Ontario college students discuss impact of faculty strike

After the five-week long strike came to an end, The Charlatan spoke to two college students about the impact it had on them.

Cierra Vandermeer, a third-year behavioural psychology student at St. Lawrence College in Kingston, Ont., said she was greatly affected by the strike.

“I just [wanted] it to end it as soon as possible,” she said.

Vandermeer said she did her best to keep up with the workload, assuming the strike would eventually come to an end.

“It [was] hard to do assignments when we [didn’t] have a teacher to guide [us]—we [couldn’t] ask questions . . . we [couldn’t] proceed with our work,” she said.

She said the uncertainty of when they would return to classes caused her a “great deal of stress.”

“I [was] really stressed out about it,” she said. “I [didn’t] know what this means for us . . . I [didn’t] know if were gonna have to extend the semester or if were going to lose the semester,” she said.

Vandermeer said while she is worried about the present, her stress is actually rooted in how the strike can and will impact her overall future.

She added that hearing that the semester as a whole might be cancelled was the biggest cause of stress for her.

“. . .  I don’t know what that means for the future. That could mean that we don’t get summer or we graduate later,” she said

As an individual in a program with specialty requirements, Vandermeer said her and her classmates may have been more affected than her counterparts.

“My particular program has three semesters this year. While everyone else writes finals in April, we were scheduled to write in June. We may have to go all the way to the end of August now,” she said.

Like most students, she said financial issues are also a concern for her. She said while the strike was ongoing, she couldn’t change her availability at work to clock in more hours.

“I’ve been picking up as many shifts as I can when people call in but I can’t actually book that time in,” she said.

Vandermeer said she is fortunate enough to be a Kingston resident, thus allowing her to live at home. But, she said she empathizes with those paying rent.

“A lot of my friends are affected by it cause they pay rent and may lose the semester. They’re paying [to live here] for a service they’re not receiving,” she said.

Despite her stress and ongoing concern, Vandermeer said she remains supportive of the instructors and teacher’s assistants.

“I support them. I totally understand their position on it all. I understand where they’re coming from and they have a lot of uncertainty as well,” she said. “ . . .  it’s frustrating for all parties involved.”

Kenneth Holness, a second-year fitness and health promotion student at Algonquin College, has differing opinions on the strike.

“I don’t agree with the [professors] because it’s our education, they chose the job, and from my point of view I just see them as being selfish,” he said. “Overall they’re just wasting our time because they want a bigger paycheque.”

While Holness said he is currently stressed out, he admitted he did not feel this way at the beginning of the strike.

“[Having a break] was great for the first week but [then it got] out of hand and that sucks thinking that my winter semester could be extended,” he said.

Holness said he moved to Ottawa to study, and that the strike caused him to feel that the move may have been pointless.

“I’ve got a job here, but basically all the money I’m making here is going towards living in Ottawa, so I can go to school here, and not being in school makes it seem like it is just a waste of time,” he said.

Like many others, his stress lies within the uncertainty and financial aspect of the strike.

“The money is gone regardless. [I’m] pissed I won’t be getting any of it back and also mad at how all the money is going toward the strike,” Holness said. “My biggest worry is that the winter semester goes into our summer because that sets back my plans for next year.”

Graphic by Manoj Thayalan