Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 24/10/2011 (3861 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
BRANDON -- I chose to attend Brandon University for several reasons. It was close to home, received rave reviews from previous students I talked to and, most of all, the class sizes were smaller than those of the University of Manitoba or University of Winnipeg. But right now, both of those other institutions are looking attractive as the faculty strike rages on in Brandon.
As a first-year student, it has been disappointing to watch this situation unfold. During the first month of classes, I came to know and respect my professors on a personal and professional level. I had no qualms with the administration, either. In general, tuition fees are quite high, but at BU we have some of the lowest tuition rates in the country.
My positive opinion of BU started to change in early October, as it became apparent the collective bargaining process was breaking down slowly but surely. When the students were finally informed the faculty would be striking in the early hours of Wednesday, Oct. 12, I was frustrated, to say the least.
During the early stages of the strike, it was quite confusing, trying to sort through information coming from many different sources -- BUFA (the faculty association), the administration, BUSU (the students' union), Facebook, the media -- and trying to decide what to interpret as fact. At that time, it became apparent there would be no lockout as there was in 2008.
A university is comprised of many different groups, all working together to educate students. Without the administration, there would be financial and operational issues. Without the faculty there would be no teaching. But without the students, nobody else would be here. The students are what make a university complete -- paying several thousand dollars in order to obtain an education. Therefore, you would think it would be important to treat students fairly and make them want to attend your institution. Both parties failed to accomplish this objective.
First, the faculty went on strike, cancelling our classes. Then the administration told students they would "have to make their own choice" whether or not to cross the picket line. It was rumoured they tried to recruit individual professors back to class, without providing any academic protection for students beyond "their word."
This has created a moral dilemma for many students. Do they cross the picket line and attend the class they paid for and ensure they won't be penalized? Or do they support the striking faculty, respect the line and risk academic penalty?
By forcing students into this blatantly unfair situation, the administration has created a rift among students, as well. There was a group that supported BUSU and BUFA, a group that wanted to stand alone as a third party, and there were people who just wanted to go home and stay out of all the drama. Frustrated students felt the need to express their emotions and viewpoints, which turned into many heated disagreements.
The students are the ones who will lose the most in this ridiculous situation. We've lost instructional time we have paid for in full and are unlikely to see that money again. We're told there are contingency plans in place once the strike is over, but nobody has specified what these plans entail.
No student wants a semester cut short and material skipped, or a semester extended, cutting into time scheduled to work in order to pay for school. Many aggravated students just want to leave Brandon, especially if this pattern of a strike every three years continues. Do you think Grade 12 students graduating this year are considering attending BU, given this ongoing controversy?
It is obvious both sides have been using the students to pressure their adversary.
This is unjust, unprofessional and completely unnecessary. It's insulting to be used as bargaining chips when all we want is an education.
Last Friday, talks with the conciliator broke down, and on Monday the province appointed Michael Werier to mediate the contract dispute. I truly hope both parties will work closely with Werier and come to an agreement as soon as possible.
Today, Tuesday, is day 14 of the strike -- two weeks lost of instructional time, two weeks of wasted finances.
This strike is not fair to the students. It's not our problem or our battle, yet we've been thrown into it and have to deal with the repercussions.
It's time for the administration and faculty to step up, stop arguing and conduct themselves like the educated adults they are -- because at the end of the day, it's the students and their education that are being sacrificed.