Computer science students are demanding a new instructor for a database course after a classroom incident last month that sparked a mini revolt among some students in the program.

David Siegel, a computer science teacher, is photographed signing the petition against a Ryerson Professor.

Daniel Siegel, a computer science student, signs the petition against Prof. Anastase Mastoras. (Pema Tsering/Ryersonian Staff)

In a six-page letter and petition they have sent to the dean of the Faculty of Science, and the head of the computer science program, the students criticize Prof. Anastase Mastoras for creating what they call “an environment of intimidation and fear.”

Students say they want a new professor to teach the course and they want their grade to not be included in their CPGA if it would adversely affect their academic standing. They are also asking that students who want to take the course again shouldn’t have to pay the full price.

The protest stems from an incident on Oct. 28 in which Mastoras called security to remove a late-arriving student from the class, causing the majority of the class to walk out in protest following the incident.

In an email to The Ryersonian, dean Imogen Coe said that she knows of the existence of the letter but would not comment any further: “I’m aware that a formal complaint has been made but it has not come to my office yet,” Coe wrote Monday.

The Ryersonian has attempted to contact Mastoras through numerous phone calls and emails, but he has not responded.

University president Sheldon Levy said Tuesday, “The students have a right to issue a complaint and they are taken very seriously. I haven’t heard of that complaint nor have I seen it move through the system, but I will follow up.”

The protest escalated Friday when an email was sent to former and current computer science students by the Ryerson Computer Science Course Union. It included the formal letter of complaint and petition. The course union is representing the students who are in the third-year course CPS 510.

In addition to the letter, the mass email included a detailed timeline of the events of Oct. 28, which included written complaints submitted by students who were in the class that day. The timeline reveals certain details of that day which were unknown to The Ryersonian until now.

“One of the vocal students remarked that the professor was wasting too much time dealing with one student coming in late and asked the professor to continue teaching, stating that the professor was also being disruptive. Mastoras stared at the student who spoke up and asked him, ‘Are you serious? Are you for real?’”

One of the complaints also had said that Mastoras threatened to reprimand any student who spoke out against him.

Myles Songolo, who gave The Ryersonian details of the Oct. 28 incident that were published earlier this month, has said that the issue of the late student was never discussed in class after that day.

“Everyone just kind of silently agreed that nobody would bring it up,” said Songolo. Mastoras has calmed down a lot though and the class is more reserved than before.”

Songolo has not seen the complaint letter yet, but said he is glad the situation is being dealt with in a formal and professional manner.

Fourth-year computer science student Daniel Siegel, who had Mastoras as a professor last year, says one of the complaints against him is that, “This is a man who is set in his ways and won’t change,” Siegel says.

As an example, he said Mastoras expected students to submit final projects on floppy disks.“This isn’t what tenure is meant to protect you against.”

Siegel says that professors of the computer science program and the course structure need to be examined so that future students can have a better learning experience.
“This is really our opportunity to get noticed by administration at large,” said Siegel. “That’s why this petition is doubly important. So that people in the future don’t have to deal with this course for posterity sake.”

The formal letter includes a list of “lasting consequences” that the students feel they will be burdened with if action is not taken, including future students having similar experiences in the class. It is not known how many students have signed the petition.

In an email, the CSCU president David Tenty said he could not comment due to the nature of the petition.

Pema was a reporter for The Ryersonian. She was formerly at The Peterborough Examiner. Pema graduated from the Ryerson School of Journalism in 2015.