Wondering how the strike by college teachers and librarians will affect your studies? The school year? Want to know what the main issues are in this dispute? The Star's online education forum is taking your questions and comments and we'll get more answers to you from Tyler Charlebois of the College Student Alliance starting again on Monday, March 20.
For up-to-date information, you can also check out www.collegestrike.com.
Q: Hi. What is the likelihood that the province will have college management take over teaching responsibilities? And is management qualified to teach most of these courses?
A: It is up to the individual colleges how to handle this issue, not the province; but as yet no decision has been made on using managers and replacement workers.
Q: Hi, my daughter is in a collaborative BscNursing program at Trent/Fleming in Peterborough. Parts of her year is being disrupted by the strike. How can she be guaranteed that her she will be able to meet her requirements to complete her year?
A: The colleges have guaranteed that no student will lose his/her school year because of the strike and are to provide more details next week. So stay tuned.
Q: Hey, I am a student of Ryerson University's collaborative Nursing (BScN) program and am currently at Centennial college site. I wanted to know if the semester would be extended for the same amount of time for which the strike lasted? Would the college teachers be teaching students properly in the same way they were teaching before the strike or will they be rushing through the content?
Our clinical placements require us to be in clinic for about 4-5 weeks, we almost wasted 2 weeks of our clinical placement due to the strike. In case of extended semester, would we still be still going to our previously scheduled clinical placements because some assignments are related to our experience in long term care facility.
What happens if I take summer courses with Ryerson university and the college semester gets extended, should I still apply for the summer courses with Ryerson, because the seats might get filled up!
My last question is: Are the teachers getting paid by the college while they are on strike, because it's a loss of students!
A: Colleges are to provide more details next week about how the school year is to be salvaged; otherwise, contact your college's academic vice-president for more details.
And no, teachers are not being paid during the strike. They receive a small strike pay from their union.
Q: Hello! I am a third-year college student, who is expecting to graduate in June. I have heard from many news reports that colleges are creating contingency plans, specifically targeted to graduating students first, then other students. Do colleges expect graduating students to finish their semester on weekends? I, like many other students, use my weekend to work. There is no way that I would be able to not work on the weekend and go to school. My weekend work pays for my gas, insurance, food expenses, as well as other necessary expenses. How is that fair that students would have to finish their classes on the weekend? When I chose to further my studies at a post-secondary institution, I agreed to do my schooling under the original terms: Monday to Friday with varying class times, NOT THE WEEKEND. Why should any student have to make up the time for something that is beyond our control. We did not ask for the strike. I understand that each college is working out a plan that is tailored to its students, but I do not think that any student should be forced to go to school on the weekend. I am concerned that work which has already been submitted, will not be graded appropriately. Have colleges discussed any method for grading students assignments or tests that have been submitted or have they discussed changing marking schemes for assignments or tests that have been missed due to the strike? If the teachers really cared about the students, they would not make it this difficult for us to finish our year. -A disappointed student.
A: Yours is a concern shared by many students. That said, no decision has been made as yet, but colleges are to roll out more specific details next week on their plans to make sure students don't lose the year.
Q: I have been accepted to York University and will be starting in September on the condition that I complete my college diploma. What will happen to my acceptance in the event this strike goes on longer than three weeks? WHY HASN'T THE GOVERNMENT STEPPED IN TO STOP THIS STRIKE?
A: That is a very good question. It's unclear what will happen for students who are transferring from college to university. We're hoping that universities make exceptions and look at the student and the grades that they have. I would confer with your college to make sure you are able to complete your program so that you won't have any troubles with the transition to university. I would consult your college program coordinator or the academic vice-president. Please note there is an announcement tomorrow (Tuesday, March 14) by the colleges regarding the school year, which may help clear things up for students.
The McGuinty government's position is that the colleges and teachers are big boys and girls, and they need to come back to the table on their own and hammer out an agreement. Currently, he says there's still time for the parties to get back to the table and get an agreement that works for everyone.
Q: Hi! As a parent with two boys at college, I would like to know if the strike lasts so that the students have to go in to May, am I expected to pay two more months of room and board? I also wonder about the jobs that they are supposed to start at the beginning of May? By the Q&A I been reading, it seem pretty simple to say we have never lost a semester because of a strike. All I know is nobody seems to give a hoot about the STUDENTS! I think the teachers & government are not worried about what may happen to students, like added costs and jobs. I think the teachers and the government should look to getting together and settle this strike instead off running to the PRESS and blaming each other. All I notice that was resolved so far was the government's 5 per cent tuition increase.
