Student leaders are calling on the government to help get Ontario college students back to the classroom.

On Friday, Oct. 20, student representatives from eight Ontario colleges penned an open letter to the provincial government. It called on the provincial government to encourage the Ontario Public Service Employees Union and the College Employer Council to continue bargaining and to come to a settlement.

Currently, the college faculty strike is affecting nearly 500,000 students. At Western University, many students enrolled in Western-Fanshawe collaborative programs, such as nursing; media, theory and production; and music recording arts have lost access to their Fanshawe courses. 

“The strike has impacted the quality of education,” said Morgana Sampson, Fanshawe Student Union's president. “Colleges are different from universities — there are more hands-on materials that can’t be covered outside of the classroom, and they require time that can never be made up with condensed content.”

In the letter, the student associations highlighted three main concerns that they have received from student feedback:

  • Students want to be in their classrooms, receiving the education they paid for.
  • The quality of education will eventually decrease because course materials will have to be condensed to make up the semester.
  • Any extension or compression of a semester will cause stress for both domestic and international students, which will potentially include undue financial hardship.

The letter concludes with a meeting request with Ontario’s premier, the minister of advanced education and skills development and the chairs of the bargaining teams. While the letter is the student associations’ first point of contact with the provincial government, college students have also been active in voicing their concerns on social media.

The strike began because the OPSEU asked for better pay, freedom over course curriculum and an even split of full- and part-time faculty. In response, the CEC denied their request as the demands were projected to cost millions of dollars.

Sampson added that student concerns are not limited to those outlined in the letter. For example, students have been having difficulty getting in touch with professors for graduate school references. Students who have been studying abroad have also been forced to come back to Canada.  

“We hope that the government will see the importance of students needing to be back in class,” Sampson said.