A refund is not enough - Macleans.ca

A refund is not enough

No matter the outcome students are the real losers in VIU strike


If the Vancouver Island University strike is not resolved by Monday, the term may be extended, and students will be eligible for a full tuition refund if they choose not to complete their classes. That would be an unacceptable outcome and relations between the university and the faculty association should have never deteriorated to the point where the semester is so clearly in jeopardy.

UPDATE: VIU Strike ends

The position of either side does not matter at this point. Even if the university has to concede to concessions it claims it cannot afford, or if the faculty union ends up having to live with a lower level of job security for its members than it would like, the real losers will be students. A certain standard of education at a set time and place is owed to them.

Some students may have to postpone graduation and those in professional programs may be ineligible for provincial accreditation if they don’t complete their studies on time. And many others, if they choose to complete an extended term, as opposed to taking the refund, will lose out on the summer job race.

Giving students the option to get their money back is the least the university could do, but it doesn’t rectify anything. Through no fault of their own, many students will have to face the reality that the semester has been lost and that they will be responsible for making up the time.

If by some last minute breakthrough, a deal is reached between the union and the administration and classes do restart Monday, both sides will likely claim that the semester has been saved. That will hardly be comforting to students.

Compressing the rest of the term into the last three weeks of April, and eliminating the examination period, as the university says it will do, still deprives students of what they were owed.

In some ways a compressed, albeit saved, semester is a less desirable outcome than losing the term altogether. At least if the term is lost, students can register for the same courses next year, secure in the knowledge that they will receive the quality of instruction they expect. The same cannot be said for a drastically shortened term.

Unfortunately, there is not much students can do about the situation, beyond shouting from the sidelines.

One of the clearest expressions of just how few options students have to stand up for themselves came about a year ago when an Ontario judge dismissed a class action suit against York University. The plaintiff alleged that because of the 2008-09 strike, the compressed term forced students to accept lower quality teaching.

However, the judge refused to rule on educational standards, stating, that “(t)hese are matters that fall within the discretion of the university.”

So, presumably because of the convention of university autonomy, institutions can claim that cutting corners, which is what happens after a strike has ended, has no impact on educational quality and students are expected to accept it.

While not inconsequential to a university’s finances, students cannot exert the sort of influence that consumers can in sectors that are not subsidized and regulated to the same extent as the education sector. It is easy to wonder if students are even a factor in collective bargaining.

When labour negotiations break down, students are sometimes described as “bargaining chips.” If only that were true.


A refund is not enough

  1. Faculty job security is critical to students obtaining a high quality education.

    Being short-sighted about the issue is naive. Yes, the students will suffer in the short term, but for long-term benefits of all.

    • Students will suffer only in the short term? What about those who are not able to finish their programs due to this? University Professors are in general a joke, they do not receive formal educational training and many are not fit teachers whatsoever, I speak from expereince as a University student mtself and not from bitterness as I maintain a high GPA. They aree paid to conduct their research of interest and are simply required to pass on their knowledge. Furthermore, could this not have been discussed in the intersession whihc would have had a far lower impact on student studies?

    • Yeah… no. Clearly you aren’t a student in a professional program. It’s fortunate VIU doesn’t have an engineering program, because I’m pretty sure Engineers Canada would pull a school’s accreditation after a stunt like this. However, I suspect that for programs that VIU does offer (like nursing) the accreditation boards work in a similar way.

      Students lose no matter what.

  2. What a joke! You have more job security than 99.9% of society! You lay these poor students under the bus like they are expedable, get 8 weeks pd vacation, 2 months where you are supposed to do professional development but most faculty aren’t seen again til September, get a salary that is higher than most dual income earners make and the list can go on. This isn’t good enough for you? Your current collective agreement doesn’t even require you to be evaluated! So, as we all know, there are a lot of faculty hiding behind job security because of incompetence. The best job security is being good at what you do and doing it. You started this, now end it and get back to work!

  3. I understand how a strike can bring anger to everyone, but no one has the right to yell at others and accuse people of something that he/she is not even aware of. Professors with PhD in VIU earn as much salary as a person with a master’s degree gets in other places not more. When they get hired they need to renew their contract every year until 3 times to be able to continue and this will be done after detailed evaluations in every case.
    Have you heard about the savings done in the budget by VIU and firing some professors and squeezing the 2-3 classes in just one class? Is this bring higher educational quality for students? or just more dirty money for VIU? This is the kind of job security that professors are after. They just want to get a proper reason for getting laid off and not just saving some unnecessary dirty money in the cost of low quality education,… Isn’t it fair?