A: No decision has been made as yet to extend the school year.
Regarding added costs, what has been done in the past, is that for those students on financial assistance, allowances are made; colleges have on-campus financial assistance that is available. So students who are having trouble with finances and will have trouble after the strike is completed, they should go to their institution's financial office and apply for more funds to continue with the program.
Q: Hi, I have a question concerning the strike. I'm applying to the Book and Magazine Publishing post-graduate program at Centennial College set to start in September 2006. I had an interview/information session set for March 17th as part of the admissions process. I have been unable to reach the school. I was wondering if there's a way to know if this interview is still going to happen, or if it is cancelled if the strike is still on?
A: I would contact the program co-ordinator, or your key contact person. If you can't reach either, I would go to the vice-president, academic at the college and ask that question.
Q: Everyone keeps talking about what will happen if the strike "drags on." Now, there's talk about weekend classes, which will cause huge problems for many - if not all - college students. I know of myself and many others who will find it absolutely impossible to come in on a Saturday or Sunday for classes.
Does anyone have any idea what exactly is meant by "if the strike drags on"? How long does it have to go before these plans would come into effect? I know that nobody knows for sure what "these plans" are, but does anyone know how much longer things would have to carry on, before they would actually have to start executing some of these plans?
A: What they mean by "if the strike drags on," is if it reaches a point where the academic year is in jeopardy.
The next step - we're likely to learn something tomorrow (Tuesday, March 14) when the colleges are to make an announcement on the school year, if it will be extended, how students will graduate, etc. Each student has different circumstances at different colleges, depending on the program, so there won't be a province-wide solution for how things are going to be handled. It will go institution by institution, program by program, student by student.
Q: Hi! I'm a student in the combined Mohawk-McMaster nursing program. Part of my studies is currently on hold due to this college strike. I booked a flight for April 28 to attend a family function in Europe, way back in December '05 when there was a seat sale. My semester was supposed to be done by the end of April. Now, if the semester is extended because of the strike, who will reimburse me for the flight, because the ticket cannot be rescheduled, and it is not possible to get my money back. Travel insurance does not cover this. Thank you for any help you can give me.
A: It's my suggestion that you contact the dean or vice-president, academic, at your school to speak to them about this. It's an issue that needs to be looked at in more of an indiviual manner, and institutions are able to make special accommodations for unique circumstances.
Q: I would like to know how much notice the public will get after an agreement is made? If I go home for awhile, and hear that the strike is over, how much time do I have to get back to school?
A: The date that classes would resume, in the event of an agreement being reached, would be written in return-to-work protocol, and it would be a date negotiated by the parties and they would get the information out to students. There's no set time, i.e. one or two or three days' notice before classes resume.
That said, it's plausible that if an agreement is reached on a Friday, school would re-open Monday, or if it was mid-week they'd probably give one day's notice before students were required to return to class.
Q: I read on the OPSEU website that there will be information available for the media on Friday (March 10_ at 11:00. It said, however, that there will be an "update" on bargaining provided. If there is currently no bargaining going on, how can there be an update? And will this "update" be televised?
A: Tomorrow morning is an official update on the strike situation. And you're right, there is no bargaining going on between the two sides. As for it being televised, I'm sure one of the local news stations will cover it live.
Q: Can you please tell me how much money the provincial government is saving because of the college strike by OPSEU? Since there are no classes, does the provincial government still pay the colleges? If not, how much are they saving? If the provincial government is paying the colleges, how much are college management saving by not paying salaries?
If the union is forced back to work with legislation and the student year is saved, then is the real issue here how much money the McGuinty government and/or the college management can save before legislating OPSEU back to work? Please let me know and thank you in advance for your assistance.
A: The provincial government isn't saving any money; it has already invested its money in the college sector.
It's true, the colleges are saving by not having to pay out faculty salaries and benefits, but when the faculty do return to work, they'll be getting salary arrangements which will be retroactive to August 31, 2005, which is when their last contract expired. So, in essence, there's not much that's being saved so far by having a faculty strike.
