Sheridan College students in the Community Worker program are hosting a photo-exhibit on Dec. 14 to demand open access to the relief fund set up by the Ontario education ministry and following the faculty union strike.
The event, called “The Students Strike Back”, will “advocate for quality education and financial restitution from the strike and post-strike costs for students across Ontario”, according to a statement released by organizers.
Advocates for the exhibit say those that attend will “strike back by sharing their voices in protest” against colleges holding back relief funds behind a harsh reimbursement application process that causes a “shattering of trust in the education system.”
The event will take place in the Student Union Building at Sheridan’s Davis Campus in Brampton from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. with a performance from progressive rapper and artist Mohammed Ali, the “Socialist Vocalist”.
A relief fund was set up by Ontario’s Ministry for Advanced Education and Skills Development following the end of strike to offer up to $500 in reimbursements for those that suffered financial hardship during the strike through an application process.
A hardship pool was also set up for those enrolled at the University of Guelph-Humber in partnership with the ministry. The university came under intense criticism from students over how administrators handled GH during and after the strike.
The demands of “The Students Strike Back” are similar to those of the new Ontario Students United student advocacy organization holding a walk-out the day after.
Exhibit Organizer Alyssa Warnock said they were aligned and endorsed by OSU for having the same motivations towards a better college education system.
The union for the 12,000 faculty, librarians and counsellors at Ontario’s 24 public colleges went on strike on Oct. 16, after a deadline passed for collective bargaining negotiations.
After five weeks of students being out of classrooms and a dramatic forced vote where picketing faculty voted no to an offer from the colleges, Queen’s Park passed back-to-work legislation that ended the strike and sent negotiators to binding arbitration.
Warnock, a first-year at Sheridan, explained that the way the college system is currently run will harm the future of education.
“The neoliberal approach in education reduces jobs and funding, expands online learning , encourages privatization, and focuses on profits for the college,” Warnock explained.
A statement from Students Strike Back said that the strike “made its mark by crippling hundreds of thousands of students with stress”, placing “futures in jeopardy because of it.”
Event organizers explained that it has resulted in a “crammed semester, loss of potential employment earnings” and a “shattering of trust in the education system.”
“Students are tired of the politics and tired of being treated like bargaining chips in a metaphor for institutional divorce,” said Carina Joneit, another organizer.
Joneit explained that “in this country, education is a basic human right from birth and a prerequisite for entering the labour market.”
“It shouldn’t require such advocacy, not for the faculty on strike then, or the students now.”
More details to follow. Image 1 of Sheridan Davis Campus from Wikimedia Commons.