By Stefanie Phillips
Classrooms throughout 24 Ontario colleges will be empty come Monday morning as more than 12,000 college faculty march to the picket line. George Brown College and Centennial College are among the 24 colleges on strike, which are affiliated with Ryerson’s collaborative nursing program.
The strike became official Sunday night after talks between the Ontario Public Service Employee Union (OPSEU) and the College Employer Council failed to reach an agreement before the OPSEU strike deadline. The union representing more than 12,000 public college faculty is calling for faculty to have more input on academic decision-making, increased job security and an equal ratio of full-time to contract faculty.
Fourth-year nursing students in the collaborative program will be able to attend all of their classes as scheduled but their faculty advisor will be replaced with a member of the Nursing Management teams at their home college until the strike is over.
The strike information webpage also states that Ryerson nursing students who are not part of the collaborative program and who started their degree at the university will not be affected by the strike.
First and second-year classes for students part of the collaborative program have all been cancelled.
Ryerson nursing student Jessica Bregstein’s third-year community nursing class and co-op placement will be two of those empty classrooms.
“Although I agree with the union that a new agreement must be reached and the union’s demands are fair, I feel terrible,” she said. “I may not have the opportunity to go back to my community health placement at all if a timely decision isn’t made.”
Bregstein started her nursing degree at Centennial College as part of the collaborative nursing program in conjunction with Ryerson University and George Brown College. Now in her third year, Bregstein pays tuition to Ryerson and attends all of her classes at the university but has faculty advisors from her home base at Centennial College.
The Daphne Cockwell School of Nursing at Ryerson posted to the strike information webpage on Sunday night to inform students which classes would be affected. That’s when Bregstein found out her and the other third-year students wouldn’t be able to attend their clinical co-op placements until the strike is resolved.
“I will lose the opportunity to flourish to learn and to become a better nurse because I won’t have access,” she said.
Ryerson’s nursing school also sent an email to all of its students in the collaborative program. The email outlined what classes will be affected by the strike and provided contact information for the college administrators who will be taking on the role of “contact person” for the duration of the strike.
Fourth-year nursing student Uma Devi was “extremely happy” when she received the news that her year’s clinical placements were not being cancelled.
“My greatest concern for this strike was that we would miss out on valuable clinical experience,” she said. “I really do wish this was the case for all years.”