April 14th, 2024

U of L semester extension gets mixed review from students

By Lethbridge Herald on March 23, 2022.

Herald photo by Al Beeber A bicyclist rides past a sign Wednesday informing those coming to campus at the University of Lethbridge about the masking mandate. The university has extended the spring semester after the recent faculty strike/lockout.

Al Beeber – Lethbridge Herald

The extension of the spring semester at the University of Lethbridge to May 5 and the lack of communication about that possibility during the recent faculty strike/lockout is leaving students feeling stressed.

That extension was made by the university after the end of the strike/lockout this week that cost students more than five weeks of classes.

Ashley Pollock, part of the leadership team of a student solidarity and action council at the university, said Wednesday students heard rumours during the strike that something would be done to the current semester.

But there was no direct communication by the university about potential scenarios during the job action, she said.

The student action council helped keep students informed during the job action with a platform where information could be shared.

The lack of contingency plans were problematic, she said, adding students wouldn’t have cared if they were given multiple possible scenarios.

“There was just a general refusal to engage in any sort of sharing of future plans which wasn’t helping and isn’t currently helping because so many students ended up moving back home” and some who have in-person components to their courses are wondering if they’re allowed to do their studies online, Pollock said.

Some students who came to Lethbridge specifically to attend the university are facing increased housing costs if they live off campus now because of the extension, she said.

“We knew something was going to happen because during the strike we had heard a rumour about a mandatory 30 instructional hours in order for credits to be rewarded to university students in Alberta. And currently we’re sitting about 12 to 15 instructional hours per course right now, depending on where students were when the strike happened,” Pollock said.

The May 5 end to the semester is “quite a ways longer than where we would be normally … this puts a lot of stress because a lot of students come to Lethbridge for university and have housing contracts, not only with the university because those students were actually given a little bit of grace from the university. They’re going to extend their housing at no additional cost which is excellent. But for students who live off campus and who are renting and were planning to move back at the end of March midway through April, this poses a significant financial burden.”

Pollock said “the university hasn’t been terribly concerned with this because their response is ‘well we’ve moved everything online so that shouldn’t matter.’ However, there are still students who do have in-person course requirements,” she said.

“There are problems with just extending the semester and the things that means for certain groups of students is difficult to make sense.”

With the first summer session starting May 9 just four days after the spring one ends, students won’t get a chance to de-stress, she said.

“A lot of students are just feeling very burned out and like emotionally and mentally drained by everything we’ve gone through for the last month so it will be really interesting to see what happens there,” she added.

Because professors were locked out of their professional emails, students couldn’t connect with them unless they had personal email addresses to try to understand the situation better since the university “really wasn’t communicating with us.

“And all of the information we ended up getting and using during the strike was from students who were reaching out to professors through personal communication,” Pollock added.

She said the university also sent out a series of unsigned emails “that were just very threatening. I think the first communication essentially blamed faculty for the job action and threatened that we would lose the semester.”

Practicum and internship students were the hardest by the strike, she said. Therapeutic recreation students, she said, have to complete 560 hours and if they had started last week or the week before that, they would have been doing their practicums through Aug. 1.

“Students are really frustrated and feeling embarrassed and feeling that the university is damaged by them not being able to continue participating in their practicums.”

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So….a strike/lockout happens. Amongst the casualties of this calamity are students. An agreement is struck and classes are almost immediately “on”. By-passing the stupidity of both sides in creating this situation the sought after solution, being resumption, has been put in place. Now, the “student solidarity and action council” [ which sounds like a self appointed body ] on behalf of “really frustrated,embarrassed,damaged,stressed, burned out,emotionally and mentally drained ” students is unhappy . They seem to want free rent, compensation for their pain and suffering and an assurance that they have a roll to play in the settlement of any disputes.
Well….harsh reality students: when strikes or lockouts happen and commodities are not delievered to suppliers the consumers of those products do not get a say in the resolution talks…save and except to say “enough” and go elsewhere for their purchases. You are the consumers in this scenario. Two groups of supposed adults acted like spoiled brats but have now settled their differences. Be glad you are able to finish your studies and take the life lesson as to where you fit into the scheme of things.

The concept of ” meaningful consultation” ,a legal fiction at best and a pacifying joke at worst, is seldom a reality in the off campus world.