Q: I am in the BSc Nursing Program at Cambrian College in Sudbury. Our class is currently finishing our preceptorship at local hospitals. I have been contacted by college management who state that they may hire another nurse to oversee our placements. Our current clinical coordinator is on strike. Is it legal for management to hire someone outside of management in order to complete our placements? I was under the impression that in a strike position, management are the only ones that can replace teachers if they have the same qualifications.
A: If that's the option the college is looking at, then it can do it. No one has said replacement or "scab" workers are not allowed.
From the outside looking in, the institution is probably trying to ensure that students graduate. You will have someone to monitor and audit, to do the clinical, so that you can be graded and finish the semester.
Q: My son is an international student in a program at Humber. Because of a job lined up when school is out, he is unable to stay past the current end of the year. Should the semester be extended, and he cannot stay, will he lose the entire term? Would he be entitled to a refund?
A: It's my suggestion that you, or your son, contact the dean or vice-president, academic, at Humber and speak to them about this. It's an issue that needs to be looked at in more of an indiviual manner. There are some ways the institution can accommodate for special circumstances for some students.
Q: I wanted to know what is the latest information on the college strike is and if classes will be resumed on MONDAY? And how long will this strike take action!!!!
A: There's no indication how long the strike will last. Currently, the two sides are not at the bargaining table and there's been no indication they are going back. As it stands now, it's not likely students will be going back to school Monday.
Q: The Canadian Federation of Students is greatly concerned about the quality of education and the impact that has been caused by the huge decrease in full-time faculty, increased class sizes, and increased use of part-time instructors. What is the College Student Alliance's position on these issues, and will you make your position public? Do you support OPSEU's drive for quality in the classroom?
A: The College Student Alliance is extremly concerned about all those issues as well. When talking about issue of part-time faculty, that's the result of 15 years of underfunding of the system. We support the hiring of more full-time faculty to improve the quality of education.
We want to make sure that when you look at class sizes in the college system, they are alot better than the university side. You may have hundreds or a thousand students in a lecture hall - you don't get that in a college. The design of our education and curriculum can't be done with classes of that size.
The CSA supports having smaller class sizes where necessary to improve the quality of education and keep the hands-on, interactive nature of those college classes.
Q: I really appreciate this opportunity to ask this question. My son is in an apprenticeship and just started the first schooling portion. He completed one week and one day when the teachers went on strike. What happens now? Does he go back to his apprentice employer? And if he does, what happens to his unemployment? And what are the chances of his courses being started where the strike made them leave off? Or will the college just say "too bad, so sad" and leave these guys to start their eight weeks another time? Thanks for any information you can pass on.
A: The Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities has a website devoted to apprenticeships. Also check out this government website for other frequently asked questions. That would be your best bet. Otherwise, check with your son's college for specific information. Before the strike, all of the colleges were working on contingency plans for all programs. Why don't you try contacting your school's academic dean or academic vice-president?
Q: Can students take the colleges to court for lost time, not providing education that was paid for in advance, additional costs such as housing or lost employment opportunities, just to name a few. Has any college ever been sued over this?
A: A class-action suit from the college students could be a possibility, and a direction someone might take, or one thing our organization could do. No Ontario college has ever been sued by students in terms of a strike, but no Ontario college students have lost a school year to a strike; missed time was made up and everything was back to normal. Those strikes, however, were in the fall.
Q: Hi. I'm attending Canadore College in North Bay and am currently in the placement portion of my course in social service/social worker. I am due to graduate this year.
I'm not able to attend my placement at Ontario Works during the strike due to, I presume, the legal issues involved. Will these missed hours have to be made up after the strike, or have I lost this time altogether? Will my not being able to fulfill the required hours in placement jeopardize my completion of the program, resulting in not being able to graduate?
A: Currently, no decision has been set as to whether the school year will be extended or if students will have to redo it next year. It will be looked at institution by institution and program by program, and depending on how long the strike lasts that will also affect the decision.
Field placements are being decided program by program, placement by placement - whether you go or not is different for each one.
Q: Are college students at risk of losing their semester? If this strike continues, at what point will the college education board declare that students cannot compensate for missed classroom time?
