By Farnia Fekri
There weren’t enough chairs for the dozens of women who filled a room in the Sally Horsfall building on March 19, wanting to voice their concerns about changes to Ryerson’s midwifery education program (MEP).
The meeting, which was set up by MEP associate professor Vicki Van Wagner and MEP Director Mary Sharpe, came after an email on March 17 told MEP students that their program will no longer offer apprenticeships outside of the Toronto region — effective immediately.
Many students in MEP come to Ryerson because of its consortium with McMaster University and Laurentian University, which allowed them to complete their two required apprenticeships in any of those regions.
Now, each institution will instead house its own students for the clinical placement, with few exceptions.
Some students who signed up for the program under the old system feel they’re now at a disadvantage.
“This fucks me over,” student Bailie Gauvin said. A single mother to a four-year-old son from Kitchener, Ont., she is already more than $30,000 in debt after her first year in the program.
Like Gauvin, many students in MEP planned on moving back home for their apprenticeships, due to the expensive living conditions of downtown Toronto.
“Between Kitchener, Waterloo, Cambridge and Guelph, which are all within 30 minute drives, there are eight practices. That’s not even an option anymore,” Gauvin said. “It’s a stab in the back.”
Second-year student Clare McNamee-Annett is worried about students at the other universities, as well.
“They don’t even have the chance to have Toronto placements,” she said. “We know that a lot of midwives are in Toronto and there are lot of spots here.”
Several students also voiced concerns over the faculty’s lack of transparency and the suddenness of the announcement.
“There was certainly no intention of disrespect,” Sharpe told students about the timing and unexpectedness of the change, and that the three universities had agreed to let their students know at the same time.
“We are very committed to providing accommodations,” she said, asking students to email her personally if they have legitimate reason to apply to a practice outside of the new boundaries.
“We need the concrete details,” Van Wagner added. “We need you to be creative and constructive.”
Van Wagner said the faculty has been discussing such a change for many years due to repeated complaints of confusion and unaccountability, and that the change will help Ryerson be responsible for its own environment.
“It absolutely needed to be done,” she said.