take is one thing. But possibly not getting into grad school because of ACORN’s faulty calculations is unacceptable.

Yasaman Mohaddes is a fourth-year Political Science and Sociology student at St. Michael’s College.


A hyperbolic, misleading letter that fails to justify student union funding

Re: “U of T student unions sign open letter against Ford government”

ANDY TAKAGI/THE VARSITY

Some U of T student unions have joined 75 other Canadian student unions in signing an open letter that protests Premier Doug Ford’s postsecondary reforms, which may cause them to lose a significant proportion of their revenue.

Myopically, the letter focuses on how valuable the unions themselves are, rather than the student-run programs that actually provide value. Consider the frequency of mismanagement or serious allegations of fraud committed by student unions, such as by those at U of T, the University of Ottawa, and Ryerson University, as well as poor voter participation in their elections. The reputation of these unions is not strong enough to justify concern for funding reduction.

The letter criticizes both the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) changes and the “opt-out” clause. Regarding the OSAP changes, the biggest difference is that grants are reduced for higher-income families and dependent students living at home. For low-income and independent students, the changes are negligible. Interest is now charged during the six-month grace period, but the cuts to tuition fees and incidental fees are significant compensations. Ultimately, the letter’s framing of the issue as a direct attack on low-income families is misleading, to say the least.

The bulk of the letter is focused on the “opt-out” clause, called the Student Choice Initiative. Programs that support health and safety are exempt from the clause. The letter disingenuously states that these programs are at risk, which amounts to nothing more than fear-mongering.

Even if we are to ignore the misrepresentation of the policy, the letter fails to justify student unions as being worth their fees. A more suitable approach would have been to focus on the value provided by student groups that may disappear, without using hyperbolic language and misleading readers about what the changes actually are.

George McKeown is a fifth-year PhD student in the Department of Chemistry.

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