July 12th, 2024

Student groups critical of university

By Lethbridge Herald on February 14, 2022.

Herald photo by Al Beeber ULFA supports picket last week on University Drive after strike action began.

Alejandra Pulido-Guzman – Lethbridge Herald

Members from the University of Lethbridge Student Action Council and Student Action Assembly groups spoke to the media on Monday about students’ immediate concerns regarding the current faculty strike. 

“While students are dealing with skyrocketing tuition and costs, job losses, constant upheaval, reduced course offerings, and fewer opportunities, the board and upper administration at the University of Lethbridge have decided to put politics ahead of students repeatedly,” said third year undergrad student in the department of Psychology, Angie Nikoleychuk. 

She said they have used what appears to many students to be dishonest framing of the faculty, threats, and political theatre to win points at the bargaining table and in the public eye. 

“This is completely unacceptable, and students and the institution are paying a steep price,” said Nikoleychuk. 

She said when they asked students how they were feeling their responses included tired, burnt out from the constant changes, and hair falling out from constant high-stress levels. 

“The board and upper administration repeatedly state that students are a priority and they will look after our best interests, but this is a lie in our opinion,” said Nikoleychuk. 

She said that the board has refused to pay at least some hourly student employees despite ULFA taking steps to ensure that their pay would be uninterrupted. 

“One of the most disheartening and disappointing things to see throughout this entire situation has been the reckless, shortsighted, cruel and ruthless way that the University’s senior administration and Board of Governors have seen fit to handle it,” said Karina Almeida, SAAC and SAA Executive. 

She said there was an anonymous email sent on January 27, and the University of Lethbridge administration had done their best to keep students in the dark.

“If it were not for a few brave professors, who felt that it was our right as students to know what was going on in our school and to our faculty, they would’ve succeeded,” said Almeida. 

She said it was only after students started speaking out against these cuts and in support of the faculty that the University deemed this important enough to address. 

“The intention of that anonymous email was clear. It was meant to scare those of us who had been brave enough to speak out, be it faculty or student, back into silence and to prevent anyone else from daring to do the same,” said Almeida. 

She said that even though a strike in the post-secondary sector has never resulted in the loss of a semester in Canadian history, the University continues to threaten students with this possibility. 

“They’ve locked faculty out of their emails which for some are the only means of communication with their students,” said Almeida. 

She said this has larger repercussions than they expected, as the university is a big research facility and there are many things related to research that require an email from an institution, including acquiring lab equipment, materials, grants, and responses on proposals. 

“By cutting off the faculty from that email they’re not just cutting the author access to the students, they’re also cutting them off from the research community and it can have detrimental effects,” said Almeida.  

She said that while research is on pause at the U of L, a different university that might be looking at the same thing could end up making the discoveries before them.  

“So we start losing credibility as a research facility and that can have really negative long lasting effects,” said Almeida. 

She said they will lose their competitive advantage, and could start losing out on grants, donors, and people that want to come do research at the U of L because it is not as competitive anymore. 

“It’s a ripple effect from this one action by the board, a very unnecessary one in my opinion,” said Almeida. 

She said they have also denied faculty access to the campus, going as far as installing cameras, hiring private security to surveil picketers and threatening lawsuits.

“They have allowed these hired investigators to photograph and surveil students and faculty alike, making students too afraid to join or even cross the picket lines for fear of being unjustly targeted by the University,” said Almeida. 

She said they did not count on how much the faculty means to the students and did not realize that once the students were aware of the situation, they would rally around their professors and together let administration and the Board of Governors know that enough is enough. 

“We are not going to take these injustices and abuse of power laying down. This is our institution, this is our education and our future and we will fight tooth and nail to protect them,” said Almeida. 

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