January 9, 2024 – Algoma University’s Brampton campus is witnessing a standoff as international students stage a camp-out permanent protest, claiming unfair grading practices in the “Techniques of Systems Analysis” course. The controversy centers around Adjunct Professor Klaus Peltsch, whose grading decisions have sparked a heated debate, raising questions about the students’ decision to protest.

Professor Peltsch, with an extensive academic background, has been teaching at Algoma University since 1983. However, recent allegations have thrust him into the spotlight, with claims that he failed over 100 students in the COSC3707 course, some for the second time. The Naujawan Support Network, a union advocating for international students, has taken up the cause, challenging Algoma University’s grading integrity.

The students claim that Algoma University is demanding $3,500 for them to re-enroll in the course, creating additional financial burdens for an already cash-strapped demographic. The protesters demand for a swift reassessment of exams or a waiver of the re-enrollment fee.

Despite the wintry conditions and a snowfall over the weekend, certain students persevered on the picket line, brandishing signs that conveyed messages such as “education is not for sale” and “our voices won’t fade against unjust grades,” among others. The Naujawan Support Network has gone as far as to use words like ‘exploitation’ and ‘cash grab’ to describe the situation.

While the Naujawan Support Network’s efforts have drawn attention to the struggles of international students, a critical question emerges: Is protesting a bad grade the most effective course of action, or some have asked should the students have focused on studying harder?

In a recent interview, a vocal participant in the ongoing student protests expressed concern only regarding the weighting of the final exam, which constituted 50% of the course grade, compared to the 5% and 10% weights assigned to quizzes and assignments, respectively. Interestingly, the student did not challenge the fairness of the exam grading itself but rather pointed out that a subpar mark in this single component led to an overall failure in the course.

Algoma University maintains that only 32 out of 230 students received failing grades in the course. Those students are being offered a chance to take a competency exam, crafted and graded by a different faculty member, at no cost. The university assures a comprehensive review of the course, including previous tests and assignments, as part of its commitment to addressing the concerns raised by the protesting students.

As the protests continue, some may wonder whether the students’ decision to protest a bad grade is justified or if they should have simply focused on improving their academic performance. The university’s offer of a competency exam, assessed by a different professor, appears to tackle all the raised concerns. This raises the question of why the protests persist. Given that only 32 students out of 230 failed the course—a statistically reasonable pass-fail rate for a third-year university class—the entire episode could be interpreted as a small faction lashing out because they didn’t get what they want rather than a widespread issue.

With the investigation led by the dean of science underway, the fate of these international students hangs in the balance. Will the resolution address their concerns or will it prompt a re-evaluation of the legitimacy of their decision to protest?  Only time will tell.