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Changing course to design better engineering solutions

Engineering World Health to host symposium on global challenges

Unveiling their inaugural symposium, the student group Engineering World Health (EWH) hopes to inspire undergraduates, graduates, and postdocs of all academic backgrounds who are interested in global health to explore how their interests and expertise will shape engineering solutions to global health challenges.

The daylong event, to be held on March 30, is scheduled to feature expert talks, panel discussions, and a poster presentation in addition to networking opportunities.

The co-presidents of the U of T based EWH, Nimalan Thavandiran and Shreya Shukla — both PhD candidates at the Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering (IBBME) — were motivated by the need to leverage their skills as engineers to improve global health.

Since last summer, the team has launched a series of initiatives including documentary screenings of health challenges in low-income communities, workshops to obtain hands-on experience in designing simple circuits, and mentoring a group of fourth-year undergraduates in designing a novel vaccine carrier.

“What’s becoming more and more clear, especially in the global health arena, is that these days, without an interdisciplinary team you are unlikely to succeed in trying to solve some of these complex challenges, because there will always be something that your bubble of expertise is just not sufficient to resolve,” Thavandiran says. “So, you need to really integrate multiple ways of thinking, and what simpler way to do that than have the people who are experts in these respective areas working together in a team,” he adds.

To this end, the symposium is aiming to attract a diverse audience, providing a unique opportunity to learn about exciting global health topics and network closely with leaders in the field.

The speakers of the day will include Dr. Yu-Ling Cheng, the Director of the Centre for Global Engineering, Dr. Alex Jadad, the Founder of the Centre for Global eHealth Innovation and Interim Director for the Institute for Global Health Equity and Innovation at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, and Dr. David McMillen, Associate Professor of the Department of Chemical and Physical Sciences, among others.

In addition, panellists including scientists, government, and industry representatives will aim to engage the audience in more related topics in two rounds of discussions. Off-stage, networking receptions will provide more space and time for participants to mix and mingle.

The team also hopes the exposure provided by the symposium will eventually lead some attendees to consider Global Health as a potential career path.

“We want to encourage the undergraduates who are early in their career to get involved in global health and start thinking about developing certain skill sets in their undergraduate time,” Thavandiran says, adding, “A lot of graduate students I have met through EWH whose work has not been related to global health are now considering global health as a career option.”

“We may think that graduate students have already honed in and locked down on their career path, but in fact in my opinion, a lot of them decide to reconsider later because they want to make a different kind of impact,” Thavandiran continues, adding, “Global health might fit the bill and we hope our symposium will shed light on making that decision.”

A failure of leadership and of education

Undergraduates were left in the dark by university administration throughout the strike

A failure of leadership and of education

With the news Thursday evening that administration and CUPE 3902 Unit 1 will be moving forward in negotiations through binding arbitration, the strike at the University of Toronto has finally come to a close after weeks of cancelled classes and tutorials and disruption throughout campus.

Over the course of the past four weeks of the strike, students and faculty at the university were left without administrative guidance, dealing with academic disruption on a disturbingly ad hoc basis. Excepting a regularly updated FAQ section of the university’s website, communication with students throughout the labour dispute was infrequent and vague. Some professors cancelled classes in solidarity with the TAs, while others dramatically altered syllabi to reduce marking and make completing the term manageable.

Certainly, this situation can hardly be described as “business as usual,” but the administration insisted upon shirking responsibility for its undergraduate students during the strike by acting under this false notion.

Just a few days before the strike ended, the Faculty of Arts & Science emailed students with some academic guidance. The options to cancel, or Credit/No Credit (CR/NCR) courses once their final grades are released without academic penalty for any courses this term were forwarded to students.

Instructors were also given the option to release grades either as percentages, letters, or CR/NCR on the basis of the amount of work that was assessed and syllabi adjustments. With exam invigilators on strike, the university’s academic continuity policy also included the possible cancellations of finals or changes in scope and format. A possible change could have been to reformat exams to multiple choice so that they could be marked more quickly with Scantrons.

This information arrived painfully late in the strike, and only after many students had endured significant stress brought about by uncertainty. More importantly, however, these options represent a lack of respect for actual classroom learning. Students do not take courses merely to receive credits and reach graduation. We value our degrees — not only do we often need information from our courses for application in other courses, graduate programs, and careers, but many of us also share a genuine desire to learn — a desire for which we are all willing to pay. In return, however, all we have received is cancelled classes and credits doled out without meaningful academic assessment.

