After the three-week-long strike of the Mount Allison Faculty Association, student anxiety remains high with concerns over classes, graduation, and tuition. Faced with uncertainty, students found many ways to cope—and hold divided opinions on who they thought was to blame for the interrupted semester.
On Jan. 26, at 11:48 pm, Mt. A students received an email informing them of a faculty strike. This sparked a social media onslaught of celebrations including the hashtag ‘#strikelyfe.’
First-year Connor Tamminen went to Ducky’s the night the strike was announced to celebrate. “I had to,” Tamminen said. “I had been working on projects that were due on Monday and a test that I had to take on Monday.”
The news also excited second-year Ben Holmes. “My initial reaction was, ‘Sick, I don’t have to wake up tomorrow.'”
After the initial reaction, many students tried to focus on their studies, and some took the opportunity to go home.
Jessica Sabean, a second-year commerce student from Dartmouth N.S., spent eighteen days at home over the three-week strike.
“I felt that being at home wasn’t as stressful as being at school because I was away from it,” Sabean said. “I followed it on Facebook and Twitter, but I didn’t have to see my professors every day outside picketing.”
While home for some provided a sanctuary from the strike, it came with its difficulties. Therese Crocker, a second-year psychology student, said she enjoyed being home, but could not relax because of the strike.
“Being home was great in many respects, but not knowing when I had to go back to school made it very difficult to plan anything with my friends and family.”
Other students decided to stay in Sackville. Holmes said he tried to treat the strike like exam week, which is why he stayed in Harper Hall.
“I felt like this environment was more conducive to being productive,” Holmes said. “I knew if I went home, I wouldn’t do a damn thing.”
Gregory McLaughlin, a fourth-year drama student, also stayed in Sackville. He said he didn’t do as much school work as he could have during the strike.
“There was so much uncertainty that I didn’t feel confident pursuing my academics on my own,” McLaughlin said.
While some students chose not to go home, others could not. Many international students stayed in Sackville due to the cost of travelling home.
Allie Dh, a first-year music student from Jakarta, Indonesia, stayed in Windsor Hall during the strike.
“It would have cost me $2000 just to get out of here,” Dh said.
Dh said she was disappointed and surprised at the news of the strike.
“It didn’t seem like something an established place would do,” Dh said.
International students’ pay $15,215 in tuition, more than twice that of Canadian students. This raises concerns about a potential tuition rebate, which has yet to be determined by the registrar’s office.
“We are investing so much trust in an institution, and it felt like we shouldn’t have,” Dh said.
Celine Yammine, a first-year biology student from Beirut, Lebanon, did not visit Mt. A before applying. Yammine said she was disappointed during the strike because she expected a different Mt. A experience.
The strike has affected students in different ways depending on their year and faculty.
McLaughlin said while future Mt. A students may benefit from the outcome of the strike, he will not.
“It’s kind of ironic, because I think both sides in some form or another have said that what they’re trying to achieve will benefit students, and I do agree with them to an extent,” McLaughlin said during the second week of the strike. “However, as a fourth-year graduating student, that does not apply to me. I will in no way benefit from the outcome from this strike.”
Students’ individual situations have also influenced their stance on the issue.
McLaughlin’s play, The Clouds, which he has been working on since June, has been postponed at least two weeks due to the strike.
“I have a real hard time sympathizing with the union, when they are the ones who initiated the situation that I’m in right now.”
Makyla Walerickton, a third-year geography student and co-founder of the Student Strike Headquarters, said that despite some anxiety about her honours thesis next year, she has not been negatively affected.
“I’ve been fine,” Walerickton said during the strike’s second week. “To be honest, I’m enjoying the break.”
Walerickton said that based on her interaction with both sides and the information she had received from them, the faculty seemed more open than the administration.
While some students enjoyed the first week of the strike, its length shifted the views of many. Near the end of the strike, students pushed for a return to class with demonstrations, surveys, and petitions.
After the Mount Allison Students’ Union (MASU) stated it would not support either party involved in negotiations, it faced pressure from its members to support their best interests.
“At the end of the day, we’re not neutral in that we’re clearly and distinctly an interest group,” Ryan Harley, MASU’s vice-president academic, said. “Our vision and mission is to keep the best interest of all full and part-time Mount Allison students.”
Harley said he was not comfortable siding with either side due to the lack of information available.
“To side wholly with one group I think would erroneously invest a lot of faith in its rhetoric,” Harley said during the strike.
Despite the various stances taken by Mt. A students—some of whom have picketed with faculty members—MASU rallied students with a pro-solution position.
McLaughlin, who helped organize MASU’s first pro-solution demonstration last week, said that while he would like both sides to get what’s best for them, he cared less about the issues because the faculty chose to strike.
He said he was relieved when the end of the strike was announced, but that the strike’s impact on students will need further attention in the coming weeks.
“I think there is a huge focus on the academic impact that the strike has had on students,” McLaughlin said. “It’s important to not overlook the emotional toll that this has taken on students.”