Do college students care about a strike? -

Do college students care about a strike?

Answer: it doesn’t matter. At least not for the union or the colleges


Yesterday, the creator of the Facebook group “Ontario College Students Against A Strike” Graeme McNaughton had hoped hundreds of his cohorts would walk out of class in protest of a looming college strike. Instead, about 20 showed up. From the Star:

In a spectacular case of diminishing returns, a Facebook antistrike group drew 22,000 members. Then came 4,000 signatures on an online petition, and 356 students – representing 11 schools – promised to walk out of class.

At Humber College’s Lakeshore campus, however, one solitary student, Beth Corbett, turned out to carry a copy of the petition into administration and union offices.

Graeme McNaughton, founder of the antistrike Facebook group, said he had found volunteers at 11 colleges who were willing to lead student walkouts. In the end, however, turnout was meagre, and in no case exceeded 20 people.

Does this mean students are unconcerned? The Star seems to think so, writing,  “The question is if the province’s 450,000 college students care.” However, the question of whether or not students care about a looming strike misses the point entirely. Of course they care. Why wouldn’t they? The fact that they neglected to step out of class to protest a faculty work stoppage might instead signal:  a) that students preferred to stay in class, recognizing that boycotting a service they have already paid for would be ill-advised, or, b) they are sceptical of the influence such a protest would have, or c) they recognize that neither the colleges, or the union, have any economic incentive to take student concerns seriously. This final point needs to be flushed out a bit.

For example, when auto-workers go on strike, and consequently halt production, no one is ever too concerned about consumers. They can always purchase a new car from a competing company. In this situation, the car companies have very real economic incentives to settle and avoid a further loss of market share. Unions, similarly, have reason to end the picketing, as a decline in sales could mean layoffs, and, subsequently, a shrinking of their membership. (This is not to suggest that these concerns don’t arise in the public sector, but they are much more muted.)

The same cannot be said about the possibility of an Ontario wide college strike. When the College Students Alliance says “Students are not Bargaining Chips,” it is misreading circumstances. If students were bargaining chips, it would actually be in their interest. As is, there is little reason to see students as having the sort of influence over a faculty strike, as consumers do in my auto-sector example. This is not simply because students have most likely already paid for their education, or, that the government has already given colleges their operating grants. Though those are very important contributing factors.

Because faculty at all 24 community colleges are represented by the same union and college management are all represented by the same council, students have nowhere else to go. If colleges were represented individually (either on the labour or management sides, or both) students would have the option of switching schools the following year, or, at the very least, persuade friends and family to avoid their particular college. But, because the union has a monopoly on college faculty, and the college administration is also represented collectively, students are a captive market. Of course, they could attend a private college, but those are of dubious quality in Ontario. The only real alternative is to quit school.

For all of On Campus’ coverage of a the possibility of a strike, please click here

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Do college students care about a strike?

  1. fail.

  2. Of course the students care, but they know that they really don’t have any influence on the outcome of the strike vote. Educators are well paid and any increases are directly out of the students pockets. For students attending school out of town, it is a very costly experience. It costs approx. $1000/ month for living expenses on top of tuition, books, etc. If teachers are on strike, the students still have these extra expenses for nothing. They are there to get an education. Give it to them and stop being so greedy!!!

  3. I am a student nursing at Lambton College and I did not participate in the walk out for the shear fact that, I had class, and if I miss a class that puts me behind a whole day of studys. Of course I care if the college goes on strike! That would mean I and so many others may potentially lose a semester! Which really in this ecomomy and the job market who needs to prolong their studys when we are really needed in the work force.

  4. The issue here is NOT faculty salaries, but the fact that the council of colleges refused to negotiate a new collective agreement, then imposed new terms and conditions. These conditions are not binding on management, meaning they can change the terms at any time and keep the deal as long as it suits them.

    A major issue being sidestepped by management is academic freedom – the ability for teachers to have a say in how their classes are taught and how students are assessed. This is a decision currently being made my administrators with no educational experience at all, for the benefit of the bottom line.

    If the Ontario government is willing to compel the colleges back to the negotiation table (which they stepped away from for the last time in November) then students need not face a strike at all, and certainly will not lose their semester.