Early last week, a first-year psychology class of over one thousand students was disrupted as a result of the strike. Rumours circulated on social media that the administration had locked the doors to Convocation Hall; some students alleged that picketers had taken a hard line in front of the iconic U of T lecture hall and were refusing to allow them to enter the building. The administration denied the former, while some members of CUPE 3902 denied the latter.

Meanwhile, the course took place in the centre of King’s College Circle as an informal conversation rather than a lecture. The professor made the decision to hold the discussion outside. He later told The Varsity that this was not meant as a political decision, but rather a judgement call balancing different concerns.

Whether or not this represents a sound decision, the fact that the professor had to make such a significant choice in such an ad hoc manner is demonstrative of the lack of communication between the university and its staff. Students who commuted downtown for the lecture may not have done so had they known that the material covered would not be used for academic assessment, as the professor later announced; students with accessibility concerns may not have been able to attend an outdoor class.

This example is but one representative anecdote of many: lectures being cancelled indefinitely, essays being dramatically cut down in length, syllabi being adjusted without class votes, high grades being offered to full classes, and more.

The Arts and Science Students’ Union says it received approximately 130 academic complaints from undergraduate students per week during the strike, totalling around 500 for the month. This strike, for undergraduate students, has been characterized by misinformation, rumours, and stress.

Moreover, the strike has underscored the administration’s indifference towards our education. Not only were undergraduate students not provided with meaningful academic leadership throughout the past month of disputes, but the university’s eventual response — on the cusp of the exam period, no less — represents nothing short of a clear disrespect to the value of our education.

Much of the discourse surrounding this strike has centred on its underlying ideological motives. Members of CUPE 3902 were standing up against what is increasingly perceived as the corporate strategy of the university. U of T’s callousness towards undergraduates throughout the strike and ultimate solution of desperately fast-tracking credits in order to spare the term represents a failure of administrative leadership; it also paints a vivid picture of the commercialized academic institution that the university is becoming. U of T should not be a factory that churns out degrees. Our time here is valuable, but so as long it remains undervalued by the institution’s top players, it seems that our education will be secondary to our graduation.


Correction (April 6, 2015, 12:52 pm): A previous version of this article referred to the course that took place outside Convocation Hall as a sociology class; in fact, it was as psychology class. The Varsity regrets the error.

Hot jocks

Varsity athletes talk their seasons, accomplishments, and chicken nuggets

Hot jocks

Darnell Girard

Darnell Girard splits his time between football and track and field, describing them as “two completely different beasts in the athletic world.” He admits that, while the two sports “even out a little,” the combination can make for an ambitious undertaking. “I work three part-time jobs outside of class too, so that’s when it gets tough to manage things,” says Girard.

This was Girard’s first year back to football after a two year hiatus. “The team didn’t do quite as well as we hoped this season either, but we’re looking to improve on that next season,” he says, adding that the team has “high hopes.” In track, Girard placed tenth at CIS in shot put.



Girard’s current schedule is the product of a lifelong passion for sports. “It became a part of my life at a young age,” he says. His years of involvement have led to the cultivation of a pregame ritual that Girard characterizes as a “day of focus and concentration.”

“The same way I’d prepare for [a] test is how I’d prepare for a football game, but this is more watching film of the other team and how they run their plays,” he describes. Girard devotes five hours a day, six days a week to practice — two-and-a-half spent studying other teams and the rest spent on the field.

Despite the drain of this level of investment, Girard’s commitment is unwavering. “Nothing compares to the feeling when you’re on a football field and there’s a man coming at you and it’s just you against him and you just see whose will is stronger,” he says.

Going into his last year with the Blues, Girard has some final goals to accomplish. “I have the school record for weight throw,” he says. “I’d like to expand on that right now — that’d be really cool,” he adds. However, passion for sport is the real driving factor for Girard. “It’s just really about playing,” he says, adding, “I love the sports… so it’s really one last hoorah for me.”

Angie Bellehumeur



For volleyball player Angie Bellehumeur, sport extends far beyond the court, pool, or track. As co-chair of the Athlete Ally program, she has dedicated herself to making Varsity Blues athletics an inclusive space. “ I think it’s really important that everyone kind of steps up to the plate and calls themselves an ally,” she says. “I don’t want people to think of it as just a sticker on their water bottle,” she adds, explaining “there’s a pledge, and by signing that it’s a true commitment.”



