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Toronto, Canada

312 Adelaide Street West, Suite 301
Toronto, Ontario - M5V 1R2
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This is What Really Happens When Teachers Go On Strike (Like at Nipissing University)

Written by Kylie-Anne Grube

When students shell out thousands of hard-earned dollars towards tuition, they expect to receive an education in exchange. But that’s not what’s happening at Nipissing University.

As of 12:01 a.m. on November 2nd, 2015, our faculty have been on legal strike. Since they still disagreed on key issues after hours of negotiating, the Collective Bargaining Units were unable to come to an agreement. This is the third major university strike this year after University of Toronto’s and York University’s. And it’s a serious problem for students.

To put it simply, three key issues currently divide the administration and faculty: fair pay, academic governance, and job security. While I could expand on each of these points in great detail, these aren’t the issues I need to address. While the focus of the strike in the media seems to fall upon the competing sides, little attention has been paid to the students or the ramifications this strike is having on us. This is now the fourth week of the strike. Faculty remain on the picket lines, and students remain without classes.

“Students often take pride in their own schools, but a strike can turn those feelings around real quick.”

But what sort of impact does a strike really have on students? Those drowning in schoolwork at other universities  may perceive them as vacations, but the reality is not as enticing. The consequences are far-reaching for not only Nipissing students, but all students—our right to education is being challenged.

Students, here’s what actually happens when your professors go on strike:

1. The Onset of Panic

Facebook is a wonderful tool for creating complete and widespread panic. As our futures become increasingly uncertain, students turn to social media to voice concerns. Worst-case scenarios are often brought up (some of which are highly possible) leaving us with many unanswered questions and anxieties. Students on residence, whose leases expire at the end of April, worry about the possibility of an extended semester that leaves them without a place to live. Graduating students are concerned about their ability to apply to graduate school without letters of reference from their professors. And that isn’t even a comprehensive list.

2. Confusion

Most students are too busy with homework, jobs, and partying to pay much attention to university politics. However, with the onset of a strike, students are suddenly forced to navigate the complex political landscape of their institution and decide where they side on the issues of the strike. The contradicting information sent to us from faculty and administration only amplify our confusion, and that makes it extremely hard to understand what the facts are and where we stand in the midst of the chaos.

3. Sleep…Like, Lots of It

When strikes occur, all semblance of routine is destroyed. Without structure, it’s difficult for students to stay motivated and productive. No 8:30 a.m. class? Hey, I’ll just sleep in! But then you open your eyes and realize three weeks have passed without any productivity, and it puts you at a real disadvantage.

“When strikes occur, all semblance of routine is destroyed.”

4. Loss of Moola

If there’s anything most students lack in their lives, it’s money. And if the semester is extended because of this strike, students will be at a disadvantage when applying for the majority of student summer jobs that begin on May 1st. The strike may drastically inhibit our ability to earn money for the next school year, which will increase our reliance on OSAP. The best advice I can offer to students in this time of uncertainty is to save as much as possible and avoid extravagant spending.

5. Reduced Quality of Education

The time lost due to a strike not only affects students financially, but academically. When classes resume, it is likely that the remainder of the semester will be severely condensed, meaning our education (and potentially our marks) will suffer.

6. Disappointment in the System

Students often take pride in their own schools, but a strike can turn those feelings around real quick. A student who normally loves his or her school can be quick to lose trust in its ability to run a fiscally responsible and fair institution. Unfortunately, many students decide to transfer schools in lieu of enduring the strike.

7. Activism

Because many feel neglected and betrayed by universities and government alike during strikes, students tend to stand up for their rights to education. Letter writing, petition signing, and sit-ins are just a few ways that Nipissing students are standing up for their education. NUSU, our student union, has published a 16-page plan outlining faculty’s and administration’s arguments and proposing what they, the students, believe to be an equitable compromise.

As the strike continues, students are taking on more active roles to bring this conflict to a resolution. In fights like these, it’s important for students to have their voices heard—while we understand that labour disputes do occur, we cannot sit by idly while our education continues to be neglected.

While we may not be in the classroom during strikes, it’s important to keep up with readings and assignments to the best of our abilities. This will be our biggest advantage when school resumes. Although the strike has negative implications for students, it’s important to remain hopeful that faculty will be back to work soon and trust that everything will work out.

“While we understand that labour disputes do occur, we cannot sit by idly while our education continues to be neglected.”

At Nipissing, faculty and administration are set to meet for an exploratory meeting to “evaluate whether or not a resumption of collective bargaining is appropriate at this time”.

If you want to show your support for Nipissing students and stand up for our right to education, please take a moment of your time to sign this petition.

How do you feel about professors going on strike? Has it ever happened in your school? Let us know in the comments below.

*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Student Life Network or their partners.