For Chelsea Mills, a third year Landscape Design student, it’s a usual day at Waterdown Community as she’s working as a landscape designer for Gelderman Landscape Services.
However, she could have been in Italy right now on her academic trip if this ongoing dispute between Ontario Public Services Employment Union (OPSEU) and College Employment Council does not happen.
On Sunday 8: 27 PM, in the wake of the upcoming province-wide colleges faculty strike, Mills’ classmate, Laura Hagarty posts a public message on Fanshawe College 2017-2018 Facebook group discussing how ‘Fanshawe Fail’s it’s students and Ontario’s Fails it’s students’.
Until now, this post has gotten about 20 shares and around 50 reactions.
The post reads, “Today was the day myself and 16 of my fellow students were supposed to leave for our two month trip to Italy and Spain. For the past 2 and half years while attending Landscape Design at Fanshawe College, this has been the pushing factor for many of us to continue through this course, and the main reason most of us chose Fanshawe over other colleges and university.”
“The light at the end of the tunnel,”
In the overview of Landscape Design program at Fanshawe College website, it says, “you will have the opportunity for academic based international experiences and study in some the world’s most historic cities,” which is what Hagarty talking about in that post.
For third year students in this program, it is not just a part of the program.
“The whole trip is like the light at the end of the tunnel since first year and first semester when we were all considering giving up. It was the one thing that kept us going. But now it’s been taken away and it feels like a total tease,” says Mills.
She adds, “Our program has a very high drop-out rate, I think we started with 72 students or something like that and we got 36 right now. So this whole trip has been the light at the end of the tunnel and it’s been taken away and my teachers realize that and they are doing everything in their power to try to resurrect something but it would not be this semester.”
“I think people were more angry than upset,”
The emotional suffering is not just among these third year Landscape Design students, but also among parents.
Mills says, “My parents were not at the meeting, but parents that were there were very upset with the lack of planning on behalf of the college. It is not the faculty’s fault at all because they have done everything but they were not allowed to make certain arrangements.”
She adds, “we put in a lot of work to try to resurrect this trip, not necessarily just being angry about it, we actually tried our hardest to find any sort of possible solution and the fact that everything’s shut down was pretty heartbreaking for a lot of people…I think people were more angry than upset just because this situation could have been prevented, even if that means cancelling it months ago and promising us something else later on.”
The picket line at a Fanshawe College entrance. Today is the first day of a faculty strike at Fanshawe College as the faculty of 24 public colleges across Ontario walk off the job early today. Classes have been cancelled for over 43,000 Fanshawe College students. However most on campus services remain open for students.
“As a designer, it’s really important to see as much as possible to be able to really develop your skills,”
The payments for this academic trip have been throughout the course of the past 7 months, but the trip is not happening, Chelsea Mills and her classmates are promised to get their money back.
But at the end of the day, Mills says for all of them it is never a problem about money. It is about losing a precious learning experience.
She says, “A lot of us want to go on to be landscape architect, touring architecture and gardens internationally is very important, especially in Italy like some works there are arguably the best example of landscape architecture in the world. So it really advances you as a designer and as an artist and it opens your eyes to a lot of things and opportunities.”
She further explains why this trip to Italy and Spain is so important for their landscape design education.
“Canada being so new, we don’t have exposure to the historic side of landscape and architecture…As a designer, it’s really important to see as much as possible to be able to really develop your skills,” adds Mills.
“I think the system has failed us more than anything,”
The academic trip is basically moving the classes from Fanshawe College to Europe and would still be taught by professors of Fanshawe College.
“To be honest, if I were not in the situation that I am in, I would not be this frustrated. I respect what the faculty is fighting for. But as students, we should be the main priority of the whole system, from top down, we should be the priority and right now it’s pretty clear that we are not,” says the third year landscape design student.
She adds, “we are not really frustrated with the school and the faculty, they have been incredible, we are 100 percent respectful with what they are fighting for in terms of this strike…but I think the system has failed us more than anything. The fact that the union, they are all about student’s success and everything like that but it’s pretty clear right now that they are more focused on themselves.”
Some of her classmates are in Europe right now but the trip is personal. While it is a different situation for Chelsea Mills.
“The fact that they just cancelled it after we had made all our payments and then told us they had known this might be happening for a while but did not let us know all that until we have all paid and booked all our flights. I was meant to fly on Sunday but I had to cancel my flight, I am not going to get my flight money back from the airline for 8 weeks.”
“I think there are 6 or 7 people in Europe right now, they just decided to keep the fight and make it a personal trip. I would have done the same but I don’t have the finance to pay at my own pocket and it would be reimbursed by the school later,” adds Mills.