SCSU’s Academic Advocacy campaign secures credit/no credit extension

Students will now be able to Credit/No Credit a course until the last day of classes

SCSU’s Academic Advocacy campaign secures credit/no credit extension

The Scarborough Campus Students’ Union’s (SCSU) Academic Advocacy campaign has successfully extended students’ ability to credit/no credit (CR/NCR) a course until the last day of classes. The CR/NCR choice allows students to opt for a pass or fail mark rather than a percentage grade on their academic transcript in up to two full credits. UTSC students can currently invoke the CR/NCR up to two weeks before the last day of classes, but the SCSU’s change will enter into effect in academic sessions after May 1.

The campaign aims to advocate for the academic rights of students and make education and information more accessible.

The CR/NCR extension was adopted by the university after the campaign submitted a report, supported by a petition, that included the extension as one of its ‘asks and recommendations.’ According to the petition, students are unreasonably expected to estimate their academic standing two weeks before they receive all their grades, and many students end up making uninformed decisions.

Beside securing the extension of the CR/NCR option, the SCSU campaign has worked to make students more aware of their academic rights and what infringements of those rights are. According to Christina Arayata, SCSU Vice-President Academics & University Affairs, the union has seen an increase in the number of students asking for assistance through appeals and petitions this year. Arayata said this increase of student awareness is a result of the information that the campaign has been promoting. “Students have been receptive to the campaign, especially now that a victory has occurred,” said Arayata.

The SCSU is also currently advocating for the introduction of self-declared sick notes, a five per cent cap on late penalties, and lifting laptop ban policies in classrooms. Arayata explained that the university has been supportive and is interested in the recommendations and pilot programs proposed by the union.

Students can expect this campaign to continue well into the future.“Academic advocacy and accessibility has moved from just conversation to actionable items that can be improved, expanded, and developed,” said Arayata. “The topic of accessible education and advocacy must not stop — it is an ongoing movement that needs constant care.”

English department shifts program focus in light of declining enrolment

Indigenous, postcolonial literature among new requirements in program

English department shifts program focus in light of declining enrolment

After a two-year program review, the English department is changing the requirements for its specialist and major programs, effective for this year’s enrolment. The department is also introducing more courses that focus on broader themes.

The changes are intended to allow for more flexibility through decreased breadth requirements within the program and a clearer path for students to choose courses. The department has also introduced an Indigenous and postcolonial literature requirement.

The new requirements will apply to all students enrolling in English programs beginning in 2018, and current students in the program will be able to switch to the new requirements if they are interested.

One of the significant changes to the program is adapting 300-level courses to cover broader themes in literature instead of specific historical periods or authors, as is currently the case.

According to Professor Jeremy Lopez, introducing 300-level “topics” courses will give more freedom to “instructors who want to teach some kind of course that might combine or transcend or move between periods or genres of national literatures.”

The program will also include four new “gateway courses” that are intended to give English students a strong background in the major areas of English literature and help them succeed in upper-level courses. These courses will be the first required English courses and will be designed to foster a sense of community for the specialist and major students who take them.

Three new courses will be introduced to help increase interest in English programs, including a course geared toward science students called Literature and the Sciences.

In addition to making changes to the program, Lopez said that the changes are also set against the backdrop of decreasing student enrolment in English programs over the past five years.

“The current curriculum has been around for 10 years, and usually curriculums have about a 10 year life,” explained Lopez.

The decrease in English enrolment at U of T is not specific to this university or subject, but it is part of a wider trend of reduced enrolment in the humanities at many universities. In acknowledging this trend, the English department’s focus was “increasing the value of the program in the face of it being smaller.”

Elena Matas, a third-year English student, believes that the changes strike a good balance between giving students freedom of choice and providing them with a clear trajectory.

“It gives students the opportunity to explore important aspects of the literary canon,” said Matas. “But it also gives them flexibility in their later years to study the aspect of literature that appeals the most to them, which is an opportunity I wish I had gotten.”

