Dec 5, 2017 at 12:00am ET By Joanna Hughes

A labor dispute involving more than 12,000 faculty members at 24 Ontario colleges recently came to a close after a five-week shutdown during which most college classes were canceled or suspended. Approximately 500,000 students were caught up in the strike, and many are still dealing with the fallout. Here’s a closer look at the situation.

Ending the Strike...

In ending the province’s longest-ever strike with the introduction of back-to-work legislation aimed at addressing concerns over job security and academic freedom, Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne tweeted, “College students were caught in the middle of the strike for too long. This afternoon we passed legislation to end the strike and get them back in class so that they can focus on their studies.”

However, with making up the lost time left to the discretion of individual institutions, the strike’s lingering effects have resulted in complications for some students.

….But not the Stress

For starters, many were almost immediately plunged into midterm exams as classes resumed. One student told CBC that news of the schedule made him physically sick.  “In the next week, I have five exams worth 30 percent of my whole grade, along with a 20-minute presentation worth another 20 per cent there,” he said. “Overly stressed, that's an understatement."

In other cases, schools have extended the semester to compensate for lost classroom time.  Another student told independent student newspaper The Fulcrum, “My biggest concern is for those of my colleagues who suffer from mental illness and rely on breaks to get through the school year, for those on visa or who are from out of town and were planning on spending Christmas with their families. It’s going to be a very busy time for everyone to catch up and finish the year strong.”

And while some schools are offering full tuition refunds for students who drop out, it’s not an option for students who can’t afford to lose the semester. Not only that, but those who withdrawal may not be guaranteed spots in their programs next year. Said one student who chose to stay because he didn’t want to take the risk, “I was lucky enough to get in. Next year they’re going to have a whole other wave of kids.”


The good news? Students aren’t in it alone. Emmaline Scharbach, communications manager for the College Student Alliance, told The Globe and Mail of the organization’s efforts, "We've been in contact with the [government] daily, shooting questions almost non-stop because there is so much left unanswered.” 

Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.

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