STUDENTS say they are willing to make sacrifices as they stand in solidarity with striking faculty members at the University of Manitoba.

STUDENTS say they are willing to make sacrifices as they stand in solidarity with striking faculty members at the University of Manitoba.

Many of them joined picketing professors and staff members at a rally at the U of M administration building Thursday despite being caught in the crossfire in the protracted dispute.

"Students are by far and away the ones most affected. We are the collateral damage," said University of Manitoba Student Union president Brendan Scott.

Scott described the situation at the university as dire, as the longest strike in its history drags on.

The University of Manitoba Faculty Association called the strike on Nov. 2 to back its demand for competitive salary increases to match those offered by other institutions across the country.

Nearly a month in, students are suffering, Scott said.

"Those 30 days don’t just go away. They have to be made up," he said. "No student is happy about academic calendar changes."

Scott said students set to graduate this semester will have to wait, and if the strike continues beyond Dec. 7, it could disrupt the next semester.

"The intent is that the academic year will be successfully completed… Any effect on the December examination period cannot be determined until the length of the strike is known," a university representative wrote in an email statement Thursday.

At the rally, faculty association president Orvie Dingwall, and professor Niigaan Sinclair, addressed a crowd of hundreds, including students, such as Logan Doran, who said they hope the strike ends soon, but stand behind faculty.

"In the long run, (faculty) will be here longer than us. So, if I have to come back for another year, it’s not as big of an impact for me," said Doran, who studies computer science.

She attended the event with her friend music student Alice Macgregor. Both said they are willing to sacrifice so future students won’t suffer from a strike years from now.

Students Jenna Solomon and Speranza Albensi showed support for striking faculty, despite the impact a prolonged strike may have on their education. (Tyler Searle / Winnipeg Free Press)

Students Jenna Solomon and Speranza Albensi showed support for striking faculty, despite the impact a prolonged strike may have on their education. (Tyler Searle / Winnipeg Free Press)

"If (they) don’t come to an agreement, we will just be in this same spot two or four years from now," Macgregor said.

Both women are provincial transplants: Doran is from St. Paul, Minn., and Macgregor is from St. John’s, N.L.

Since November, they have been waiting to hear when they will return to class. It has made it difficult to book flights home for the holidays, they said.

Business student Speranza Albensi said the uncertainty has been tough on students.

Morale had slumped due to pandemic restrictions and online learning, and the strike has exacerbated the situation.

Albensi supported the faculty at Thursday’s rally, believing the university will be unable to recruit and retain top educators unless it offers competitive wages.

"We’re all facing this as a student body, so being angry won’t help," she said. "If (faculty) are not given fair wages, it affects students."

Music instructor Karli Epp said student support has been overwhelming.

There seems to be fellowship among students and faculty who feel the administration handles them without compassion, she said.

"It feels like a bit of a game for them. For us and our students, it’s our lives," she said.

Epp, a U of M graduate, had no idea what she was walking into when she joined the faculty in 2018. When the strike is resolved, it will be strange returning to work under an administration who has fought so doggedly against them, she said.

The university has no intention of writing off the year due to labour disruptions and is open to continuing discussions with the faculty association, the university representative wrote.

Representatives from both sides were to resume negotiations after the rally, Sinclair said during his speech.

fpcity@freepress.mb.ca