Bellehumeur admits that creating this space is something of a challenge. “I think it’s something people are intimidated to talk about, especially in sports where gender roles are really enforced,” she explains. Her optimism and commitment to the cause is, however, unyielding. “As the years go on I think we’re going to get people to come together… [to] achieve this sense of an inclusive community.”

Bellehumeur’s accomplishments on the court have been equally impressive. The women’s volleyball team won the OUA championship this year. “That was a huge accomplishment for us, having had three bronze medals in previous years,” Bellehumeur explains. The team was 18-1 in the regular season.

The commitment to the sport has been demanding, but Bellehumeur describes it as “rewarding” and “competitive.” “We practice every day, and when we’re not practicing we’re at games.” She pauses to do the math on the hours she and the team commit each week. Giving up, she laughs, “It’s basically like having a full-time job in addition to university.”

Bellehumeur sees volleyball as being part of her future, though likely in a coaching or recreational capacity. “I love the sport and I love the lessons you can learn through volleyball and through sport in general,” she says.

Devin Johnson



For Devin Johnson, basketball has been a life-long passion. “I started in grade four and kept with it ever since,” he explains. His dad was a big part of that decision, enrolling his son in the sport from a young age — now, Johnson has completed his third year playing for the Varsity Blues men’s basketball team, making all-star status this season.



“At the start of the year we started real slow,” Johnson says, reflecting on the team’s year. “We were able to pick it up closer to the end of the year,” he adds. He’s optimistic that the team will continue to grow and improve into next year. “We’re a really young team, so next year will hopefully be a lot better,” he explains.

Like many Varsity athletes, Johnson’s commitment doesn’t end with the season. During the upcoming off-season he will continue to practice, having workouts and scrimmaging with his teammates. The team is close. “We’re really tight,” Johnson explains, adding, “It’s like family.”

Having a strong team bond is key to success for Johnson, however, he has a pre-game ritual — just in case. “Pregame I’ll go to McDonald’s and get 10 nuggets… and I’ll get a Tim Horton’s iced tea and drink half while coach is talking [before the game] and the other half during halftime,” he says, laughing. “It works.”

Vanessa Treasure



For Varsity Blues swimmer Vanessa Treasure, the end of this year is also the end of an era. Swimming at a competitive level since she was seven years old, the graduating athlete has decided that it’s time to move on. “I’m done [with] swim, I think, though it’s only been four weeks since I said I was done,” she laughs.

Treasure is ending her five years with the Blues on a triumphant note. The women’s swim team was the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) champion this year, and placed third at the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) level. “We met our goals,” says Treasure. “Individually I was able to win a gold medal at OUA which made me a grand slam — [meaning] I had won that medal four years in a row,” she explains.



After a career of accomplishments, Treasure is ready to try something new. “I’m trying to explore other things, I’ve never done anything but swim,” she says. Treasure does reflect on her time in the sport, and particularly her time swimming for U of T, fondly. “It’s been awesome, and I can genuinely say that everyone has been really nice to me,” she says. Treasure adds that being involved in a team has had a huge role in combatting the isolation that can come with being at such a large university.

In her time swimming, Treasure has had the opportunity to travel extensively and build close bonds with her fellow athletes. “I had a blast swimming at U of T, it’s an incredible program. It’s one of the best things that has happened in my life, if not the best,” she says. As for the future, “I’m doing ballet now… although not very well,” she laughs.

David Riley



“As long as I am swimming for me I am going to keep at it,” says Varsity Blues swimmer David Riley. After an impressive season for the men’s team, it’s not hard to imagine why. The team won the OUA championship and placed second at the CIS championship. “We lost some key teammates to health issues… and it took us a couple months to find our footing,” Riley says.

For Riley, his personal season was highlighted by a third place finish at the CIS championship. “It was a turbulent year for me and the first time I’ve ever thought of what happens after swimming and university,” Riley says.  “I am proud of the way my university season ended and am looking towards the 2015 Canadian Swim Trials.”

Looking towards his future, Riley reflects on the commitment demanded by Varsity sports. “It’s incredibly difficult to balance your team with your academics and your social life,” he says, noting the time spent on training and competition. “It’s hard to reach Maddy Thursdays with a strict training schedule,” he adds. Despite the exhausting balancing act, the commitment is well worth it — according to Riley, “just being able to commit myself to my sport is rewarding enough.”

Katey Teekasingh



“It’s been part of my life for so long now that it really is a huge part of who I am,” says Katey Teekasingh, when asked about living an athletic lifestyle. The goalie for the women’s hockey team also says the team’s season “had a lot of positives.”

