Fanshawe faculty and students return to classrooms after weeks off due to Ontario college's faculty strike
Credit: JEN DOEDE
Though Fanshawe students returned to classes on Tuesday Nov. 21, there are still many questions being raised. The Interrobang found out as much information to share as possible, in the hopes of helping readers out as best as possible.
Classes resumed on Nov. 21, following the conclusion of the longest college faculty strike in Ontario’s history, which lasted 35 days.
On Nov. 19, the provincial government passed Back-to-Work legislation at Queen’s Park in Toronto. The legislation forces faculty to halt their strike efforts and return to the classroom in order for students to continue their studies. According to a Nov. 19 Government of Ontario news release, all outstanding issues between the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) and the College Employer Council (CEC) will be decided by binding mediated-arbitration. According to the press release, the chosen mediator- arbitrator will have the power to determine what is necessary in formulating the new collective agreement. Both parties had five days from Nov. 19 to decide on a mediator-arbitrator or the Ministry of Labour will appoint one.
“Students were in the middle of the strike for too long. We needed to put students first and get them back to their studies. This legislation ensures students can get back to the classroom and refocus on their education.” Deb Matthews, the Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Development said in the press release.
According to an Ontario government news release on Nov. 20 from the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development, students who make the decision to withdraw from their program of study due to the Ontario college strike will receive a full tuition refund. However, students will only have two weeks starting from their first day back to class to decide whether or not to withdraw from their program. In addition, a Q&A press release from MPP liaison Ian Hall states that students who choose to withdraw from their program due to the strike will receive a refund on their ancillary fees included in the tuition for subsequent semesters.
Morganna Sampson, president of the Fanshawe Student Union (FSU), and Gary Lima, senior vice president academic, suggest that students who are thinking of withdrawing from their semester due to the faculty strike should attend a full week of classes before making their final decision. “Figure out what the course plan is for your program and see if it is manageable for you, because every person in different,” Sampson said. “Don’t let the strike make you graduate at the later date than you were planning if you can help it.”
According to another Ontario news release published on Nov. 20, the province announced that all 24 colleges in Ontario must create a Student Support Fund from the net savings accumulated during the strike. According to Hall’s Q&A, colleges must report to the public the amount of support that will be provided to the Student Support Fund. In addition, full-time domestic and international students can apply to receive up to $500 in financial assistance to cover financial hardships as a result of the strike. These hardships could include additional rent costs, among others. More details regarding this fund will be release over the next few days.
The news release also states that additional assistance from the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) will be given to students for the extension of their semester into the New Year. In addition, strike related support will not count towards a student’s OSAP assessment.
In regards to the 2017-2018 academic semesters, classes will be extended until Dec. 22 and continue on Jan. 3 for another two weeks depending on whether a student has exams or final in-class assignments. In total, students will lose 11 days from their fall semester. The winter semester will commence on Jan. 22 and run until April 27. In addition, there will be no reading week in February and students will lose out on five days of classes in total during the winter semester. This will allow students to finish up their studies by the end of April in order to avoid paying an extra month of rent or having students miss out on summer job opportunities. “We met with the FSU and all of us were in agreement that the best thing for students would be to end the academic year by the end of April and that we didn’t push it into May,” Lima said.
The college has also provided templates for faculty members to help them reassess their lesson plans for the rest of the academic year. According to Lima, on Monday, faculty members attended meetings to help answer any questions they had regarding the rest of the academic year. After the meetings, faculty spent the rest of the day tweaking their lesson plans for the remainder of the academic year.
“Knowing the love and care that Fanshawe teachers have for students, I’m sure that they are going to do everything they can to see students be successful,” Lima said.
On Friday Nov. 17, Sampson sent a list of student concerns regarding the strike to Hall, who shared the list with Matthews. Sampson explained that Matthews put these student concerns into consideration when creating the Student Support Fund. According to Sampson, she received over 60 emails in one day from students who shared their concerns for Deb Matthew to read. Some of the top concerns regarding the strike included: making up for placement hours, questions regarding how OSAP is affected as a result of the strike, missing out on job opportunities due to the fall semester concluding in January and many more.
“Students who have any concerns regarding the strike can come to the FSU office and we can help answer their questions. Students can also head over to the registrar’s office [for questions regarding the strike]. The registrar’s office is knowledgeable about everything going on with the strike. The strike hotline page is still a great place to go for all your updates,” Sampson said.
In addition, Sampson explained that the FSU is hosting special events in order to help students who are returning to their academic routine following the events and stress of the faculty strike. This past Monday (Nov. 20) and Tuesday (Nov. 21), the FSU provided staff and students with free coffee, hot beverages and pastries at multiple locations on campus. On Wednesday, the FSU hosted a variety of events including a free breakfast, a Jungle Cat World presentation and Chill Lounge. On Wednesday Nov. 29, the student union will be hosting a winter fair. At the winter fair, students have the opportunity to decorate Christmas ornaments. Various mental health activities will also be taking place over the next couple of weeks. Students can visit fsu.ca/ events to see a full list of upcoming events.