Students settle in after five-week hiatus

BY AUSTIN WELLS

Students at 24 Ontario colleges, including Conestoga, finally got a chance to return to school on Nov. 21 after a five-week interruption due to a strike by faculty. However, after such a long break, how have students readjusted to being back at school? Has the return been stressful?

“Not so much stressful but highly annoying and inconvenient,” said Melissa Escobar, a fourth-year bachelor of applied health information science student. “I returned for one class this semester, so having to deal with one class is not incredibly bad, but there’s more weight on the exams and that makes a lot of people nervous. When there’s classes with a lot of details and facts – like biomedical sciences – people need the professor to explain things to them properly or in a way that they’ll understand. I had to come back specifically for this class because I didn’t get it the first time. It’s not an easy class and it needs to be explained properly. Now I’m missing chapters out of the course and I still won’t get to learn everything I was supposed to, which in turn affects how I may do my job when I graduate because I don’t know everything I was supposed to learn.”

Claire Fernandes, a first-year recreation and leisure services student, said, “I haven’t been too stressed, my teachers kind of made the return easier by reducing the amount of work. They’ve changed a lot of the assignment dates around to make it easier. I don’t think I’ll have trouble catching back up.”

“I’d say it’s been stressful,” said Mikaela Vanderloo, a first-year social services student. “The course work has been a lot all at once, but it’s nice to have the professors be understanding of what we’re going through and they’re trying to make it work as best as they can.”
Regarding the strike, students had similar opinions regarding how they felt as it continued to drag on.

“By the end of it, I was just annoyed,” said Emma Richards, another first-year recreation and leisure services student.
Fernandes said, “At first, I was excited for an extra reading week, but by the end I was ready to go back. I ran out of stuff to do at home.”

“When the strike started I think I was a bit more comfortable because people were saying it wouldn’t be longer than a couple weeks, and the longest we’d ever had was four weeks,” Vanderloo said. “I remember thinking it would be fine to come back from what was supposed to be reading week, which was supposed to be after two weeks, but as it went on I figured that the semester would be done.”

Escobar said, “At the beginning of the strike, I was annoyed because I actually enjoy my class and was looking forward to coming back this semester and actually understanding what I had previously missed. Now I have chapters missing from my semester and I had to learn four weeks of content on my own, and that was only because my teacher was smart enough to post content in advance before they went on strike. As it went on I was extremely annoyed and actually concerned if we were coming back at all. This was my graduating semester and I would have been angry if I lost it due to incompetence, lack of dedication for the students and the selfishness of the teachers participating in the strike. The teachers in my program told all their students they were happy with their jobs and made more than enough money. They believed there was no reason for the strike and that actually made me even more angry as the weeks went on. Other part-time teachers I talked to didn’t even want to be full time, so I started to wonder who actually wanted to go on strike.”

The unexpectedly long strike wore down a great majority of students, but how else were they impacted? Will losing two weeks of winter break effect any previously made plans?

“I didn’t have a vacation planned, but I’m definitely going to miss those extra two weeks of family time,” Vanderloo said. “The strike was hard for me financially because I missed a lot of extra shifts at work during those five weeks because I wasn’t sure when I’d be called back to school and I had to go week by week and lose a lot of shifts, and now cutting out those two weeks of winter break means I’ll be losing even more shifts.”

“The strike didn’t impact a huge part of my life immediately, but it does make me miss Christmas with the family,” Escobar said.
Due to the length of the strike, the government announced a “hardship fund,” which offers compensation to students for unexpected expenses such as additional rent and child care and re-booked tickets for travel. However, how many people actually know about this and will apply?

“I heard a bit about it, but I was kind of concerned because I heard you have to apply and you’re only eligible for up to $500, so I was thinking I wouldn’t be getting too much money back,” said Vanderloo. “I’m a little iffy about it, but I’ll still apply and hope I get some money back, but I understand why that might not happen since they can’t give money back to everyone.”

“We hadn’t heard about it,” Richards and Fernandes said.

Escobar said, “Why not? My time is so much more valuable to me than anything else … I had to waste five weeks of school for these teachers to come to a conclusion … if I can get money back, I will.”

In a survey conducted by Spoke, four of 13 students said they would apply for the fund, while two were unsure. When asked if they would consider withdrawing from their program and starting over next year after receiving a full refund, only one of the 13 students said yes.

While the strike may not have put a massive financial strain on every student, the time and education lost is significant, especially for students in shorter programs where the learning is condensed. A common sentiment expressed by students was that the return to school felt just like the start of school in September, but much later in the year.

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Spoke Online is produced weekly during the school year by Conestoga College second-year journalism print students, faculty adviser Christina Jonas and new media technologist Michael Toll.