It’s been almost two months since the longest college strike in Ontario’s history came to a close. Following the government’s invocation of back-to-work legislation in late November, a binding arbitration agreement between the Ontario Public Services Employees Union (OPSEU) and the College Employer Council (CEC) was signed on December 20. Both parties to the agreement claim that the arbitration was a success. Unfortunately, relishing in their accomplishments overlooks approximately 500,000 college students who may not be willing to say the same.
Over the course of months, these students carried the financial and emotional weight of missed classes. Full tuition refunds were only available to those students who dropped out of school two weeks after the strike ended. Although they can return to classes next year, making students choose between their money and education is unfair. Some may argue that colleges made up for the lost time by extending the semester, but students did not pay for an education that crams five weeks’ worth of material into two.
For many students, there was no relief after the storm. As reported by the Ottawa Citizen for instance, international student Abby Sun faced the threat of not graduating from Algonquin College in time for a new job, and missing Christmas with her family was an even more pressing concern. No amount of money can alleviate the emotional toll this strike took on students, and contrary to the sentiments of OPSEU or the CEC, they may not be moving forward from the strike with such a positive mindset.
Issues of academic freedom and the wage increase may have been resolved by the college strike, but this resolution came at a cost. While the union and colleges may have gotten what they wanted, students deserved better than becoming collateral damage.
Andrea Tambunan is a first-year student at University College studying Life Sciences.