A: Currently, the school year is not in jeopardy. When we get to week three, the school year does become in jeopardy. There are some variances per program - some are on 14 week semesters, some 15 or 16 - but generally week three is seen as the cutoff point.
Q: I am writing to inquire about the OPSEU strike, whether it impacts night classes as well as the full-time students. I am currently enrolled at George Brown College and am quite curious as to whether I will have classes this Thursday evening.
A: Night classes and continuing education classes are most likely taught by part-time faculty, who are not represented by OPSEU, so they are not involved in this strike. Whether night classes are running varies from college to college. I'd recommend conferring with your college, checking its website as to whether night classes are still running.
Q: Hi. My daughter is in the second year of a collaborative nursing program at Ryerson University and George Brown College (it is a university program). One part of students from this program is studying at Ryerson and the other part at George Brown College. They are studying the same subjects and they are all having exams at the same time, and most of these exams are in Ryerson auditoriums.
My question is: What is going to happen to such students? At the particular moment, all Ryerson students from the same program are studying. It is no matter Ryerson or George Brown - we all pay the same tuition. Is it right to keep our children out of school?
A: The George Brown students are obviously out on strike, but when it comes to these unique, hybrid programs, it's very difficult to sort out. There's a similar problem with Guelph-Humber because the majority are taught by college faculty, so they aren't in school either.
Those who are currently taught by the college faculty, they obviously aren't having classes. And it's not like they can go over to Ryerson and do classes there, it doesn't work that way. Everyone is at a disadvantage in the college system right now. When you have a hybrid program and some students are here and some there, there are going to be differences.
Q: Why are the university teacher/professors on strike in the classrooms of Laurentian University (satellite location) at Georgian College in Barrie? Does this not label them as in an illegal strike position? Why are they telling their students they are out because they are in support of the college staff? I have phoned and left my number and e-mail address at Laurentian University/Sudbury with my questions and concerns, as a parent, and have not received a response. I want to know!!!
A: Although the university professors are not represented by the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU), because they are teaching on campus, and teaching full-time, it would be my assumption that there was a decision for them not to teach at all. Students in those programs may be taught by university faculty, and college faculty, and there may be a mix. What the school may be saying is that full-time students don't attend class, regardless of who teaches them.
Q: As a college student in the final year of my program, I am of course going to enjoy this strike should it last a couple of days. But, like the rest of the students, I am concerned if it runs any longer and begins to affect our academic year. If our year does become jeopardized, what rights do we have as students in terms of tuition refunds and the financial burdens that may result in a cancelled school year?
A: Currently, it hasn't been decided whether the school year will be extended or cancelled. From our perspective, no students will be charged more if the school year is extended, and financial assistance has been provided in the past to students hurt by a strike through OSAP, giving those who need financial assistance because of an extended school year. In regards to tuition refunds, that hasn't happened because students haven't ever lost the school year in the college system.
Q: Does the government or colleges have any plans to help students, soon-to-be graduates like myself who should be out looking for work but have to complete an extended school year, or even redo the semester? When will the government start thinking about forcing the teachers back to work?
A: Nothing has been decided as yet about the school year. The government is encouraging both sides back to the table. We need the government to do more, to put down an iron fist to say 'get back to the table now,' before we get to a situation where the school year is in jeopardy.
The government will look at back-to-work legislation when the school year is getting close to being jeopardized. College teachers were legislated back to work in 1984 after 23 days.
Q: Do you have any idea when this strike will be finished?
A: No one has any idea at this point how long the strike will last. Previous strikes by Ontario college teachers lasted 20 days (1989), 23 days (1984) and 14 days (1979).
Q: Just wondering what will happen to students who have their second semesters in the summer? Will this semester be moved to the fall?
A: Nothing has been decided as yet regarding the school year. Students are advised to keep in touch with their college for further developments.
Q: What will happen if the strike continues from now until end of semester (April)? Do I get my money back? Or will the semester continue in the summer? Will we need to retake the courses in the new school year?
A: Nothing has been decided regarding the school year. However, no college student has ever lost a school year because of a teacher strike.
Q: When will talks resume? How long can this strike last?
A: There are no plans for talks to resume at the bargaining table as yet. The strike will go on until the two sides reach an agreement -- as has happened in two previous college student strikes -- or through provincial legislation, as happened in the 1984 strike.