“We went through a period where a lot of our games went into a shootout and for most of those games we came out on top, which shows our ability to stay strong, united, and mentally tough,” Teekasingh says. Although the team did not qualify for nationals this year, Teekasingh feels that the team is now one step closer to achieving that goal next season. “We have so much potential on this team,” she adds.



Teekasingh has a careful pregame ritual. “I always have to re-tape my stick,” she says. “For me it’s like a clean slate.”  She also uses specific songs to visualize the game and get mentally prepared.

As for the downfalls of Varsity sports, Teekasingh can only think of one. “[I’m] more injury prone than I ever have been… and there’s never a good time to be injured.”

It’s a risk she and all Varsity athletes take. “The stress we put our bodies through is so worth it… you’re playing a sport that you absolutely love,” she adds.

Being part of a team has been hugely rewarding for Teekasingh. “We’re all here because we’ve fallen in love with a sport and we’ve all worked hard for most of our lives to be where we are today,” she says. “To be part of that is one of the most amazing feelings.”

Students respond to big questions

Ask Big Questions event aims to start relatable conversations on campus

“What will your legacy be?”

That was the question facing University of Toronto students last week when Ask Big Questions (ABQ) U of T, a student group that aims to change the world through better conversation, placed large blackboards at campus hotspots, such as Hart House and the Medical Sciences building.

Ask Big Questions UofT blackboard. JENNIFER SU/THE VARSITY

Ask Big Questions UofT blackboard. JENNIFER SU/THE VARSITY

Student responses on the boards varied, ranging from goals such as running a marathon, to learning sign language, or getting a pet ferret.

This semester’s question was aimed at getting students to think about what they are working towards, what they are involved in, and why.

Roslyn Grant, a fellow at ABQ U of T, says that the purpose of the group is to spark discussions on campus between people who may not otherwise cross paths.

According to the group, the big questions are relatable to all people, regardless of background, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or anything else.

ABQ is an initiative that takes place across more than 13 university campuses in North America.

It began accidentally at Northwestern University on a poster board at an event held by Hillel, an international Jewish group, where students were asked what they would do differently this year for an upcoming holiday.
Although ABQ is part of Hillel, it is a secular organization.

ABQ U of T is held on campus once a semester, and has been active at U of T for the past few years.

According to Grant, ABQ U of T puts a lot of thought into the questions that they ask, targeting issues that are specific to U of T and reflect student expression.

Grant says that ABQ is important because it encourages students to define their success beyond just academics and facilitates opportunities for students to take a step back and set other goals.

Although it is a conversation starter, it can also have a meaningful personal impact on students who may personally reflect on the question rather than contribute on the board.

“When you have the experience of engaging, you realize how powerful it is and that people have a lot to contribute,” says Grant.

ABQ U of T has worked in collaboration with other campus groups and initiatives to encourage thinking outside the box.

While the group is only active on the St. George campus, Grant says there are possibilities for expansion to the Mississauga and Scarborough campuses in the future.

Community Knowledge Alliance hosts event on sexual assault

Attendees asked to consider role of university institution in combating gendered violence

Community Knowledge Alliance hosts event on sexual assault

Content warning: Discussion of sexual violence

The Women and Gender Studies Student Union and the Community Knowledge Alliance, a Women and Gender Studies Institute initiative, sponsored an event on Friday aimed at addressing activism and accountability for sexual assault on campus.

The event drew speakers Bilan Arte, national deputy chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students; Lori Chambers, a professor of women’s studies at Lakehead University; and Wendy Kamiotis, executive director of METRAC (Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children).

One of the main topics of the evening was institutional responsibility for sexual assault. Chambers described her leadership role at Lakehead University developing institutional policies and creating a set of guidelines for professors to follow should they become aware of an instance of sexual assault.

Chambers said that the work she has done on the subject has drawn the attention of multiple small universities looking to implement similar initiatives. Chambers says that larger institutions have yet to seek her advice on the same.

Marvin Zuker, a family court judge and lecturer at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) for over 30 years, spoke on the university’s lack of leadership in addressing sexual violence. “It’s inexcusable that we have a code of conduct that hasn’t been updated since 2002,” Zucker said.

A recurrent theme of the evening was communication. Celia Wandio, a third-year student and founder of U of T Students against Sexual Violence, said the university has a long way to go in developing a prevention and survivor response strategy.

Wandio added that the university must listen to the groups on campus who are working to respond to sexual violence.
Of the many groups working towards this goal on campus, few obtained representation on the Student Advisory Committee to the Provost on Sexual Assault, prompting Wandio to launch a petition for broader representation.

