Over one hundred students across at least four colleges participated in a walk-out protest organized by the new Ontario Students United provincial organization in response to how the colleges and education ministry handled the faculty strike.
An estimated 150 students at Centennial College were involved in the protest that was carried out with a list of demands including the democratization of academic governance and access to the strike student relief fund for all.
About 40 students at George Brown College took their protest indoors and requested to meet a member of the administration.
Vice President of Academics and Interim Executive Dean Dr. Cory Ross accepted a letter from protest organizer Marco La Grotta that outlined the demands from OSU.
According to a press release from Ontario Students United, the walk-out demands included a full strike refund, more academic freedom for faculty, and a democratically elected College Employer Council with student and faculty representation.
Further demands request an academic senate with student and faculty representation and increased support for First Nations and international students.
“Sheridan students deserve to be heard, we shouldn’t be punished for the strike and we shouldn’t have to advocate for our own quality of education,” walk-out organizer for Sheridan College Carina Joneit said in a statement.
“We’re walking out to demand that our hardships are valid regardless of paperwork and that the college system needs to change.”
St. Clair also held a walk-out, but the Post has not received a response from their organizer at this time.
University of Guelph-Humber and Humber students, along with students from all of the 24 public colleges, are encouraged to join the grassroots OSU by visiting their website.
The College Student Alliance, IGNITE leadership and the education ministry have not responded to a request for comment at this time.
George Brown boldly faces up
About 20 students gathered outside on the corner of King St. and Frederick St. outside the George Brown College St. James Campus, where Marco La Grotta had started the growing walk-out crowd on pro-student chants.
Cars honked and there were even some jeers, but as the rally turned the corner to gather in front of the college building on King, it had grown in size and volume.
La Grotta gave an impassioned speech that appeared to turn the fervour up a notch, as those in attendance huddled for warmth and support.
Canadian Federation of Students representative Nour Alideeb was present to vocalize CFS Ontario’s support for Ontario Students United and the walk-out.
“Students haven’t forgotten what happened last semester, Alideeb told the Post.
“There are demands that have been unmet, but we’re going to keep fighting to ensure that our faculty, teaching assistants…all the people that make our education system high quality…will receive what they deserve.”
Alideeb said the CFS also aims to “ensure the needs of students are met and that barriers to accessing barriers to post-secondary education are removed.”
By 12:40 p.m., the rally moved indoors in a determined march for the first staircase inside the doors, headed for the fourth floor and the administration office.
La Grotta lead some 40 of his peers to the offices, confidently requesting to speak to a member of the George Brown College administration.
The administrative assistant looked confused if not concerned: she stood up and didn’t sit down until after the crowd dispersed.
Dr. Cory Ross was summoned and La Grotta respectfully gave him the letter he said was from “rank and file George Brown students.”
Then Anne Sado walked in, the president of George Brown College, and kindly inquired about the 40-odd college students that now crowded the office space.
La Grotta ended up reading the letter to Sado, which was now slightly crumpled and possibly muddy from what he admitted was due to being dropped earlier.
Gripping the letter tightly and with a voice that carried over the the crowd and to Sado at the office entrance, La Grotta read the critical demands from the walk-out.
Sado said the administration would read the letter and formulate a response.
Marco La Grotta then turned to assembled crowd and thanked them for their participation and the ralliers chanted their way out of the offices.
More details to follow. Image 1 of the Sheridan walk-out signs from OSU.