Know Your Rights!

It is important that you know that you have certain academic and non-academic rights that are enshrined to you as a student at the University of Toronto and as a resident of Ontario and Canada.

The University of Toronto Students’ Union wants to make sure that you are aware of your rights. If you experience a violation of your rights or believe you are being mistreated, we are here to help. Do not hesitate to contact us with any issues you experience.

 

Academic Rights

The UTSU has compiled a list of academic rights that you have as students:

1. You have the right to challenge racist, homophobic, ableist, sexist, Eurocentric or otherwise oppressive teaching methods and material.

2. You have the right to have reasonable access to your professors for consultation before and during a course.

3. You have the right to receive a course syllabus on the first day of class.

4. You have the right to refuse changes to a syllabus once a course has started.

5. You have the right to receive at least one significant mark before the last day that you can withdraw from a course.

6. You have the right to practice your faith without academic penalty and with reasonable accommodation from your professors.

7. You have the right to petition any mark for any test or assignment if you think that it was marked unfairly or incorrectly.

8. You have the right to hand in neatly handwritten essays.

9. You have the right to have no assignment worth 100 per cent of your final grade.

10. You have the right to refuse to use turnitin.com.

11. You have the right not to have any major term test worth more than 25 per cent in the last two weeks of a course.

12. You have the right to receive all of your assignments once graded.

13. You have the right to the privacy of your grades.

14. You have the right to retain intellectual property rights to your research.

You have the right to think critically, to fight racism, sexism, ageisim, ableism, oppression, ignorance, xenophobia, and hatred; to a safe campus; to challenge colonialism, backward pedagogy, and eurocentrism; to speak and have a voice; to the freedom of speech and all other freedoms and rights granted in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

You have the right to protest the infringement of your rights.

You have the right to an accessible education.

Your rights are enshrined in the university’s own Statement of Institutional Purpose, and we will defend them.

Turnitin.com

Did you know that you have the right to refuse to use Turnitin.com?

Turnitin.com is a for-profit service that scans assignments for potential sources of plagiarism. Assignments are checked against other internet sources, including papers submitted to Turnitin.com by students. Once students submit their assignments, these assignments become a part of the Turnitin.com database.

Educational institutions purchase Turnitin.com service using student money and then help promote the Turnitin.com database growth by asking students to submit their assignment to Turnitin.com. Essentially, this service uses your intellectual property for profit. Many institutions, such as Harvard, Princeton, Yale and Dalhousie, have decided against using Turnitin.com for this reason.

After students submit their assignment to Turnitin.com, the assignments are matched against any other sources in the Turnitin.com database, including assignments submitted in the past, internet sources, online books, newspapers and journals. Subsequently, an “originality report” is created that shows any duplication in the assignment.

It is an absolute must that students know how to reference correctly since incorrect or incomplete use of quotations will indicate these sections as suspicious in the originality report. Turnitin.com does not take into account incorrect referencing or work that was not purposely plagiarized. However, many students are not professionals in terms of utilizing referencing techniques especially for students who do not use certain citation styles on a regular basis. Referencing errors could lead to serious charges of plagiarism and academic misconduct, which could affect your entire academic career.

It is important to note that students have the right to refuse to submit their work to Turnitin.com despite instructions from their instructor. If an instructor requires students to submit assignments to Turnitin.com, he or she must provide the following:

1. A course outline that states whether Turnitin.com will be used in the course. 

2. If so, the syllabus should indicate an alternative option and clearly state that the use of Turnitin.com is not mandatory.

Other Universities who have stood up against Turnitin.com:

A McGill student won an academic appeal case after he was assigned a failing grade for refusing to submit his assignment to Turnitin.com:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/mcgill-student-wins-fight-over-anti-cheating-website-1.497770

Equity

We believe that the University needs to be a more equitable place, and we are working hard to improve issues that entrench the marginalization of some of our membership.

Below are the your rights at the of Toronto with respect to equity. They are compiled through the University of Toronto Statement on Human Rights, Statement on Equity, Diversity and Excellence, Policy on Scheduling of Classes and Examinations and Other Accommodations for Religious Observances, The Anti-Racism and Cultural Diversity Office and the Ontario Human Rights Code.

• The University of Toronto will act within its purview to prevent or remedy discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, age, marital status, family status, disability, receipt of public assistance or record of offenses.

• Every student has a right to equal treatment with respect to services, goods and facilities, without discrimination because of race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sex, sexual orientation, age, marital status, family status or disability.

• The University of Toronto will arrange reasonable accommodation of the needs of students who observe religious holy days other than those already accommodated by ordinary scheduling and statutory holidays.

