If the faculty goes on strike, what happens to you?
Monday, February 18, 20082 Comments
Last Wednesday, the University of Guelph Faculty Association voted 84.5% in favour of strike authorization, making a strike this semester more likely than ever before. So what exactly would happen to your semester if the professors do go ahead with the strike? The university administration says it has “contingencies”. That’s all they’re saying. Here’s a look at how a few recent faculty strikes have affected students at other Canadian schools:
York University, 1997
A 55-day strike resulted from a year of unfruitful bargaining over salaries, intellectual property, workload, equity– all the usual stuff. On March 20th, the York University Faculty Association, representing about 60% of the school’s instructors, walked out in protest. Many non-unionized professors, graduate students and sessionals supported them by cancelling their classes as well. Nearly a month into the spring strike, the university announced that it would proceed with the normal summer session beginning May 14th, 1997. YUFA vowed to stop it, but York was able to go ahead with the two-thirds of its summer courses which are taught by non-tenure (and thus non-YUFA) staff. It seems the university knew that they could rely on finding instructors for summer courses. The younger non-tenured professors who teach most summer courses are too poorly paid to ever say no to work. The University Senate claimed that it had a responsibility to open in time for the summer semester because students receiving OSAP might have their funding jeopardized. (That’s right, strike or not, if you’re not taking classes full time your loans start accruing interest right away.) On April 18th, the Senate supported a motion that classes would still be rescheduled after the strike was over, but that in classes where exams were worth 35% or less, the mark would be based entirely on the other 65% of course work at the student’s request. The strike ended May 14th, just in time for the summer session. Students who missed classes (including those which took place during the strike) were given opportunities to reschedule coursework and instruction.
Trent, 1991 & 1996
In 1991, Trent’s professors were the lowest paid in Ontario and wanted more more control over their pension plan. After a year of negotiations, the faculty picketed for 23 days – the longest strike in Ontario up to that point. Two days into the strike, part-time faculty were laid off and all classes were cancelled. Many students transferred schools. Classes and exams were condensed during the rest of the semester. (Does't that sound fun?) The Trent professors went back to work on the condition that they would receive pay in line with the provincial average. It didn’t happen. Five years later, on November 18th, 1996, the professors went on strike a second time. The second strike lasted three weeks and students were expected to return to class the day after the strike ended – quite frustrating for those who had left Peterborough.
Acadia, 2004 & 2007
On February 23rd, 2004 faculty at Acadia walked out over a disagreement about faculty recruitment and retention. Classes resumed March 11th, just under three weeks later. When Acadia’s professors went on strike on October 15th, 2007 this is what students were told: “If you are in a term-based course... [not distance education] some sort of adjustment to the course will be made if necessary when the course resumes. Because these courses vary in how they will be impacted by the strike and, at this point, we are unable to say how long the strike will last, we cannot specify what adjustment will be necessary. We will, however, strive to ensure that the impact of the strike is minimized for our students.” (http://conted.acadiau.ca/strike_faq.html) The second strike lasted fifteen days and the money the university saved by not paying professors' salaries was credited to the students' accounts. Canadian students got $275 off their tuition in January while international students received a $375 credit.
Bishops, Mount Allison, U.B.C. and Manitoba are just a few more Canadian schools which have seen faculty strikes in recent decades. While usually resolved in fewer than three weeks, the length of strikes can be very unpredictable. In the event of a strike at Guelph I guess we’ll just have to stay at home and get as much work done as we can. Classes can start up again with only 24-hours notice as the strikes at Acadia and Trent have shown. And when it comes to faculty strikes, we can expect a little leniency from the administration and professors. If worse comes to worst, and they do strike, I’m rooting for no finals.
http://www.acadiau.ca/whatsnew/newsrelease/2007/winter_credit_19nov.html http://defencefund.caut.ca/english/Reports/Spring2004.htm http://www.trentu.ca/admin/library/archives/rg15-TUFA.htm http://www.smufu.org/documents/volume%202,%20number%208.pdf. http://www.trentarthur.info/archives/000955.html http://www.gazette.uwo.ca/1997/March/25//News7.htm http://www.yorku.ca/mediar/releases_1996_2000/archive/043097.htm http://www.carillon.uregina.ca/jan23.97/features/feature2.html