Frus­trated stu­dents call for res­o­lu­tion in strike

Kingston Whig-Standard - - FRONT PAGE - EL­LIOT FER­GU­SON

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.

EL­LIOT FER­GU­SON/THE WHIG-STAN­DARD

St. Lawrence Col­lege stu­dents rally for a greater voice for stu­dents in the on­go­ing strike by col­lege fac­ulty in Kingston on Tues­day.

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