UNB student union: don’t pay your tuition just yet

Students worried about impact of possible strike on classes


 

UNB (Blazingluke/Wikimedia Commons)

The University of New Brunswick Student Union is telling students they shouldn’t pay tuition yet this semester because of the possibility professors will go on strike and classes will be cancelled.

“If there’s no guarantee of classes,” says Ben Whitney, UNBSU president, “I’d rather have my money in my bank account.” After Jan. 17, there is a $50 late payment fee—a risk he’s willing to take.

Whitney says the UNBSU executives are not taking sides in the dispute but hope there isn’t a strike.

“Students really don’t want any sort of job action,” he says. “Folks have work terms or any number of things that job action would significantly impact.”

He says they do not have a position on professor pay, one of the sticking points. The professors were at one point seeking a wage increase and a $4,200 catch-up adjustment in each of the first two years of a new contract, according to the Association of University of New Brunswick Teachers’ website. The Canadian Association of University Teachers reported that full-time UNB faculty were paid $102,144 on average in 2010-11, making them 31st highest paid out of 58 schools.

Whitney says he’s hopeful for a last-minute deal so that classes don’t get cancelled.

If a strike happens, he hopes it’s short so that the semester can be compressed. That could, however, mean losing March break. If a strike goes longer and the semester is extended, it could be especially stressful for people whose leases end in April or who plan to start jobs in late April, he says.

A three week strike at St. Francis Xavier University in January resulted in a week added to the semester. At Brandon University, a 45-day strike in 2011 also ended with an extended semester. At York University, students faced a semester that extended into May after a three month strike in 2008-09.

Whitney says students haven’t yet received enough answers from the administration about what might happen in the event of a strike. “It’s at the point now where we need to know the answers.”

UPDATE: The University of New Brunswick offered the following statement to Maclean’s:

We share students’ concern about a potential strike. That is why UNB continues to negotiate with the AUNBT and is committed to signing a new collective agreement that enhances the contract for faculty and allows the university to meet its financial obligations to students and other stakeholders. We made an enhanced financial offer to faculty in late December and teams for UNB and AUNBT are meeting today to discuss the offer.

UNB considers the enhanced offer as a significant change and a substantive offer comparable and competitive to recent agreements reached with faculty members in UNB’s agreed-upon comparator group of universities and the Atlantic region, and in light of the economic outlook in New Brunswick.

GDP growth in New Brunswick for 2014 is projected to be less than 1%. There are also limits on government funding (2%) in each of the next two years and tuition caps of 3%.

While active negotiations are underway we are not going to speculate on what will happen over the next two weeks. Obviously, students, faculty and everyone associated with UNB has a vested interest in reaching a new collective agreement. While no university in Canada has ever lost a semester to a faculty strike we understand students are concerned and we are too. Tuition covers faculty salaries, food, accommodation, on-campus programming and much more.


 

UNB student union: don’t pay your tuition just yet

  1. It is shame that it takes the threat of a faculty strike to motivate students to speak up about high tuition. They should be protesting the high cost of their education out of principle. Students are the vast majority of people in a university: if they are not going to fight for their rights, who will?

  2. The unspoken truth in this wage increase battle is that many local heads of industry within New Brunswick have connections to UNB.

    Of course these leaders don’t want to see the AUNBT members get a raise because then it may result in demands for higher wages across the province and may break the local economic strangle-hold historically held by these same heads of NB industry.

    I have no doubt these comments are censored and this statement will never be viewed by the public, thus proving my point.

  3. I agree with Raquel.

    There should have been at least two protest marches by now,

    Also the student Union should be sending a clear message to both the aunbt and the administration that NO coursework will be done by students during the strike. Profs are already making it clear all scheduled group projects are expected to be worked on and stay on schedule throughout any strike.

    But no, what do we get instead? A lethargic Student union that just wants everyone to get along.

    • Definitely part of the problem in the situation is that the AUNBT union has members who openly disrespect students and are unconcerned about student problems.