  5. I agree with Michelle, if we were to walk out of class, we miss out on that class. Also, I really don’t see a walkout in this situation working. Students are trying to make it known that we do not want a strike, so why would we leave class when we don’t want the teachers to leave? We want to stay in school so we can get our education and graduate.

  6. Spoiled rotten pinkos who consistently treat the weight of their positions (which are quite coveted) with no respect. Two strikes in four years would be absolutely ridiculous considering this economy, and the undeniably difficult situation it places nearly half a million students in, while they negotiate their academics and their financial standings with no certainty regarding the future. Go ahead and turn your backs on the thousands of would-be workers who pay your salaries, hope its our coldest winter yet.

  7. I completely agree with the three reasons you gave for students not participating in the walkout. I have been a part of the Facebook group and signed the petition, but did not feel that the walkout would, in any way, affect the teachers’ decisions. We are barely even considered in their decision. Do they understand that many of us (if the strike lasted a considerable amount of time) would be unable to re-take our current courses until next January? This would push, in my particular case, graduation for another year, keeping me from gaining a full-time career position until after that. I am also from another province, leaving me to pay for residence while I’m not in class.

    I do not feel a strike is necessary and I feel that the teachers should be appreciative of the offer they have been given, especially considering the current state of the economy. They should consider themselves lucky to still have their jobs, let alone be receiving a pay increase with no increase in workload, when many have been forced into unemployment due to the recession. Granted, teachers were previously undervalued and substantially underpaid, but nowadays, they have adequate salaries, comparable to many other careers. Teachers, be appreciative that you have what many others are struggling to gain and please take into consideration that your decision affects more than just the bottom line. It affects us all.

  8. This is essentially putting their own interests before the people that pay their salaries. Them goin on strike is like paying for a meal at a resturaunt and than having them take the plate away, we paid for a service before it was provided. I think every college student should file a law suite against the teachers union and sue them for double what we had to pay plus pain and suffering, lost wages, inconvienience and lets tack on a couple of administrative fees like they do just cause well we can all and all i think $40,000 per student should suffice.

    I am a college student who cares GREATLY about this!
    I am supposed to graduate in april and start university in may, if this strike happens my entire plan is being screwed up.
    I have a daughter to support, we are not all children in college, we are adults who need to stay in school for the sake of our family and our futures.

  10. I am a student at Durham College and talk goes around my class everyday regarding the strike. We of course don’t want to see a strike happen, why would we? How would this help us in any way? It wouldn’t, in fact it would make our lives financially harder. For full times students our time to work is during the summer, no one is going to hire a student who is just going to be able to work during the strike. This would also a lot of the mature students at my school who are on the Second Career program and are not going to receive money if they aren’t in school.
    Why do the full time teachers want more money? They already get a nice pay cheque ever month. In turn this is going to equal an increase in the tuition, books, food, which as any college student paying for their own tuition could agree is not cheap.

  11. If students had a significant amount of pull in this situation, a strike would not have even been considered as an option. We have a lot at stake and very little say in the possibility of a strike. I do think it would have made a statement if we had all walked out but I do not think it would have swayed the teachers’ votes. If they haven’t considred our needs and what is at risk for us by now, us walking out of class would not have the desired effect. The benefit of the petitions is that it is a peaceful way for us to raise our concerns and request teachers to keep us in mind as they make their decision today.

  12. I am a student and I DO care! I have worked hard paying school bills all by myself with no help from my family who can not afford it. Many students who are having a hard time saving money for school do care and hope to god this stike doesnt last long.

  13. I would say most, if not ALL College students across the province care about the results of this vote, even if it was not demonstrated by walking out of classes this week.

    I personally am in my 5th year of post-secondary education at Georgian College’s Barrie Campus and I am not in the least bit thrilled to know that now that I’m in my final year, I may be facing another strike. I was in my first year of College when the teachers walked out on us in 2006. We sat around for 3 weeks reading textbooks, wondering what our fate was going to be when we finally returned to school; the result was a very condensed semester finish. Personally, I cannot afford a strike this time around. Tuition is too expensive and books are not cheap either.

    Did I walk out of class yesterday? No I didn’t because for now, we actually have classes that we can go to. Do I think the walk out had the potential to show our teachers how badly we do care and aren’t in favour of a stike? Yes.

