Picketing continues at Fredericton’s St. Thomas’ University, where administrators and faculty are negotiating amidst a simultaneous strike and lockout. In an unprecedented move, the liberal arts university locked out its faculty in anticipation of a strike two weeks ago, a move they said was an effort to reduce the negative impact of a strike on students. The undergraduate school’s 2,800 students have seen the start of their term indefinitely postponed. Faculty will meet Monday to decide whether or not to continue their protest.
On Friday, the St. Thomas’ University Students’ Union held a march through campus to protest the delays. They included a detour off campus so that faculty, barred from entry to the university itself, could participate.
“Students are the ones who are directly affected,” said Alicia Del Frate, STUSU’s VP administration. “[But] we don’t really have an avenue to speak. [The march] shows that students are united.”
Throughout the labour dispute, many students have declared their support for the administration, who they said are more conscious of the burden an ever-changing calendar puts on students.
“As president of St. Thomas’, it would be irresponsible of me to allow delays in reaching an agreement that would penalize our students and compromise future accessibility,” said STU president Michael Higgins in an open letter.
The Faculty Association of the University of St. Thomas’ accused the administration of using distorting fi- nancial projections to exaggerate the cost of FAUST’s demands and scare students away from supporting them. Dawn Morgan, a professor and FAUST representative, went as far as saying the administration had deliberately misled and manipulated students to weaken FAUST’s bargaining position.
Del Frate highlighted the difficulties surrounding the uncertain start date for this term. Students living nearby have gone home to wait for classes to start, but those from out-of-province or outside the country have had to repeatedly reschedule travel plans. The first day of classes was rescheduled twice before being postponed indefinitely.
Though they decide when the semester begins, neither the administration nor faculty are affected in the same way as students, according to Del Frate.
Morgan pushed for solidarity between students and FAUST. “Faculty and students are natural allies. The university is the universe in which students and faculty come together, that’s the whole purpose,” she said.
The administration and FAUST are negotiating salary and workspace issues for part-time, full-time, and temporary faculty. The latter group is of special concern.
Morgan explained that temporary faculty, many of whom have just left graduate school, tend to get excessive workloads. Temporary faculty often teach four classes a semester, while full-time professors only teach two or three. “It is absolutely overwhelming,” said Morgan. “We just don’t think that’s equitable.”
FAUST has won some concessions from the administration, and will decide tomorrow whether or not to continue picketing. Morgan said she was particularly happy about gains for part-time faculty, including health benefits and more office space. “That’s a really good agreement and we’re very happy with that,” she said.