URSU concerned for mental health of students as strike looms at Regina campus

URSU president Shawn Wiskar voiced his concerns Monday about a possible strike and the impact it could have on the mental health of students. Sean Lerat-Stetner / Global News

The University of Regina Students’ Union (URSU) believe they will see an “overwhelming” demand in mental health services if faculty go on strike.

“There’s a lot of anxiety among the student body about what is going to happen next,” said URSU president Shawn Wiskar.

“We are here for our students and we want to make sure we can provide them with every service they need, but we’re really worried that a lot of students are going to be driven to really desperate times.”

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This comes after the University of Regina administration and the University of Regina Faculty Association (URFA) were not able to reach a new collective agreement for U of R academic staff, despite four days of mediation last week.

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“We have students right now who are looking to graduate in June and finish their degree at the end of April,” Wiskar said.

“[A strike] would mean a delay in exams, [for] those who have accepted jobs conditional on them getting their degree, it could mean pushing back that job or that job may not be available.”

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The collective agreement expired in 2017 and with no deal in sight, the stress on students is piling up.

International fourth-year physics student Anwit Adhikri said there is already enough stress leading into exams, on top of having to worry about a possible strike.

“You can expect an international student to work 30-40 hours [per week]. It’s hard for them to balance their classes and work. I’ve seen many students work a night shift and come back to school in the morning to take a class at 8:30 in the morning,” Adhikri said.
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“If students put that much effort into the system, they have the right to expect a fair deal. At the very least, their exams and classes should not be postponed.”

Living situations are also something Wiskar said students are worried about.

“We also have students paying rent and are on leases that end May 1 and really tragically will be forced out of their house and effectively homeless if they can’t finish their education,” Wiskar said.

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As of right now, U of R administration’s four-year contract offer, June 2017–June 2021, includes $5.645 million for salaries and benefits increases.

It includes a 3.75 per cent salary increase over the length of the contract: zero per cent for the first two years, 1.75 per cent in the third year and two per cent in the fourth year.

URFA’s contract request would require $7.697 million in additional funds with a six per cent salary increase, and sessional positions would receive 11-to-15 per cent in the third year of the contract.

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Administration said they would not be able to meet those requests without a significant tuition increase.

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