    I am however, proud to say that I received an email from one of my teachers late this afternoon stating that my campus has voted 52% AGAINST A STRIKE; unfortunately now we have to wait and see what our fate is going to be.

  14. As a college student I speak for everyone I know at my school (durham college oshawa campus) and we do not want a strike. why would we want a strike? Also, its because we are college students and not university is why everyone thinks we do not care.

  15. I am a student at Durham College and am in my 3rd and final year of business. During class discussions aboutthe strike, all my classmates agree that it will just be a hassle for students who are paying rent that live out of town, who will have extra expenses if this strike is to occur. Also, with this being our final year, we are scheduled to have fielf placement the last month of this semester. Therefore, we already have a condensed semester and still have the same work load!! If the strike were to happen we would be stuck with even more work as well as dealing with finding and interviewing for field placements! It is just a hassle! We pay to get a decent education, as I see it, this is just like a old age home or long term care where workers cannot just walk out on the patients they care for! The same should not be aloud for college faculty!!

  16. I just want to clarify that I was not defending the argument that students don’t care. But that appears to be what the Star implied with its story. I argued why I thought this was a wrongheaded implication.

  17. Evan’s comment = win

  18. As a new Prof I do not wish a stirke. Having said that class sizes and time to instruct at a high level of service that students pay for is jepordized. The monetary aspect of the offer is negligible and the college is fair requesting a 4 year term. The difficulty comes from a Union and college in a sparing match to see who can P the highest. The Government should never have removed the option of an impartail negotiator being involved. Blame McQuinty and his clowns!!

  19. As a first year student at college, i think it’s bull. We already pay tons of green for our classes, on top of that books. I live 45 mins a day from my college, driving in every day; but i still make it there for my classes. The prof’s knew what they were getting into when they took on that job. It’s obviously going to be big classes, it’s COLLEGE. Really i think that 103,000 dollars a year to read from power points and textbooks that are already set up for you is a little ridiculous. The staff is a disappointment. All i can say is have fun standing out in the cold with you signs. If any teachers ask me questions in class i’m going to reply with “i’m on strike too.”

  20. I asure you that every single student who pays thousands of dollars cares whether or not the teachers strike. Yes I think that there are programs which classes sizes are a bit crazy- but this problem is NOT the students fault its the administrations fault for allowing this many people in to these programs. Touching on that though University students have at least 5 times the amount of students that we do in our classes and they seem to manage fine. As for the money aspect last semester EVERY single one of my teachers had another job! It saddens me that less than half of the facility showed up for the vote. I hope that over the next few weeks they work our their issues so that the future leaders of Canada can continue working towards their diplomas!

  21. I go to Humber College, and I didn’t go to the walkout
    1. Because I have a 2 hour commute
    2. Professors and Instructors/the union already have their selfish minds made up. if they really cared about the students, the idea of a strike would have never even come up.

    You would think post secondary institutions would have learned better from the atrocious mess York University made with their strike, but I guess not.

  22. cool, now i can go get a job and buy a new H22 VTEC ENGINE!!!!

  23. I am a student at Durham College and Algonquin College at the moment. Have you ever invested thousands of dollars into anything you were willing to just give up? Of course we care! We pay for our time in the classroom thus we don’t want to take one day off anymore than we do the time it takes to strike.

    Some of us don’t get OSAP or any financial assistance and WORK for our tuition during the summer. This will cut down on the income students have potential to make. What employer is going to hire for temporary work during the strike? Noone is! Tuition and books are costly enough as is and this strike will only make things worse. For the amount of money we pay towards our education we should have a voice in the decision to strike.

    Kudos to Rob and KS as I completely agree and couldn’t of worded it any better.

  24. The thought that students don’t care is hilarious, of course students care. I find thee fact that teachers want more time to spend with students is laughable, in my experience most teachers are not very energetic, and are not really available for one on one as it is currently even though they have a lot more time than they ever need to teach a course.

    also the fact that the teachers want to be able to make 104 thousand dollars a year is laughable, most, not all, teacher at colleges teach because they can not keep a job in the professionally world. So they teach instead, very few teacher also make an effort to stay current with the profession or the field that they are teaching!!

