WHAT WE’VE LEARNED

Al­go­nquin stu­dents on what they have gained and lost dur­ing strike

Ottawa Sun - - FRONT PAGE - JOANNE LAUCIUS and AEDAN HELMER

Stu­dents on how col­lege strike is af­fect­ing them

For Al­go­nquin Col­lege stu­dents, a fac­ulty strike now en­ter­ing its fifth week has af­fected job prospects, their abil­ity to earn part-time money, and even their hol­i­day plans.

But stu­dents have also learned some lessons. Among them: how to bud­get when part-time work is un­cer­tain, how to make plans on the fly and the true mean­ing of self­di­rected learn­ing.

Some stu­dents have turned a dis­as­ter into an op­por­tu­nity to learn on their own. But for oth­ers, the strike has meant a life in limbo, cut off from planned job place­ments and frus­trated by a lack of in­for­ma­tion about when they will get back to class, what will hap­pen when they do get back and how they will be com­pen­sated for the in-class time they missed.

Sarah Suhr, 18

Pro­gram: Jour­nal­ism, first year Home­town: Keswick

“I’m leav­ing Ot­tawa to­day (Mon­day). I had un­til to­day to de­cide if I was go­ing to drop out. I was hop­ing to drop the pro­gram and restart in Jan­uary. But the pro­gram didn’t have that op­tion. I live in res­i­dence, but there were fees to leave res­i­dence. I would have to pay a can­cel­la­tion fee of $1,800 if I wanted to leave to­day. It’s kind of like a lease. I would have to pay to get out of the lease.

“I was think­ing about go­ing back to work, then re-ap­ply­ing. But then I would have to pay $1,800 and I wouldn’t get my meal plan money back un­less I went to Al­go­nquin.

“I love to write and I love the pro­fes­sors here. But for me, I’m not go­ing to get the in­for­ma­tion I missed. The strike is chang­ing ev­ery­one’s lives. The strike is mak­ing peo­ple re­think their ca­reers, re­think how they are go­ing to get to the point where they want to be in their lives.”

Brit­tany West­lake, 23

Pro­gram: Pre-health sciences, one-year-pro­gram Home­town: Peter­bor­ough

“There’s a lot of stress. I’m still pay­ing for my rent — my share is $672 — and my gro­ceries. This is my sec­ond time in col­lege. I went to Ge­or­gian Col­lege in Bar­rie for mes­sage ther­apy for three years, then I hurt my wrists and I can’t do it. I’m in­ter­ested in med­i­cal ra­di­a­tion tech­nol­ogy or nurs­ing. I worked for two years to save up money for tu­ition. I paid my tu­ition out­right. I’m work­ing in food ser­vices on cam­pus. I pay my rent with that. I’m work­ing reg­u­lar hours, about 16 hours a week, but it has been slow. They haven’t cut my hours yet.

“I’m not sure if we can fin­ish the year. Our pro­gram is very heavy. There are no breaks. I’m not sure if they can get in all the ma­te­rial I would need for fu­ture pro­grams. This whole strike has been very frus­trat­ing. I un­der­stand both sides. I’m stuck in the mid­dle and suf­fer­ing for it.”

Olivia Dé­sormeaux, 25

Pro­gram: Busi­ness mar­ket­ing, sec­ond year Home­town: Ot­tawa

“I’ve had the bet­ter end of the deal. My pro­gram doesn’t have a for­mal place­ment. Pro­fes­sors have given us work to do on our own dur­ing the strike. There’s enough to last us un­til the strike is over. But there’s only so far we can go. I might be do­ing all this work for noth­ing. If I’m not do­ing it prop­erly, I might still be be­hind. Next se­mes­ter we’ll be work­ing on a ma­jor project to pro­duce a mar­ket­ing re­search plan for a real in­dus­try client.

“I live at home, so I’m re­ally for­tu­nate. But I know a lot of peo­ple who have al­ready booked flights for the hol­i­days. I’m go­ing to Al­berta. If school starts on Jan. 2, I’ll miss two days of school. I have to see if there is a group pre­sen­ta­tion. I’m a lit­tle con­cerned about how that would work.

Shane Plumb-Sau­mure, 29

Pro­gram: Jour­nal­ism, first year Home­town: Ot­tawa

“It’s af­fected me pos­i­tively in some ways. I’ve been con­tribut­ing to the Al­go­nquin Time­less. (The col­lege’s stu­den­trun news­pa­per, the Al­go­nquin Times, was shut down for the du­ra­tion of the strike, but a hand­ful of stu­dent writ­ers and ed­i­tors have con­tin­ued to pub­lish an on­line edi­tion.)

“I’ve met some jour­nal­ists I wouldn’t have got­ten to know other­wise. I’ve built a rap­port with them. I wouldn’t have had that op­por­tu­nity if I was just in class.

