Principal Deep Saini joined a student sit-in to end the strike outside his office today.
Some 150 students walked out of classes at noon and met in Davis to march around campus before returning to the building to sit inside Saini’s office, according to UTMSU VP external Ebi Agbeyegbe.
Police forbade them from entering the office, said Agbeyegbe, so they sat outside instead and chanted slogans like “What do we want? End the strike! When do we want it? Now!” and “Talk to us, Deep!”
After about an hour, Saini came from the hallway and sat down among the students, including several UTMSU executives.
Among the concerns the students expressed were the desire for the university to resume negotiations with the striking CUPE 3902 Unit 1, demands for tuition refunds for cancelled classes, labs, and tutorials, and other unrelated issues.
“I’m concerned. It’s not a joke, it’s not something we take lightheartedly,” said Saini. “But there is a difference between the two sides. There are experts from both sides that are negotiating. I’m not in that room. Even if I was, I still can’t tell you when this will end.”
As for the refund, said Saini, “The term is not over yet. There’s still a lot of time to solve it. […] We will look at it when the strike is resolved. Until then, anything we do is a tentative decision.”
One student referred to a statement on the strike released at Scarborough and asked why UTM had not made one. Saini explained that the statement had been released by faculty, not by the administration.
“I do have a voice, but that voice is not expressed here in this forum,” he said.
Saini said that he was “already doing everything in [his] power” to end the strike, adding that he “can’t urge them to negotiate” because he is part of the administration and is “already negotiating”.
He said that he cannot make a statement alone because “We act collectively.”
After the sit-in and conversation with Saini, Agbeyegbe, who was just been elected next year’s president of UTMSU, spoke with The Medium.
“This is not the end of the action,” said Agbeyegbe. “We made noise, and the administration knows students are upset and knows how they feel.
“There’s pressure downtown. There’s pressure in Scarborough,” he added. “We’re going to keep putting pressure on the administration.”
This article has been corrected. It originally stated that Saini joined the sitters from inside his office, but he actually came from elsewhere.