    In a bigger picture, this job security should be for everyone in Canada. Until when all of us should be worried if/ when we will lose our job and income just because the company we work for wants to SAVE MORE. Until when we can not purchase a house, since we are never 100% sure about the flow of our income. All of us should pray for VIU union to succeed and maybe one day we would be brave enough ( or fed up enough) to look for the job security every one deserves. We should end this slavery to companies and organizations..

    • There are definite class size restrictions in the VIU collective agreement (I believe 34 is the highest but many courses have a much lower maximum, such as 24 students). If “2-3 classes” are squeezed into just one class it it because the instructor has agreed to do so and means he is teaching less classes because of it.

      I would have to assume that when a professor allows two or more of his classes to be “squeezed” together he has considered the implications that has on the quality of the course and has decided that it works given the teaching model that course uses.

  4. Absolute nonsense written by “gor” and “Sarah”. The kind of job security you speak of leads to job complacency and mediocre instruction and learning environment. It’s hardly critical for obtaining a high quality education. Job security should only come with verification from formal evaluations that one is worthy of continuing employment.

  5. It is a sad fact but VIU already has difficulty finding qualified people for some positions and if jobs security disappears so will many qualified applicants.

    The only thing attractive for many faculty @VIU is the job security. Not all instructors/professors are “just” academics. Many of them have given up high paying private sector jobs for the perceived job security that the public sector provides but if that perception changes then those professionals will have no incentive to leave higher paying jobs for jobs at VIU.

    Does the community want students to be taught by qualified people or by those who are just desperate for work and unqualified to work in the real world? Does VIU want to live up to its’ new name or should we just replace the university with a laser printer that can spew out worthless and meaningless degrees?

  6. I have a friend of mine who is in VIU, with the current status of the strike, if she takes the refund, will she be allowed to work in BC, Ca, since she cannot leave the course incomplete and after spending about 2 million rupees for a course of one year, she has big responsibility on her shoulder. Is there a way out in such cases? Can she stay back and re-apply for the semester which she lost and complete her course. She is currently pursuing Dual MBA.

  7. VIU union and the teachers are delusional in thinking they should receive 100% job security against lay offs. It’s time to join the real world people… there is no job security in any job! If you get laid off, you go on EI like everyonelse until you can find another job or create your own. This utopian ideal of a “no lay off clause” doesn’t work for the good in any business. Unfortuniatly, this strike is a major stain for the University and students will likely be looking elsewhere in future. If there are no students, the University risks closing it’s doors for good and all the teaching jobs will leave with. In my opinion, the Union and teachers are shooting themselves in the foot and taking out the students along with them without regard. A strike and shut down of the University impacts more than just the students; it also effects Nanaimo’s economy as a whole. My message to the Union and teachers is to grow up, get with the times and get back to work.

  8. I am a current VIU Student and a tuition refund is the least of any worries. The ignorance of the professors is prolonging each and every student’s future. If the professors get a “no lay-off clause”, this would mean if the university is not completely full, students will be paying for professors who are not even needed. Tuition will increase dramatically. And having to keep every teacher on board – they will be letting in any individual to fill the spots, probably one whom is not even qualified. Any one will be able to get into this university then. And the loss of my graduation is a loss in my wages. Who is going to compensate for that high paying dollar I should have received this summer. For all my time spent on my studies, for international students room and board, for a years loss wages, for living expenses, for that great job I had to quite so I could go to university, for day care expenses because I was at school, for my patience on acceptance. How do I know I’ll even get accepted next year? The best thing I had going in my life has now been destroyed. What do I do now?

  9. Dirty money? If you don’t like it, get a different job. And on evaluation, once you’re in – you no longer get evaluated – I know folks up there that haven’t been evaluated for years, and are likely never to be again. If we want to get quality faculty why isn’t the union trying to up the quality control checks in bargaining? Oh wait a minute, this bargaining is only what faculty want, not what is good for VIU. Otherwise things like rank and title, peer evaluations, and more stringent evaluation, like other Universities have, would be more useful than these silly requests. Oh, and if those noble faculty that could be getting paid so much more elsewhere don’t want my tax dollar “dirty money” as you call it, then maybe they should run because from what I can see faculty are one day away from a rightful lockout. I hope CUPE and BCGEU are trying to talk sense into your leaders since they won’t listen to me, the public, their students or anyone else.