  25. I am very disappointed in this tug of war these teachers have us in. I didn’t sign up to be a pawn in their game I signed up for a high quality education. If our teachers walk out they are breaking the contract they made with me. I was promised an education for the money I have put in. If they don’t meet that requirement then what does it say about their professionalism. In a time, where so many families are hurting for jobs, these people have the audacity to whine about workload and more money. Be thankful you HAVE jobs. So many students are in school to have a stable job and you are destroying hopes and tearing apart dreams. Hope YOU are happy. In my personal opinion, it’s selfishness and greed.

  26. I am an Ontario College student. I am very against the strike, because I want to be in class and continue learning. So why would I walk out? I’m trying very hard to stay IN class. I feel as though there are better ways to go about things rather than just leaving class for the day.

  27. I am a student at Centennial College and I do care! Canada is supposed to be a free country where education is available to everyone, but yet tuition is high and Colleges/Universities go on strike every few years. I also cared when I went through the strike in 2007 at Durham College. With the economy the way it is, one would think that teacher’s would be grateful to have a job that pays well. I know that there are a lot of teacher who do not want to strike, but it is frustrating to think that I pay so much in tuition, I even have to pay a graduation fee and now I may not graduate on time this April. THANKS. I also agree that they should be a law suit, for lost time, wages, tuition, etc.

  28. I just want to add a point to JC’s comments regarding Canada being a free country.

    He says that since Canada is a “free country,” education should be available to everyone. I recognize that this wasn’t necessarily expressed in his remarks, but I am compelled to point out that one factor in higher tuition’s is related to Government involvement in funding education.

    To the degree that the Government gives incentives that do not force the student to provide for their education by their own means (including of course support from their parents, private scholarship’s, etc.), colleges & universities are incentivized to raise their prices.

    I understand that this is a great factor in the US education system, pushing up prices for higher education. I am unfamiliar with the Government’s involvement in Canada.

    Being in a free country should also mean that every individual is free from being put under compulsion (or, forced) to give monetary support to others through the taxes collected from them.

    Thank you.

  29. Oh for God’s sake, living in a “free” country does not mean either freedom from paying for your education or freedom from paying your taxes. I refuse to get drawn into the debate any further, but both of those suggestions need to be refuted.

    Why do people insist on defining freedom only in terms of their economic best interests? And narrow ones that at – as though “freedom” can be best defined in terms of what’s convenient for your own pocketbook rather than the next person’s. In any event, this is a very impoverished idea of freedom indeed. And it’s disrespectful to people who are living without freedom in a true sense.

    We can argue back and forth over how the wealth in our society should be (re)distributed. There may be arguments to be made for various views. But in no case does this change the fact that Canada is a free nation – not even if you find you end up paying for something you’d rather no pay for. Compared to what’s going on around the world that’s a pretty small complaint to suggest our very freedom is imperiled by it.

  30. Jeff:

    It’s a little like many peoples idea of rights and responsibilities – “I have rights and you have a responsibility to bend to them”.


    I get a kick out of it sometimes. A local restaurant owner was having a meeting with his staff and brought up that he’d like to see people spending more time working and less time on their cellphones, to which a girl responds “I have a RIGHT to use my cellphone”. He says “good for you, and I have a right to fire you if you’re useless”.

    People can take a very righteous tone when they’re able to couch their interests in some high-minded principle. We rarely see somebody upholding principles that AREN’T in their own (immediate) interests.

  31. In this article, Macleans Magazine comes very close to an epiphany — that more often than not, the parties involved in a strike situation are held hostage to the politico-economic system they live in. The province makes the shortages which force the strike which put students out of class, and everybody in between (the college, the union, the students) only have weakened voices and dismal options to choose from.

    Still, there’s one choice that people always have: to be rational, intelligent, and mature, or to be the opposite. But even that choice is robbed from people when their media sources condescend to them by writing doughy seven-paragraph livejournal posts instead of any meaningful reporting on a subject that people care about. Keep up the good work, you journalistic dynamos.

  32. I am a student at Fanshawe College in London. Myself and many other students DO care about the strike but do not choose to participate in the walk out. Almost all of my teachers have said that they too do not wish to strike and they empathize with the students. I have joined the facebook group which for the record is currently sitting at 27,715 which clearly indicates the concern from students. I personally believe we the students are the ones suffering from this strike, so in other words, yes I care.