Students at Fanshawe College are wondering when, or even if, they will return to class this fall.
Striking faculty members at Ontario’s 24 community colleges are set to vote on the latest offer next week, but students aren’t optimistic an agreement will be reached.
Even if an agreement is reached, that would leave just five weeks before the holiday break begins Dec. 22.
Fanshawe student Cole Archer doesn’t think that would be enough time to catch up on the what they missed.
“The workload was already pretty intense as it is, and if they have to condense that before moving on to the new material, it’ll be very difficult to catch up,” says Archer. “If you really put in the effort you could maybe salvage the semester, but if you’re just one of those students who is just going through the motions then it could really affect how you absorb the material.”
Rohan Gupta, another student at Fanshawe, isn’t optimistic they’ll be able to make up the time they’ve lost.
“I did around 27 assignments the last month before the strike, that’s a lot of assignments, you can’t fit that all into one week. I had sleepless nights and I was in school all day just to complete them. I don’t think they can cover four weeks of material in that amount of time, it’s impossible,” he said.
Talks between OPSEU and the College Employer Council broke down Monday, which prompted the council to ask the Ontario Labour Relations Board to schedule a vote next week.
That didn’t sit well with union president Warren (Smokey) Thomas, who called the College Employer Council “mean-spirited” for scheduling next week’s vote. He urged the colleges to return to the bargaining table before the vote can take place, saying a deal could still be reached.
Chair of the union’s bargaining team, J.P. Hornick, says the main point of contention between striking workers and their employers is the level of input instructors get in designing courses. Sonia Del Missier, the chair of the colleges’ bargaining team, has said the council had addressed the union’s concerns about job security, wages and academic freedom.
Out of class since mid-October, student Megha Mann just wants to get back in the classroom. She’s hoping they will receive some compensation for the time they’ve lost already.
“I think they should refund the weeks we’ve lost because it’s really expensive. Especially as an international student, we can’t work full time.”
The vote will take place next Tuesday through Thursday, Nov. 14 to 16.
The strike, which involves college professors, instructors, counsellors, and librarians, began Oct. 15 and has left 500,000 full-time and part-time students out of class.
— Editor’s note: a previous version of this story said the vote on the contract offer would take place next Tuesday through Thursday, Nov. 16 to 18. The dates are actually Nov. 14 to 16. We regret the error.