According to a bulletin posted on the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) website, Ontario college students, including those in joint programs with Centennial College at UTSC and with Sheridan College at UTM, are “in real danger of losing their semester” due to the ongoing faculty strike. The bulletin further alleges that although colleges are trying to reassure students they have a plan, faculty have not seen it.
The OPSEU strike, which began on October 16, has seen full-time and partial load staff on protest indefinitely as bargaining teams from 24 colleges across Ontario work to renegotiate a collective agreement with the union.
The strike at Sheridan affects about 1,000 students out of approximately 14,000 at UTM, while less than half of the 170 students enrolled in joint programs at UTSC and Centennial are affected.
The bulletin says that some colleges have “casually mentioned” that students may only have to complete 80 per cent of their course requirements.
“Students do not pay 100 per cent tuition to receive 80 per cent of the learning,” continues the bulletin. “Faculty are passionate about what we teach, and passionate about making sure students succeed.”
According to Amrita Daniere, the Vice-Principal Academic and Dean at UTM, the administration cannot provide support to students beyond communication, updates, and refer them to support systems.
“We’re not playing any active role in dealing with any of the Sheridan courses, in any of the Sheridan issues. We’re not allowed to, and we would never dream of it,” said Daniere. “The process has to play out and that’s basically our approach […] in terms of the messaging we’re giving our students and the support we are providing our students.”
“Can you imagine if you’re a first year student and it’s your first semester and half of your program is taught at a campus where the professors aren’t teaching? It could be very stressful,” continued Daniere. “So we refer them to counselling, we refer them to the registrar’s office, the chairs are doing everything they can to be a presence and to reassure them.”
Daniere added that UTM does not receive any additional information about the progress of negotiations between OPSEU and the colleges. “No more than what you could pick up on the web or in the newspaper,” she said.
Representatives from UTSC did not respond to The Varsity’s request for comment as of press time.