College students ‘frustrated’ by threat of strike

SEE VIDEO http://www.ottawasun.com/2012/08/27/college-students-frustrated-by-threat-of-strike

Chris Lowe dreams of working for the Ottawa 67’s front office.

He’s been plugging away all summer to qualify for a one-year sport business management program at Algonquin College.

Now, with a looming strike by Ontario’s college teachers, he’s pretty much playing the waiting game, “which makes it even more frustrating ’cause it’s something I’m really excited to do,” said Lowe, a hockey player from Smiths Falls.

If there is a work stoppage, “I don’t even know what I would do,” he said.

The Carleton University grad, 25, has a BA in psychology and took a summer course in accounting while working full-time.

He moved to Nepean last month, wrote an exam on Aug. 18 and has already quit his job with a communications company.

“Wednesday is my last day,” said Lowe.

He’s one of 18,000 students attending Algonquin full-time. About 5,000 students go to La Cite Collegiale.

Most classes begin Sept. 4 at Ontario’s 24 colleges, however, the faculty contract expires on Aug. 31.

Talks have stalled between the Ontario Public Service Employees Union and the College Employer Council.

A strike could begin Sept. 15, based on a Sept. 10 union vote.

“Students are concerned,” said Algonquin Students’ Association president David Corson.

For returning students, it’s bringing back memories of last year’s 18 day work stoppage for support staff, he said.

At the same time, “we’re very optimistic, because no one has said, ‘that’s it, we can’t work it out,’” said Corson.

Colleges have held an academic strike three times: in 2006, 1989, and 1984, according to the College Student Alliance.

Lowe isn’t taken aback by the threat of a refusal to work.

“I mean, it seems like every year it’s something else, whether it be colleges, whether it be OC Transpo, the NHL, the NBA, in my hometown, the railroad,” said Lowe.

“I’m not saying that it’s the employees’ fault. I understand that it’s sort of bigger than that, and I get it, but it’s just so many people, innocent people, are being inconvenienced.”

Patrick Campbell, 19, from L’Orignal, was at Algonquin’s Woodroffe campus with his parents Monday.

“I’m just happy to be here. Honestly, it’s a big step for me to be in college like this,” said Campbell, who is studying environmental studies.

His father, Wayne, is hoping “cool heads prevail and (the strike) doesn’t happen.”

“We’ll wait and see. That’s all we can really do,” he said.

kelly.roche@sunmedia.ca

@ottawasunkroche

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