During the question and answer portion of last Friday’s event, Amy*, a long-time activist, said that education plays a key role in reversing the trend of sexual violence. “If you teach people not to rape, they won’t,” she said.

*First name only used by request.

Conservatives to propose amendments to C-51

Anti-terror bill to go through clause-by-clause review in wake of wide criticism

Conservatives to propose amendments to C-51

Bill C-51, a Conservative government anti-terror bill that has been the subject of controversy since its introduction in January, is to undergo a review and amendment process beginning Tuesday.

Amendments will attempt to narrow the scope of what might be considered terrorist activity, according to CBC News.
The bill has drawn criticism from some who say that it restricts freedom and defies the constitution.

A series of protests have occurred in recent weeks, including a country-wide “Defend our Freedom” day of action, during which NDP and Official Opposition leader Thomas Mulcair and Green Party leader Elizabeth May joined thousands of protesters in Montréal and Toronto, respectively.

NDP MP Andrew Cash says the faults in Bill C-51 compromise the spirit of the constitution. “The charter rights and freedoms are great when everyone agrees and things are popular. It is when communities are under threat that we need to defend the threat of all religions, freedom of free speech, freedom of assembly and the freedom of our civil liberties,” Cash says.

Cash adds that the “vague wording of Bill C-51” could “lump together” environmental and First Nations activism with violent extremism under the law.

Last week, Internet company Mozilla also spoke against the bill, with Jochai Ben-Avie, a policy manager for the company, saying that the bill would “undermine user trust, threaten the openness of the Web, and reduce the security of the Internet and its users.”

Former prime ministers Jean Chrétien, Paul Martin, Joe Clark, and John Turner have all called for stronger security oversight, but caution that the government’s bill may take it too far.

These former prime ministers and 18 other prominent Canadians, including five former Supreme Court Justices, issued a joint statement regarding the bill. “Protecting human rights and protecting public safety are complementary objectives, but experience has shown that serious human rights abuses can occur in the name of maintaining national security,” they said in the statement.

NDP deputy public safety critic Rosane Doré Lefebvre told CBC News that the Conservative Party has been “forced to change their tune” due to the major backlash produced by the bill’s opponents.

Election season comes to a close

A round-up of college and professional faculty election results

Election season at the University of Toronto is nearly over. Most colleges and professional faculty councils have selected the students who will lead them next year. Here are the results of their elections.

Engineering Society (ENGSOC)
Ernesto Diaz Lozano Patino is EngSoc’s next president; Rachel Reding is the next vice-president, finance; and Maddy Santia will be vice-president, student life. All three candidates ran unopposed.
Reena Cabanilla beat out William Merrick for the position of vice-president, communication, and Oghosa Igbinakenzua won vice-president, academic against Stephen Xu.



Faculty of Music Undergraduate Association (FMUA)
Although FMUA elections conclude on Wednesday, April 1, a number of positions have been announced as unofficially acclaimed. Mathias Memmel, current FMUA co-president will serve a second term. He will be joined by Andrew Adridge. Helen Geng is set to be vice-president, communications; Derek Ou will be vice-president, social; Mackenzie Clark will be vice-president, external; and Brayden Friesen will be vice-president, internal. The results for the vice-president, finance will be announced after the elections.

Kinesiology and Physical Education Undergraduate Association (KPEUA)
Due to technical difficulties, the KPEUA has changed its voting dates to Monday, March 30 to Wednesday, April 1. KPEUA members may vote online only.

Nursing Undergraduate Society (NUS)
Marty Butler was elected president, Krista McCambridge as director of communications, and Melissa Kim as senior director of finances. Justin Leigh Struss will be vice-president until his term ends in September.

Innis College Student Society (ICSS)
Khrystyna Zhuk will serve as the ICSS president in 2015–2016, while also taking on the role of Arts & Science at-large director with the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU)’s Board of Directors. Likewise, Nicole Thompson will be ICSS’ vice-president, finance along with her responsibilities as Innis College director at the UTSU Board of Directors. Brianne Katz-Griffin was elected as executive vice-president.

New College Student Council (NCSC)
Zachary Bist won NCSC presidency by a narrow margin of 10 votes against rival Akhil Chakka. Michael Ansell was acclaimed as vice-president administration. Smriti Sasikumar won the office of vice-president, student services in a three-way race against Timur Gomellya and Shubham Shabba Sharma. Nicholas Grant was the sole candidate for vice-president, finance and will concurrently act as the second of two Arts & Science at-large directors on the UTSU’s Board of Directors.