• Instructors will make every reasonable effort to avoid scheduling tests, examinations or other compulsory activities during religious observances when alerted to them by students.

• The University will strive to ensure that every member of the University community is accorded the requisite environment to live, learn and work free of bias or discrimination.

• The University will strive to ensure that every individual on campus is treated with dignity and respect.

• The University will strive to ensure that they exemplify their commitment to anti-racism and the elimination of systemic discrimination.

• You have the right to attend university free from harassment, defined as unwelcome comments or conduct that happens more than once.

• You have the right to be accommodated so that you have the same opportunities as everyone else, short of undue hardship.

Worker’s Rights

We know that as tuition fees and costs associated with education and living increase, students are more and more likely to be workers. We want to make sure that you are aware of your rights as workers.

A unionized workplace and collective agreement help to define protections and benefits as well as ensure that workers have a fair say in how their workplace operates. If you work at a part-time job for the University of Toronto that is not a work-study position, you are likely unionized. For more information on which jobs are unionized, please check here.

In the absence of those protections, workers still have minimum regulations defined by the Employment Standards Act (ESA).

The ESA does not cover individuals performing work in an internship or experience program. It does cover students in work-study jobs.

For more information visit labour.gov.on.ca or call 1-800-531-5551.

For information about laws that govern workplace safety, labour relations, pay equity and human rights, call the Ministry of Government Services at: 1-800-268-1142.

Here are some helpful rights to remember:

Hours of work:

• You cannot be required to work more than eight hours in a day.
• You cannot be required to work more than 48 hours in a week.

Rest periods:

• You must have at least 11 consecutive hours off work each day.
• You must have 24 hours off work each week or 48 consecutive hours off work in every two-week period.

Overtime:

• If you are required to work more than 44 hours in a week, you must be paid overtime.
• The overtime rate is 1½ times the regular rate of pay.

Minimum Wage:

• $10.25 per hour.
• $9.60 per hour if you are a student under the age of 18 and work less than 28 hours per week.
• $11.28 per hour if you are a homeworker.
• $8.90 per hour if you are a liquor server.

Payday:

• You must be paid on a regular, recurring payday and must be given a statement showing your wages and deductions each pay period.

Vacation Time and Pay:

• You are entitled to at least four per cent of your total wages as vacation pay.

Public holidays

• You are most likely entitled to take Ontario’s public holidays off each year. Ontario’s public holidays can be found here.

Pregnancy and Parental Leave

• You are entitled to take up to 17 weeks of unpaid, job-protected pregnancy leave and 35 weeks of parental leave (if you have taken pregnancy leave).

Personal Emergency Leave:

• If your employer employs at least 50 people, you are entitled to take up to 10 days each calendar year of unpaid, job-protected personal emergency leave. This is for personal illness, injury or medical emergency, or for the death, illness, injury or medical emergency or urgent matter concerning certain family members.

Family Medical Leave:

• You are entitled to take family medical leave to provide care or support to family members who have a serious illness with a significant risk of dying within a period of 26 weeks. This leave is an unpaid, job-protected leave of up to eight weeks.

Termination Notice and Pay:

• You must be given advance written notice, or termination pay instead of notice, or a combination of both, if you have been working continuously for three months or more and your job is terminated. The amount of notice or pay depends on how long you have been working.

Claiming Your Rights:

• You cannot be punished for claiming your rights. You cannot be intimidated, fired, suspended or threatened with these actions because you ask about or claim your rights. If this happens, you should contact the Ontario Ministry of Labour immediately.

Ontario Human Rights Commission:

• You are entitled to be treated equally to others, free of discrimination. This is legislated by the Ontario Human Rights Act and the Canadian Human Rights Code. If you think you are a victim of discriminatory treatment, contact the Ontario Human Rights Commission at 1-800-387-9080. Their website is ohrc.on.ca.

Tenant Rights

The Ontario Residential Tenancies Act outlines the legal rights and responsibilities of tenants and landlords in the province. Issues related to getting an apartment, rent, deposits, repairs and maintenance, privacy, subletting, moving out, eviction and harassment are all issues that you may face as a tenant.

Renting an apartment, as a student can be a stressful experience – protect yourself by being familiar with your rights!

1. Landlords can only increase the rent once every 12 months and only according to provincial rate guidelines. A landlord must give you a written notice at least 90 days before increasing rent.

2. Charges like a key deposit, commission, penalty, “finder’s fee” or any other charges are illegal.

3. Landlords cannot enter your home without written notice unless it is an emergency or you have given permission to enter at a particular time.