The most obscure courses at U of T

Highlighting essential non-essentials that the university has to offer

The most obscure courses at U of T

Unfortunately, the four years of lectures that make up an undergraduate experience can be a joyless journey. Buried deep in U of T’s course catalogue, however, are a number of unconventional academic gems. The following are real students’ tales of real classes that you can really take during your time at U of T.

CIN360: Doppelgangers and Doubles

“I realized just how ridiculous ‘Doppelgangers and Doubles’ was as our professor stood in front of a projector displaying a picture of Leonardo DiCaprio standing next to his Russian doppelganger. The course covered exactly what it said it would: doppelgangers in cinema. Surprisingly, there was a lot to talk about. At times we studied the CGI element of recreating a figure on-screen, and at times we discussed 20th century Horror-flick philosophy surrounding the ‘return of the repressed’. While surprisingly informative, I can say with absolute certainty that there’s virtually nothing I can do with the information I’ve absorbed from this course.”

— Jacob Lorinc

HIS440: Maps and History

“This class focuses on the theory behind the creation of maps, rather than any historic dates or other standard midterm fare. When pressed on what would possibly be on the midterm, Professor Retallack simply teased, ‘if you are present in class, you shouldn’t have a problem.’ So the day of the midterm arrived and I showed up with a solid combination of anxiety and curiosity, only to find that the midterm was a single-page wine advertisement that featured a map of where the drinker’s night would take them, and we were to analyze this map. To my surprise, I realized much of what was covered in class could be applied to the wine ad’s map. The midterm went well but I can honestly say that it was the strangest and most memorable test I have ever taken.”

— Christian Crawford 

MUS321: The Beatles

“Never did I think watching a YouTube clip of Ringo Starr sitting on his yacht recounting how many drugs he and the rest of the Fab Four consumed during the ’60s would get me closer to graduation. But sure enough, there I was in lecture furiously transcribing Ringo’s ramblings like a court reporter, hoping to catch some miscellaneous one-liner that might end up as a test’s bonus question. The Beatles class was a thrill for any pop/rock enthusiast, as we spent each week doing, well, exactly what you’d expect: working our way through the Beatles’ discography one week at a time, watching clips from their all-too-short touring stint, and debating over which Beatle was the best (read ‘dreamiest’). It was the most in-touch I’ve ever felt with those girls you hear screaming in the background of every Beatles live video, and I loved it.”

— Corey van den Hoogenband   

ENG235: The Graphic Novel

“I have been thinking about that ‘what even is this class’ moment, and for me it was really while writing the essay for the Graphic Novel course. I tend to send my essays to my brother to proof read, but in this case it was also specifically because I thought he would enjoy the subject matter. He sent it back to me after reading the first line and refused to read the rest, claiming that it was unfair that he was working on advanced mathematics for his engineering problem sheets while I was writing a paper about Batman’s existential crisis in The Dark Knight Returns. Even after I finished the course, he refused to read any of my essays out of bitterness.”

— Scheherazade Khan 

ENG239: Fantasy and Horror

“There’s a Fantasy and Horror class at UTM and we had to read I Am Legend. But Professor Koening-Woodyard is obviously the biggest nerd ever (he also taught the Science Fiction class), and there was a point where he just explained for twenty minutes how he calculated how many zombies the main character killed throughout the course of the plot, even though like 99% of it is implied and it had nothing to do with anything besides him wanting to nerd out for a while. Weird side note: all three horror novels we read for the class were about vampires. Even Twilight was originally going to be included, but the Professor decided to cut it before the class actually started.”

— Nicholas Schaus

CIN211: Science Fiction Film

“There I was having a mental breakdown. ‘This is it mom, I am going to flunk out,’ I, age 23, told my mother. All of this anguish and it was over what, my mother asked me. ‘…Are you serious? Barbarella?’ It was my final year of undergrad and it was looking like nude, zero gravity Jane Fonda, was defeating me. I did manage to finish the paper, though. A paper my Professor, who unbeknownst to me was a huge Barbarella fan, commented on as ‘taking the film too seriously.’ Upon reading his less than favorable comment I felt dismayed, declaring rudely to my wonderful T.A., ‘But this is Cinema Studies! Don’t you guys take all movies too seriously?'”

— India McAlister