Frustrated students call for resolution in strike
Fed up with the five-week old strike by college faculty, a group of St. Lawrence College students launched three days of rallies calling for the strike to end.
The rallies come from the frustration many students feel as they watch their college semester slip away.
“We’ve been pawns in a war that we have had no say in,” said Rhonda Gilbert, a third-year business administration student.
“In week one I was OK, I was still doing my studies, still working ahead. Now, I have no hope of getting back into the classroom.”
Half a million college students across Ontario, including about 6,000 students at St. Lawrence College, have been out of class since Oct. 15, when 12,000 college professors, instructors, counsellors and librarians went on strike.
Gilbert said students are divided about how their schooling should proceed when classes resume.
She said students should be given an option of starting their semester over or completing a condensed semester in the time remaining.
“Half of us want a restart, the other half of us just want back in, get this done, graduate and a call it a year” she said.
“Me personally, a restart would be perfect because I don’t want to have a condensed semester. I want my knowledge base, as I am going into the field, I want to know everything that I came here and paid to learn.”
“We want a choice when we go back to do what is right for us because a blanket solution is not going to fit all 500,000 of us,” added third-year business student Mindy Coe.
The student rallies, which on Tuesday saw students picketing across Portsmouth Avenue from the faculty picket line, coincided with three days of voting on an offer from the College Employer Council.
The council said the offer includes a 7.75 per cent salary increase over four years, improved benefits — including extended pregnancy and parental leave, and a $500 increase in coverage for paramedical services — and measures to address concerns regarding part-time faculty.
Grant Currie, president of Ontario Public Service Employees Union Local 417, which represents more than 400 full time faculty, said there is little support for the colleges’ offer.
Currie said students were active in the first weeks of the strike with online petitions calling for the sides to reach an agreement.
“They were probably the same as a lot of the faculty, they didn’t think the strike would be going on three, four and now five weeks,” Currie said.
“I think the reality is starting to sink in for a lot of people.”
“It’s terrifying, to be honest,” said third-year business administration student Sadie Evans. “That’s your education, that’s your future, you’re trying to build something, to move your life forward.
“A lot of students, we’re struggling to make ends meet, you’re worried about your finances,” Evans said.
St. Lawrence College students rally for a greater voice for students in the ongoing strike by college faculty in Kingston on Tuesday.