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EDITORIAL: We sympathize but get screwed when our education is OPSEUs leverage

The education of college students across the province is up in the air as the Ontario Public Service Employee Union (OPSEU) submitted its five-day notice to strike and could be on the picket lines as early as 12:01 a.m. Monday.

If an agreement is not reached before this time, full-time and partial-load staff, including those at Humber, will be in a strike position while the colleges could lock them out. Either way, it would effectively shut down full time, continuing education and online classes for students. Students in co-op or field placement programs need to contact their school to determine if these will still be running. However, varsity athletes are in luck as sports events are expected to continue in selected off-site areas. As well, Humber campuses will still remain open and services such as peer tutoring, math and writing services will also be available.

Not much information is available for concerned students, at least, not the answers we want. Humber’s website has some details and FAQ’s listed on their updates page. Humber is adamant that they’re committed to student’ success and will “do everything possible to ensure that all students have the opportunity to achieve their learning goals”, but does not specify exactly how students will make up for lost time. It all depends on the number of academic days lost, the release says.

As for refunds, well, there’s no clear answer for that either.

What domino effect would that cause to housing contracts, employment expectations and fees?The price of an education has always been a hot topic issue, with many students trying to balance part-time jobs with studying. If there is a strike, students would be missing out on valuable education they have paid for, and in which they will most likely not receive any compensation or reimbursement.

Nursing students, for instance, pay $3,819.96 tuition per semester and stand to lose $254.45 per week. Humber’s Business Management program students stand to lose $131.70 per week, and the Film and Television students will lose $127.20 per week.

The fees for international students are even greater.

There is no telling how long this strike will last, it very well could be weeks, but it could be very costly to students in other ways other than tuition.

Students who rent a room may find themselves pleading with landlords to let them extend their lease by a month. With leases generally on a fixed term contract, students may find themselves desperately searching for a month-long sublet, becoming especially difficult if hundreds, if not thousands, of students are caught in this situation.

Further, more than 1,000 students who live in Humber student residences at the college’s three main campuses may have no other option but to stay in residence to make up for missed school time during the strike. However, there are strict move-out dates so staff can prepare dorms for new students moving in for summer courses.

Many of these summer students “come from away” where commuting is not an option and finding a short-term lease may prove nearly impossible.

The students who will be affected the most will be the international students. They would not only stand to lose more tuition money per week of the strike but would also need to re-schedule their lives. For these students, they may need to change flights and ensure they have enough money saved up to stay longer. Their employers back home may reconsider their commitments.

OPSEU and the colleges have plans if there’s a strike. But it begs the question, are students being used as leverage by the union and the College Employer Council?

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