St. Michael’s College Student Union (SMCSU)
Elections for the SMCSU took place between March 26 and March 29. Stefan Sistilli Sguazzin and Joseph Crimi have been announced as the new predisent and vice-president. They are joined by a 14-strong council.

Trinity College
Trinity holds three rounds of elections over three weeks and the heads team is elected in the first week. Four of the six heads’ positions were unopposed, with Sarah Harrison claiming female head of college, Sam Kokonis female head of arts, and Benjamin Horvath winning male head of non-resident affairs. Emily Brade won female head of non-resident affairs over Alessandra Harkness and Elise Wagner, and Narain Yucel beat opponents Luis Lopez and Anthony Marchese in the competition for male head of arts. The race for male head of college also involved three candidates: Reid Dobell, Pierre Kochel, and Hayden Rodenkirchen. Dobell emerged victorious.

University College Literary and Athletic Society (UC Lit)
Amanda Stojcevski, Ramsey Andary, and Snow Mei won their respective positions of president, vice-president, and finance commissioner in unopposed elections. Outgoing president Eric Schwenger will stay on UC Lit as its athletics commissioner, having won against Sameer Rai.

Victoria University Students’ Administrative Council (VUSAC)
The official results of the VUSAC elections are set to be announced on Monday, March 30.

Woodsworth College Students’ Association
Olivia Hauck will serve as president with Teeka Cookson as vice-president of internal affairs, Alexandra Spence as vice-president of financial affairs, and Asad Jamal as vice-president of external affairs. They will be joined by Shonali Lakhani in her capacity as vice-president of public relations, Danielle Ouellette as vice-president of athletic affairs, and Ongio Tsui, incoming vice-president of social affairs.

UTFA addresses academic integrity in strike’s wake

Academic contingency plan to carry effects beyond end of strike

UTFA addresses academic integrity in strike’s wake

To help faculty better understand what the strike, academic continuity, and graduate student funding packages meant for members, the University of Toronto Faculty Association (UTFA) held a special meeting on the CUPE 3902 Unit 1 strike on Wednesday.

Prior to the meeting, the strike committee called for members to wear academic gowns and similar symbols to show their commitment to undergraduate and graduate students, as well as to academic integrity.

Participants assembled at Simcoe Hall and walked to the hotel together with CUPE 3902 members.

Despite the rainy weather, anthropology professors Sarah Hillewaert and Alejandro Paz said they participated in the walk because they did not accept the idea of academic continuity. “The fact that we are being asked to change our syllabi, change our grading scheme — the university is claiming academic continuity, but we cannot. It is not business as usual,” Hillewaert and Paz said in a joint statement.

David Mackenzie, UTFA’s special assistant to the executive, said the meeting covered the main issues raised by the strike. According to him, there was a frank exchange of opinions but no formal debates. “We hoped to accomplish a wider understanding of the situation at that moment, and to give our members an opportunity to speak frankly and ask questions,” Mackenzie said.

At the beginning of the meeting, UTFA members heard presentations by strike representatives and by the university administration.

Omar Sirri, a second-year political science PhD student who serves as communications representative for the strike committee, said that CUPE hoped to show that the union and university faculty were on the same team.

“If the university administration thinks that it is [okay] to alter course[s] to be credit no credit or to be granting full marks for 20 per cent of the marks is ludicrous and dilutes the value of the undergraduate education,” Sirri said. “Undergraduates should be up in arms about this.”

Separate from his role as the strike committee’s communications representative, Sirri and Banafsheh Beizaei, a fourth-year student, wrote an open letter to the UTFA. The pair asked the UTFA to endorse a minimum funding package of $17,500 guaranteed to each individual member.

“The vitality of graduate education and its associated funding model is absolutely critical to the research support faculty receive, the teaching that undergraduates are provided, and ultimately the overall function and future of successful post-secondary education in this country,” Sirri and Beizaei said.

In a media release, U of T president Meric Gertler addressed the university and CUPE 3902 Unit 1’s agreement to binding arbitration.

Despite the strike’s end, syllabi for many courses have already been changed.

Gertler acknowledged the academic difficulties posed by the strike.

“To the students who have had to endure uncertainty and anxiety at a crucial time in the year — and especially those who are in the final year of their programs — thank you for your patience. We are enormously relieved that the strike is over. And we share a commitment to resolving all remaining complications caused by the strike as soon as possible,” said Gertler.