By Sue Tiffin
Published Nov. 14 2017
Brenda Philp is trying to keep a positive attitude and focus on her art while waiting out the strike that is keeping her from the classroom.
The fibre arts student from Edmonton appreciates that she has been able to work on her art at Haliburton School of Art and Design since the provincial college strike began Oct. 16 and speaks highly of the teachers and support staff at Fleming College’s Haliburton campus but as the days pass with no end to the strike in sight she said it’s disheartening to see the positive experience disintegrate.
“Being from out of town I’m incurring quite an expense to be here and I’m not getting the experience that I paid for” she said.
“I put forth my tuition in good faith expecting a certain delivery of curriculum and it’s not happening in the way I anticipated in the way that I was promised.”
Last week rumours that the semester had been lost for Fleming College students awaiting the end of the Ontario college faculty strike now in its fifth week were put to rest.
Students thinking of dropping out due to the interruption are being urged to reconsider.
“There have been false rumours that the semester is cancelled or will be by the end of this week” said Judith Limkilde vice president academic of Fleming College in a message distributed in the afternoon of Nov. 9. “That is simply not true.”
Limkilde said a provincial policy regarding refunds for withdrawals would be determined by the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development but encouraged students to not withdraw.
“I understand that it might seem like your only option right now but there could be ways we could help you to stay in school” said Limkilde. “The benefits of education cannot be overemphasized. You took a leap of faith when you enrolled at Fleming College and I am asking you to trust us to help you find a way of staying in school. There are too many people who leave education thinking they will return one day yet life intervenes and that opportunity for education does not come again.”
In a message just a few hours earlier Fleming College President Tony Tilly reached out to faculty urging a negotiated settlement which he said he believed was achievable.
“This strike has been extremely trying for all of us” he wrote. “I want to affirm that you were hired for expertise in your field and for your teaching skills … Along with your students and the staff and leaders of Fleming College I look forward to your return to work. Let’s make it soon as our students cannot wait much longer.”
Classes across Ontario were suspended on Oct. 16. OPSEU represents staff at 24 public colleges in Ontario and has been negotiating with the College Employer Council which bargains on behalf of the province’s colleges. Key issues include protecting full-time jobs outsourcing salaries academic freedom and job security among others. A faculty vote has been called for by the College Employer Council and is expected to take place from Nov. 14 to 16.
Sandra Dupret dean/principal of Fleming College – Haliburton School of Art and Design said students should prepare for an extended semester longer days and Saturday classes when they return to school. Additionally there is a possibility the marketing and portfolio course will be delivered online.
“For programs returning for a winter semester recovery plans are achievable to ensure that all program outcomes are achieved and that the academic year is not lost” said Dupret. “It is a bit more complicated with accelerated programs but the college is making every effort to ensure that students are able to complete their programs regardless of the delivery format.”
In-class school days will be extended from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. and the college has extended the fall semester by a week to Dec. 22. Winter semester classes reading week and the end of winter semester are expected to be scheduled as planned. Support for students facing issues with housing OSAP and financial situations and who had already booked travel prior to Nov. 1 is being offered by Fleming College.
Students and faculty are frustrated by the strike and anxious to return to the classroom according to Dupret.
“We are hopeful that the two parties can reach a settlement and agreement soon” she said. “We know how disappointing the strike has been to our students and faculty. There is nothing more the Haliburton campus wants to see than our studios bustling with creative energy and we look forward to supporting everyone when they return to the classroom.”
Students have continued access to studios and facilities at the local campus which remains open from Monday to Friday 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
For regularly updated information on the strike visit https://flemingcollege.ca/faculty-labour-negotiations. A strike information phone line was established on Nov. 10 and can be called at 705-749-5550.