Mount Allison University students demand an end to faculty strike
Students at Mount Allison University say they have each lost more than $1,300 in tuition since faculty hit the picket lines last month, and they want their money back.
Students expressed their anger as they marched through the university campus in Sackville, N.B. on Wednesday in protest of the faculty strike, which began Jan. 27.
“Trying to do homework in the library, but not being very productive because you don’t really have anything that drives you,” says student Freya Sturm.
The Mount Allison Faculty Association, which represents 154 full-time and 56 part-time faculty and librarians, says pay, pensions and benefits are the centre of the dispute.
The school has said it presented contract proposals that are consistent with recent collective agreements at other universities. It has called on the union to accept its offer to enter into binding arbitration, something the striking workers have already rejected.
Students are now signing a petition, asking the province to intervene and encouraging faculty to return to class while negotiations are underway.
“I definitely think we’re going to return to class at some point. Hopefully the special mediator will be able to accomplish that, but if not, further government intervention may be necessary,” says Melissa O’Rourke, president of the university’s student union.
As frustrations grow, so does the financial cost of the strike. Students are losing an average of $60 each day.
“You should get what you pay for no matter if you’re from the Maritimes or not. We all came here for a reason,” says student Morgan Desjarlais.
Three weeks of cancelled classes has also prompted many students to leave the campus. O’Rourke estimates about half of the 2200 students have gone home.
“I think there are a lot of people that are pretty disappointed at this point in time. I mean, there’s a crowd of people out here today showing that they want an end to the strike, so I think things are starting to boil up over here,” says O’Rourke.
The New Brunswick government directed both the administration and striking academics at Mount Allison University to resume collective bargaining with the help of a special mediator.
Toronto-based lawyer Larry Steinberg is meeting with the two sides in an effort to resolve the strike. Meetings began Wednesday and will continue Thursday. A media blackout prevents both sides from talking about the negotiations.
If there is no progress, students say they will take the march to the New Brunswick legislature.
With files from CTV Atlantic's Jonathan MacInnis and The Canadian Press