“But it would have been bet­ter if I had an­other year of class. I felt like a bird thrown out of the nest. I would pre­fer to be able to con­sult with my pro­fes­sors. I’ve had an as­sign­ment I didn’t know how to for­mu­late. It’s been chal­leng­ing. I need the di­rec­tion of a teacher. But most of it has been pos­i­tive. I did pay to be in school, but I didn’t want to feel I’d wast­ing my time play­ing YouTube games.”

Cory Smith, 24

Pro­gram: Game De­vel­op­ment, third year Home­town: Ot­tawa

“The pro­gram teaches us the pro­gram­ming and art side of game de­vel­op­ment, and

the third-year stu­dents work in groups on a gi­ant project where we make a game — to sim­u­late the real world, al­most like we’re our own com­pany de­vel­op­ing a game. So with the strike the groups are still com­ing in to work on the projects as much as we can. With­out the classes, there’s still some stuff we don’t know how to do yet, but we try. When we run into ob­sta­cles, we talk to the other stu­dents, and of course, Google.

“One of the guys on my project is frus­trated be­cause (the col­lege) is plan­ning to ex­tend the year, and that’s not go­ing to work for him. Then there’s the stu­dents who had plans to go home for the hol­i­days, and they’re frus­trated be­cause they had to can­cel travel plans.

“I’m fine, be­cause I live here and I work dur­ing school. But I know a lot of us are talk­ing and there is a worry if we go past April be­cause that’s when a lot of peo­ple start hir­ing and we’re still go­ing to be in school. Two mem­bers of the game de­vel­op­ment group, Joseph May­berry, and Cody Char­trand, have al­ready signed a provincewide pe­ti­tion on change.org de­mand­ing re­funds for every missed day of classes.”

Heather Maranta, 24

Pro­gram: An­i­ma­tion, sec­ond year Home­town: Ot­tawa

“I’ve been very pas­sion­ate about this, and there seems to be this idea that stu­dents don’t re­ally care how the strike ends, and that’s not my ex­pe­ri­ence at all.

“Many of us are in full sup­port of the fac­ulty over the ad­min­is­tra­tion. We want the pro­fes­sors to get what they need so they can bet­ter teach us.

“They need aca­demic free­dom, they need em­ployee ben­e­fits so they’re not stressed out. It’s been frus­trat­ing for us, but I’m sure it’s been frus­trat­ing for the teach­ers as well.

“We’re lucky in an­i­ma­tion that we can still go into the labs and do our work, but we’re work­ing with­out the guid­ance of the pro­fes­sors, so we’re work­ing on sup­port­ing each other. We’re do­ing our best in there.

“We’ve had no con­tact with our pro­fes­sors, but even be­fore the strike they were telling us to go to class every day, be­cause it’s a pro­gram where we can keep work­ing. But it’s been dif­fi­cult with­out the feed­back and guid­ance of the teach­ers who have been pro­fes­sion­als in the in­dus­try.

“I know some of my class­mates al­ready found jobs. Some won’t be com­ing back once the strike is over.”

Kate Jenk­ins, 22

Pro­gram: Jour­nal­ism, first year Home­town: Riverview, NB

“It’s frus­trat­ing for me be­cause as of last year I was at Mount Al­li­son Univer­sity in New Brunswick, and in my first year in 2014 they had a strike there. I’ve been through three weeks of strike al­ready, this is my sec­ond ex­pe­ri­ence with a strike and I did not ex­pect it to last this long.

“We’re al­ready into our fifth week and it’s like, ‘Oh my gosh I’ve al­ready been through this once be­fore, I can’t be­lieve this is hap­pen­ing again.’ And I can’t be­lieve it has lasted this long.

“Now they’re short­en­ing our Christ­mas break, which is es­pe­cially up­set­ting for me be­cause I’m from out of prov­ince. I ex­pected to have three weeks off with my fam­ily and friends — and I’ve been in Ot­tawa since early May, so I haven’t seen the ma­jor­ity of them in seven months — and we were just told Dec. 22 is our last day of class, and we’ll be re­turn­ing to class on Jan. 2.

“So I had planned for about three weeks at home and now I only have about ten days.

Com­ing from univer­sity, I know that a lot of our learn­ing (in col­lege) is pretty hand­son, so I don’t even know how it would be pos­si­ble to make up for all the weeks of hand­son ex­pe­ri­ence we’ve missed so far.“

JULIE OLIVER

JULIE OLIVER

SARAH SUHR BRIT­TANY WEST­LAKE OLIVIA DESORMEAUX SHANE PLUMB-SAU­MURE CORY SMITH KATE JENK­INS Heather Maranta, 24, is in her sec­ond year of the an­i­ma­tion pro­gram at Al­go­nquin. Like many stu­dents, Maranta sup­ports the strik­ing fac­ulty over school ad­min­is­tra­tion.

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