      Students already know the UNB administration is uncaring (we’re talking about the bureaucracy that ignores allegations of sexual assaults on campus here), but the union’s only hope to win student support in this situation is to tell members to drop that uncaring and disrespectful attitude.

      Treat students like actual people and then you’ll have support.

  4. This has nothing to do with high tuition…

  5. If anyone wants to see a living definition of greed…this is it. Anyone can go to UNB’s homepage and see all the financial facts about what Prof’s are already paid, how they compare across Canada, ect. In the end, it’s the students and tax payers who will pay for this. Even if we are able to resume this semester with a “compressed” schedule it means one of two things…1) the students will be overworked trying to fit everything in or 2) material will be cut from the course so we won’t be getting what we are paying for. If it’s cancelled all together, students across NB will be at risk of losing potential jobs that depending on them graduating in May. There is no way to even describe how unfair this situation is to the students. I pay 4 years of ridiculous tuition so I can get a job in the end and in the end, those same prof’s may cost me a job? Unbelieivable

  6. This is no solely about money. All of the financial postings are not based on a new prof or assisstant prof they are based on ones with a certain level of experience. When you break down the financial numbers over te next 5 years und profs are one of the lower paid segments and many now have very little job security. Unb is eliminating many full time positions which only hurts the universities programs which directly affects the students now and in the future. It takes a few years for a prof to develop a course properly and if they are only a sessional prof they will not have the ability to learn what works best for the courses they are instructing. In the long run this is for the benefit of us the students and if you were in the same position as the unb faculty you would want to fight for what you have earned and what you require to educate your students. It should be unb demanding quality work from its educators and not the other way around

  7. Our tuition is high because the provincial funding is low. University is run off money, if it is not receiving adequate funding from the province, it will have to bump up the student tuition. The main cause of high tuition at UNB is because it is located in a poor province that can’t afford to support it’s own university.

    “…NO coursework will be done by students during the strike. Profs are already making it clear all scheduled group projects are expected to be worked on and stay on schedule throughout any strike.”

    To the quote above I say: you may choose not to do any coursework in the event of a strike, but you’re shooting yourself in the foot. Since the strike is in effect, it gives us an opportunity to not only be on track with our projects but to also speed it along. Do you really want to not work on anything till classes resume? When classes do resume, the semester will more than likely be compressed resulting in increased workload. Common sense dictates: do what you can now so that that’s one less stress in the future.

    I don’t agree with the strike either. I don’t think any student does. But I appreciate the few profs who encourage us to keep on top of things, as it is in our best interest. (It is worth noting that these profs are contract-based and have nothing to do with the strike).

    “Unb is eliminating many full time positions which only hurts the universities programs which directly affects the students now and in the future. It takes a few years for a prof to develop a course properly and if they are only a sessional prof they will not have the ability to learn what works best for the courses they are instructing. In the long run this is for the benefit of us the students and if you were in the same position as the unb faculty you would want to fight for what you have earned and what you require to educate your students. It should be unb demanding quality work from its educators and not the other way around”

    Agree and disagree.

    I am not impressed by the fact that the university has been cutting full-time prof positions and replacing them with ‘temp profs’. I have experienced the negative effect of this first hand. My faculty has lost several (almost 4) profs over the past 3 years!! This has led to altogether cancellation of excellent course and replacement profs have not done a good job at conducting the course – as they are still adjusting to it as you mentioned. I am in agreement with you up to this point.

    However, as far as the strike is concerned. I understand that the profs want more money, and I’m sure it’s well deserved. But to a certain point. It has been mentioned that the university has been cutting full-time prof positions. This is obviously to cut expenses. When the university can hardly afford to pay those profs (seeing as the profs who left voluntarily were not replaced either), how can the current profs expect the university to dish out all this additional money? All my profs are individuals who have worked in the industry for several years and have settled down to teaching after a career. The purpose of a professor is to educate, they have chosen to be professors. They are in direct contradiction with themselves by not teaching.

    I vote negotiation, mediation, or arbitration. Any means necessary to bring both parties to the table and demand that a resolution is reached upon before the strike moves on to week 3.

    The longer the strike continues, the more the reputation of UNB is marred.