Strike problems were deeper than they seemed

After three long weeks of sleeping in and minimal productivity, the Mount Allison Faculty Strike (MAFA) strike has come to an end. Students were in class on Monday for the first time since Jan. 24, and life should more or less return to normal over the coming days and weeks.

The impact this strike has had on academics at Mount Allison has yet to be truly seen. Many important decisions will be made at a meeting of the University Senate taking place this Wednesday. By the time this column is published, the student population will know a lot more about the structure of the coming weeks and months

The academic fallout of the strike, however, is but one side of the story. The three weeks of instability came with a handful of other related problems that were altogether less apparent. Certainly, no news networks came to report on them, and they were never brought directly into the public eye.

Many of these problems were actually rather enlightening. It was interesting to note which groups had what priorities, and the strike revealed a number of troubling weaknesses in some of our campus institutions.

For example, students with meal plans likely noticed a distinct regression at Jennings Dining Hall. As the situation wore on, Jennings gradually decreased their number of workers. There was much less variety in their food, and the paltry options that were available were often left empty for much longer than usual before being restocked.

This may sound a little petty or whiny, but the fact of the matter is students living on campus pay a lot of money for their meal plans. With that cost, there comes a certain expectation of quality—and just because some students chose to leave campus does not mean that those who remained should be subjected to poor service.

I recognize that meal hall is run by an independent business—specifically, the Aramark Corporation—that wants to avoid wasting money. But they were not cutting back so as to get by during adverse financial conditions. They were trying to profit off the strike, and that bothers me. Making money should be one of their priorities, but it shouldn’t be their only priority.

My other main concern is with the response from the Mount Allison Student’s Union (MASU). To their credit, the Students’ Union was one of the few reliable sources of information during the strike—albeit inexplicably accompanied by Bob Dylan quotes—and they were certainly valuable in that respect, but I personally was disappointed by some of their actions.

In the early days of the strike, the MASU was committed to remaining neutral, though they later clarified that they were “pro-student” and “pro-solution.” I was baffled, however, when they later took a concrete stance calling for special mediation and an immediate return to classes, basically a direct compromise between the MAFA and the administration.

The emails and press release regarding this stance all seemed a little glib, as though it was all a transparent attempt to placate the students who had been calling for the MASU to pick a side. To me, it seemed as though the MASU wanted to appease its members, but frankly had little idea of how to do so.

In fairness though, few of us really knew how to deal with the uncertainty of the strike. The MASU did help with keeping students informed, but Mount Allison already has a news outlet—you’re reading it right now. The MASU had the opportunity to step up and show why they are our student leaders, and I don’t think that they succeeded.

These are only two of the most prominent issues that surfaced during the strike, but they certainly demonstrate our education wasn’t the only thing directly affected these past three weeks. As the Senate decides just what the academic ramifications will be, it’s important to remember that the impact of the strike was much more multifaceted than just some missed classes.

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