Algoma University students protest against unfair marking

Jan 25, 2024 | Canadian News

Algoma University students defied subzero temperatures and cold winds in Brampton during 12 days of protest that ended last Sunday accusing the university of unfair marking.

The protest started on Jan. 3 when about half of the students taking the one-year Information Technology (IT) course were failed by a professor on Jan. 1.

Himanshu Nagi, a student at Alogma, said after the protests started, the university passed nearly 100 students in the IT course through the bell-curve-up grading system.

“They changed the grading system but did not explain why they failed the students in the first place,” Nagi said.

Last week, students taking four different courses of business administration, who had similarly failed, joined the protest.

Simranjit Singh, a student at the university, said the same professor taught three of the courses and assessed the fourth.

“The passing marks are 50 per cent. Before the exam, I had 45 per cent marks, but after attempting the final exam, I got (a) 44 per cent mark. How is this possible,” he said.

Singh said the marks were given within a week of registration for new classes, and no time was provided to appeal for the grades.

A student holding a placard that says, 'want justice now!, it's time we fight back, stand for students, respect us.'

International (Indian) student holding a placard at Algoma University's Brampton Campus on Jan. 14 to protest against unfair marking by the university in five courses. The student's placard is asking for justice, respect, rights and equality. Photo credit: Anusha Siddiqui

A statement released by Algoma International Students’ Committee on Jan. 19 estimated about 38 per cent of the students failed in each class.

Uma Devi, an affected Human Resources and Business Management student and a mother of two children who are living in India, said she wants justice.

“I know it is unfair because I already passed the course with the assignments and the quizzes, I got good marks. I don’t understand on what basis I’ve flunked the final exam,” Devi said.

Devi said that living away from family is hard as it is and the professor has not been responding to their emails.

“Even after paying four times the (domestic) tuition fees, they are giving us random marks,” Devi said. “And now again, we have to pay $3,000 to take the course, which is almost one and a half month’s pay.”

The protest is supported by Naujawan Support Network, a group that said they are “fighting against wage theft and student exploitation.”

“We have been listening to the stories and it’s heart-wrenching,” said Jobanjeet Kaur, a group member. “These students have not done any wrong, but the college has failed them unjustly.

“Students have not been (told) why they failed, and some of them have failed twice in the same subject,” she said.

Naujawan Support network flag waving against students holding placards.

International (Indian) students holding placards at Algoma University's Brampton Campus on Jan. 14 to protest against unfair marking by the university in five courses. Students are asking for justice, explanation and transparency from the university. Photo credit: Anusha Siddiqui

The Algoma International Students’ Committee statement said international students are viewed as cash cows.

“This is also not the first time, nor the only college, where disproportionately high numbers of international students have failed,” the statement said.

Algoma University told Humber News in a written statement that the allegations of mass failing are untrue.

“Algoma University has never and will never change any student’s grades due to a protest,” the statement said.

The university called for the protests to end due to safety concerns. “Student, staff and faculty safety and wellbeing is Algoma University’s top priority. No one has a right to make others feel unsafe, and Algoma University is taking a zero-tolerance stance against anyone who threatens violence or who tries to intimidate students,” the university said.

The student committee statement said after the protest began, the university did a reassessment and about 135 students have now received a passing grade.

The student committee said in one of the courses, students have now been given the option to complete an intensive online class for free, but students of the other three courses have not received any respite despite being taught by the same instructor.

“Given the partial victories since our protest began, our committee is temporarily halting our permanent protest while continuing a broader campaign for fair reassessment, transparency and accountability,” the student committee statement said.