Even as I sit and write this article, Wynne’s Liberals have failed to pass legislation to get Ontario college teachers back to work. There will now be a 1 pm meeting tomorrow to re-table the legislation. With the NDP standing in the way of the teachers’ immediate return, there must be 500,000 students wondering just what the hell they’re doing. Of course, students want what’s best for their teachers, but I think they care more about their own hardships and currently failing education than the lacking academic freedom teachers have across the 24 Ontario colleges. As best as I can figure, all grievances were settled at the last tabling between the CEC and OPSEU to end the strike. Everything, that is, but academic freedom. Not willing to let go of their quest for full freedom of class curriculum, the teachers voted a resounding “NO”. Some might think to start blaming the teachers because of this pursuit of academic freedom which I think they will not achieve even when the provincial Liberals and NDP reach an agreement to get everyone’s asses back to classes.
That being said, it’s hard to blame the teachers fully for this mess when these talks have been in the works since the summer. Sure, the strike may have been going on now for over a month, but these issues have been the same since we still had beach weather. And that’s before mentioning that out of over thirty days away from class, there have only been five days of negotiation over the lives of half a million students. It’s no wonder then that all across Ontario there has risen the #AssToClass movement. Yesterday, students all across the province took to their respective schools and filled halls and classrooms to protest the inactivity of the parties responsible for dragging out this strike for so long (now the longest college strike in Ontario history).
Canadore students may have lucked out in a way that many other college students have not (in one way at least). They had a chance yesterday to sit with the president of the college George Burton to air their concerns, of which they had many. I can’t say that they were overwhelmingly impressed by the dodgy answers they received but there can no longer be room for surprise in these students. Burton is unfortunately not the one who will be able to turn the tide of the strike. Though his relative “details to come” method of answering questions was not very helpful to anyone in the room, though there was little more he could say.
If there is one thing I can say must be the biggest obstacle to get the students back to class (besides the political quibbles of the Liberals and NDP) I would say that it is absence. Until yesterday, many of the students at Canadore had not heard a word from their student council, nor from their college president. They hardly hear from the teachers also. But, there was at least revelation yesterday that, with even just a little communication much can be accomplished and discovered. Student services have not been shut though it seems that some students. in their anxiety-ridden states, had forgotten this fact until help finally came to them. Now, the Canadore student council is looking to keep in direct communication with initiatives to help students when they finally return to classes.
While the #AssToClass turnout was not exceptional at Canadore yesterday, the mandate of the movement is clear and simple. Strike suspension and binding arbitration. Accommodation. Refund or deferral if the semester is lost. Compensation. And finally, winter and summer semesters starting on time. Each of these contains their own details and obstacles. Wandering the thickets of bureaucratic hell to get back on the path to a proper education will not be easy, but it is attainable. It remains to be seen if it will be attained though.