Classes have resumed at Ontario Colleges after the 5 week faculty strike, but the student/college relationship still seems to be damaged.
Many of those who remain enrolled don’t feel that the colleges in the Province are doing enough to help students. The Christmas break has been cut short and tension seems to be increasing as the holidays approach.
Protests in the form of a walkout are planned for Friday at noon. Classrooms will empty on college campuses around Ontario and students will have their say.
Ontario Students United are the ones organizing these demonstrations. “During the strike a lot of students felt dis-empowered or disenfranchised because a lot of big decisions were being made and the student voice didn’t feel like it was at the table. There’s a lot of frustration and a lot of energy from students to want to have more of a say” said OSU co-ordinator Mohammad Aumeer.
Among the things they hope to achieve is a no strings attached $500 given to all college students still enrolled, full tuition refunds for those who choose to withdraw going forward and replacement of the College Employer Council with a model that considers student opinions equal to those of the faculty and administration. As it stands now, students can apply for $500 if they prove a financial hardship as a result of the strike. Colleges were issuing full refunds to students who decided not to continue their studies, but the December 6th deadline has passed.
Aumeer doesn’t believe that these initiatives are enough to make up for 5 weeks of lost time “No definitely not. In terms of a hardship fund you have to apply for it, also it seems like you can’t be part of the lawsuit – you can’t speak out as much. $500 might be enough for one student, but international students who pay an arm and a leg I don’t think that $500 is going to suffice. Every situation is different.” The strike affected so many students, and now they are asking for less arbitrary compensation.
While Centennial College and George Brown will likely have larger numbers involved in their demonstrations, it is unknown how many students will walkout at Fanshawe College.
“Unfortunately in terms of student organizations that currently exist on the [Fanshawe] campus, the work to fight back and stand up for our rights isn’t happening as much as students would like to see on that campus” responded Aumeer in regards to what is happening on the London campus.
Fanshawe College Student Services VP Michele Beaudoin believes that students have the right to protest and should have their voices heard to ensure that all key issues are brought to light after being forced out of classes for 5 weeks.
Ontario Students United wants to reach out to Fanshawe students in the form of a town hall meeting. They want to open up the conversation as much as possible so that the college can join the student rights movement. Right now they are focused on the walkouts, but look for a town hall date to be decided before the new year.