4. You are entitled to a receipt for any payments given to your landlord.

5. At the beginning of the lease, the landlord can ask for the first month’s rent and a rent deposit (often referred to as last month’s rent.) You are not required to give your landlord post-dated cheques.

6. Landlords cannot prevent you from having a pet or having your partner move in.

7. Landlords are permitted to use income information, credit checks, credit references, rental history or guarantees when selecting a prospective tenant.

For more information about your rights as a tenant, contact:

• Community legal Education Ontario (CLEO): yourlegalrights.on.ca

• Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario (ACTO) acto.ca

• Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) legalaid.on.ca

• The campus legal aid office – Downtown Legal Services (DLS): http://dls.sa.utoronto.ca/

• Ontario Landlord and Tenant Board: ltb.gov.on.ca

• Investigation and Enforcement Unit Minister of Municipal Affairs and House: mah.gov.on.ca

• Ontario Human Rights Commission: ohrc.on.ca

Ancillary Fees

Ancillary fees are mandatory fees that the University of Toronto collects to run various services at the University. Also called “incidental” fees, these fees are paid with but are not the same as your tuition fees. The government mandates that these fees must fall under the following categories:

• Health and insurance

• Student activity fees that exclude academic services

• Athletic fees

• Transportation and parking

• Housing placement

• Field trips (if they cover the direct cost of the trip)

• Fees for learning material and clothing retained by students

• Fees for material you produce which becomes your property

• Fees for materials or services where the university acts as a broker for the student (e.g. student society fees, UHIP fees)

The government is very specific about what can be deemed an ancillary fee. The university is not allowed to increase ancillary fees to supplement educational services. In other words, these fees cannot be a backdoor tuition fee increase.

Additionally, students must approve certain kinds of ancillary fee increases before they can be implemented. At the University of Toronto, the Council on Student Services (CoSS) is a body made up of representatives from each of the central students’ unions from all three campuses and representatives from student services offered by the administration. Unlike most governing bodies of the University of Toronto, CoSS this is the only governance body where students have a majority of seats. This council allows students to vote in favour of, against or to call for a referenda on any increase or introduction of compulsory ancillary fees. This council cannot approve backdoor tuition fee increases.

There are some ancillary fees that fall outside the jurisdiction of the Council on Student Services. Here are the rules that govern them:

• You cannot be charged a compulsory fee for an out-of-province field trip in a compulsory course.

• You cannot be charged a compulsory fee for equipment or materials that you must return (e.g. lab coats, goggles).

• You cannot be charged a compulsory fee for an item you produce unless it becomes your property

Here are some fees that are expressly not permitted:

• Information technology fees

• Lab fees

• Library costs

• Mandatory lease of laptops

The University of Toronto Students’ Union has been successful in overturning the collection of illegal ancillary fees before. If you suspect you are being charged an illegal fee, please fill out the form below to report it to us.

Academic Advocacy Office

We know that academic rights are a significant concern for our members. We completed an academic advocacy investigation at the University of Toronto. We surveyed student-run academic advocacy offices at various universities, including Concordia University, Ryerson University, University of British Columbia and York University to see how we could improve our own academic advocacy services. The advocacy offices surveyed provide extensive amounts of services relating to academic appeals and petitions, as well as assistance with academic offences and other disciplinary matters. Some also provided services for non-academic matters.

The investigation also included research on the resources available at the University. These include:

1. The Academic Success Center at UofT, which promotes academic success through lectures, workshops and consultation;

2. Downtown Legal Services, which offers various services regarding legal representation and academic offences; and

3. The faculty and registrar’s offices.

Despite the existence of these services, we receive numerous emails, phone calls and walk-ins from students who seek assistance regarding academic advocacy. There continues to be a gap between services available and students’ needs. Students are either unaware of existing services or have not found adequate assistance at existing help centers. We have identified that there is a need for a space that offers non-judgmental, unintimidating students assistance in matters of academic petitions and appeals.

In order to close this gap, we are planning to open a new Academic Advocacy Office will serve as a referral service to the other services that assist students on campus, as well as providing assistance where possible. Although we currently provide individual support for students who need assistance, we recognize that more students will benefit with an academic advocacy office that connects them to the right services, holds workshops and provides support and resources regarding academic offences, appeals and other non-academic concerns, like your tenant rights, conflict resolution tips and financial aid.

The development of the Academic Advocacy Office has been postponed until the Student Commons space is available to students. The UTSU welcomes any suggestions by members on what services would be useful to offer at an academic advocacy office.