  10. Many of the writers are noting that the faculty association are demanding “100% job security” . Look at either the VIU or VIUFA website, both will show the current offers. What VIUFA is asking for is that their members are not laid off without the institution showing that there is financial need AND that the institution does not hire administration while at the same time laying off instructors. The other thing that they are asking for is IF there has to be lay offs of instructors and if administrators need to be hired AND if the laid off instructor has the skills to take over the administrative position, then the facility member should be given the right of first refusal. This is all for the benefit of students as – lets face it – it is better for students for them to have their teachers than to have a larger and larger number of administrators. Finally, the VIUFA (and the students) need to worry about this for, as the institution is planning on making cuts to faculty and cancel sections of classes, they have added administrative positions and given themselves raises. VIUFA is not even asking for raises in these sets of talks.

    • Excuse me Elisabeth, but why should teachers get priority over an administrative job if they get laid off. All people should have the same rights to apply for a job in which they are qualified for. From what you said the teachers are going to take a lower job position (administrative) if they get cut. That is ridiculous! It does not seem fair to the people looking for administrative jobs within VIU who had more experience than teachers. If you are a teacher, you have to face reality. You are not going to have job security (nobody does). If I was part of the Human Resources in VIU, I would not give an administrative job to a professor because he or she will not give 100% effort to the job since it will demoralize him or her (teachers and administrative positions are too different). With everything that is going around in the world, you need to adapt. Things are not going to stay the same. Teachers get rid of your small city mentality, and face reality!

  11. Well the longer faculty decide to stay out, the more lay offs faculty are going to get. Appears to me they are making the situation they are fighting for worse everyday. No one is likely enrolling for fall so numbers will be lower, half of the current students are likely to never return, especially when there is a threat of labour unrest again next year. So, with no students around to teach, you should expect that VIU will have to cut a lot more faculty once they return (if ever). They can’t afford to keep people with no students and this mess will take years to regain trust of incoming students. Can someone just answer why, if they care SO much for their students, didn’t they go out in May so they could complete their term. Is the accurate answer “students, we care for you, but only as bargaining chips.” While VIUFA posts biased letters from student supporters, maybe some unbiased stuff should come out on the real numbers that support this strike. Students, hope you are learning from all this and never repeat such antics in your work later on. New world, new times and we need new solutions – this union (unlike some important others) is outdated

  12. Oh, and Sarah, VIU is not a company – it is a public, tax payer supported institution and we should all darn well hope that it is trying to save money.

  13. Lets face it there is never a good time for a strike. Remember these workers had been working without a contract for a year and the institution had not been bargaining with them in good faith during that time. I suppose you could say that it would have been better for them to go out over the summer but then it would have been almost certain that they would have been out all summer given that it was a full 10 days before management would even meet with faculty at the beginning of the strike to bargain during a time when the everyone was asking both sides to get to the table and get the matter resolved.

    BTW I don’t work at the University but I am a former student and spent 8 years in University. I certainly expected after all of my hard work and money that when I left I would be able to get a job where I would be able to have a reasonable amount of security. No one expects 100% security these days but it is not a lot to ask that there is a protocol in place for lay offs. What the VIUFA is asking for I understand is similar to other established Universities. I wonder if current students of the University hope to obtain employment when they graduate where they can be laid off at will because that is the work environment that a lot of you seem to expect your professors to work in. That seems a very poor due for individuals who have trained for 6-10 years.

    Finally Oldwiseone our Universities are not corporations, they are not there to run a profit.. They are there to teach our population. They are also there at the behest of our tax payers which means that there are certain rules and regulations that the administration has to abide with regarding financial transparency. My understanding is that VIUFA does not believe that the administration has disclosed the books properly. That may not mean much to you but if they are refusing to disclose the books the question is why. The students that are commenting on the site that are angry at the instructors and want them back to work should also be angry that classes are being cut so that it is taking 5 years and more to gain a degree because there are not enough classes. If money is being squandered on items inappropriately everyone needs to know about that and it will only be through proper disclosure that this will become apparent.

    • Eisabeth: I am shocked that the university has been bargaining in bad faith. What I can not understand is, if this is true, why has the union not filed a complaint with the Labour Relations Board?

      Perhaps it’s because there has been no bad-faith bargaining at all and everything you hear to that effect is just union propaganda?