Student anxiety builds as college strike continues

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St. Lawrence College students worry about their semester with no new contract talks planned – Oct 20, 2017

It’s been nearly one week since College faculty went on strike and with no new contract talks planned students at St. Lawrence College in Kingston are becoming anxious about their academic future.

Rachel Barton is a first year nursing student who despite the strike is still coming to campus everyday to try and stay on top of her studies. She says this past week has been wearing on her.

“I am definitely losing motivation not having our teachers there to give us our lectures and provide us with other course material and just going off the readings.”

Barton is just one of 500-thousand college students across the province who are wondering whether their academic year is in jeopardy.

READ MORE: College teachers’ strike causes uncertainty amongst international students

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The Ontario Public Service Employees Union or OPSEU is pressing colleges for fewer part-time and contract positions. However, when contract work is required they’re asking for equal pay to their full-time counterparts and better work spaces.

Tabatha Rutledge is the Vice President of OPSEU Local 417 and says things have reached a crisis level.

“Our part-time teachers when we calculated it out, 5 dollars an hour. How many people in Ontario would say–I’ll go to work for 5 dollars an hour. Our College teachers have been doing it, answering e-mails, marking papers that they’re not getting paid for trying to put students first.”

READ MORE: Union representing striking Fanshawe College staff endorses student petitions

The President and CEO of St. Lawrence college Glenn Vollebregt, says while he understands both sides, part-time faculty is necessary to bring the latest real-world experience into the classroom.

“It’s a mix that colleges have used in order to get that skill set, that latest industry skill, whether it be from health care, the legal profession or from the business profession into the classroom so that our students are getting the latest information so that they’re getting the skills they need to get out there and get a job.”

And even though there is no end in sight to the strike Vollebregt’s promising students won’t lose their semester.

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“Get their semester, get their year. That’s our first and prime concern.”

For the many students like Barton–getting back into the classroom can’t come soon enough.

“I hope this gets resolved soon.”


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