By Kevin Fulmer
Students at Algoma University’s campus in Brampton, Ontario have been protesting night and day, fighting back against unfair and fraudulent practices used by the school to squeeze more profits from the students.
At the end of the recent semester, over 130 students received failing grades on their exams – causing them to fail the course – without any explanation as to why. When the students asked to see their marked exam papers, to know which questions they got wrong and why, professors Pelham Matthews and Surjit Singh refused even after multiple attempts by the students and an appeal to the dean.
After exhausting all other options and being essentially ignored by the student union, the wronged students have pitched tents outside in the cold for a permanent protest. They are demanding that they simply be allowed to see their exams and be given an explanation as to why they failed their course.
Recently, the university announced that 100 students’ grades were changed to a pass, but then changed some of those back to a fail again after claiming that some of the students had cheated. Algoma did not provide any evidence for this claim. This shows that the grades are subject to change and aren’t actually based concretely on the work that the students have done.
Currently, about 40 students are still protesting against the lack of transparency and are demanding justice. Many told People’s Voice that Algoma University has tricked international students by giving a false impression of what the campus is actually like, giving a sub-par standard of education which essentially amounts to sending YouTube videos to the students and providing little to no opportunity to ask questions or get guidance from the professors.
Students are essentially teaching themselves in many classes.
International student tuition is a staggering $11,000 per semester. This is on top of Brampton’s high cost of living, which is massive in comparison to students’ home countries. Many students suspect that the university fails them without explanation so that they will be forced to retake the courses and be charged tuition again.
Algoma is just the latest Canadian university to be exposed for exploiting international students, as the ability to charge them higher fees encourages dishonest practices and the targeting of a vulnerable group.
This is a mere symptom of the root problem: privatized post-secondary education. As institutions of higher learning are privatized – particularly in the sense that their revenue has shifted from public funding to tuition fees – they become more focused on raising profits (usually by exploiting students) than on providing a quality education. This profit-driven model not only distracts from any initiative to make education and the student experience the best it can be, but often directly contradicts it, as cutting corners and exploiting students help make a quick buck.
Algoma needs to root out and halt this practice of unfairly failing students who have worked diligently all semester to earn the credits they need to graduate and get good employment in the job market. It should also compensate the students thus affected, by refunding tuition fees for courses they had to re-take.
But the bigger issue is to oppose and dismantle the privatization and ever-growing for-profit model in post-secondary education. It is in the interest of the country’s economy, and the working class as a whole, to have colleges and universities committed to delivering accessible, quality education and treating students with fairness and respect.
[Photo: Indian Express]
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