author: john loeppky & marty grande-sherbert | editor-in-chief & oped editor
Reassurances for students top of the agenda
The University of Regina Faculty Association (URFA) has confirmed their job action headquarters, should they be needed, as the Gay and Lesbian Community of Regina, the site of the Q Nightclub and Lounge on Broad Street.
URFA President Sylvain Rheault said in an interview that the offer came unsolicited via email and spoke about the terms of the agreement
“They are offering a very good rental tenancy for us if we want to [use it] during a strike. ”
Rheault characterized the agreement as “pretty good” given that it allows the union flexibility by making it week to week, given the possible length of job action.
He also shed light on the union’s thoughts before the final days of bargaining next week.
“We are going back to negotiations and at the same time we are getting ready for special job action. It doesn’t mean that it’s going to be a strike. A strike is like one tool in the tool box and so, for example, we are asking members to provide alternate emails because at other universities when there’s a strike the university will remove the service of the email as well as alternative phone numbers and stuff like that.”
“We’ve never been on strike, we don’t intend to go on strike unless we have to.”
Yesterday, many students attended an event hosted by RPIRG (Regina Public Research Interest Group), which answered questions about situation for students.
Dr. Jason Child’s, of URFA’s negotiating team stressed that the union was “uncomfortable” with the University of Regina’s communication strategy and that it was “mindful of the legal line” when it came to talking about the status of negotiations in public. He said that, ultimately the union “needs a dance partner” in order for negotiations to come to a close. He also said that the goal of the negotiating team was to reduce the harm “practically to 0.”
In a previous interview Rheault expressed the same message of restraint on behalf of the union.
“A strike is something we consider very seriously and we know that there’s going to be effects and we’re trying as much as possible to mitigate the effects on students, if we go on strike,”
Some strategies discussed at the event included withholding grades from administration, but not from students. The negotiating team also said that other universities “do more with less.”
The livestream of the event, as of Mar. 21, had been viewed over 1.2 thousand times. Students were prompted by URFA and RPIRG to contact those in the administration about the negotiations. An email script was provided online.
” Good Afternoon,”
“My name is ______ and I am an _____ student in the final semester of my programs. I am writing to urge the University of Regina bargaining team to give university faculty a fair deal. ”
“Though I am upset by the notion of labour action potentially disrupting my education, my request is not made solely in self interest. U of R faculty work tirelessly to provide high-quality education to students. They are teachers, mentors, and advisors who contribute not only to the knowledge of their classes, but our community as a whole. Their efforts merit fair pay, benefits, and job security. They deserve to feel stable in their positions and proud of their institution. An equitable workplace for them directly contributes to an equitable and enriching environment for us students.”
“I entreat you to listen to the voices of students, and to work with URFA to come up with an agreement that is fair to University of Regina faculty.”
Recent tweets directed at Vianne Timmons about the possible job action received almost identical replies.
“We believe in the collective bargaining process and have been working hard to achieve the best possible collective agreement for students, academic staff, and the broader campus community.”
Not all faculty members were onside with the union’s position, however, one URFA member who requested to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals was resistant to URFA’s position in an interview.
“What I want to get across is that my students are what come first in my mind. I support the negotiations, I do, and I support the union’s negotiating tactics, they’re doing a very difficult job.”
“Really all I see is Mommy and Daddy are bickering and the children are who are being harmed here.”
“I don’t want to see a strike and if there is a strike I want to find some way to make sure my students are not afflicted by this.”
Provost Tom Chase stressed the university’s commitment to students, particularly in relation to students graduating.
“Obviously any kind of delay in getting courses finished, in getting exams done, getting exams graded, and getting marks in is a concern. For us, I think the biggest concern is students who are about to graduate. We want to do everything we can, working with URFA, to ensure particularly their path toward graduation in the spring and convocation in June is not delayed or impacted.”
Chase laid out the schedule as it relates to graduation, with graduates being confirmed at monthly meetings at Executive of Council. According to Chase that list is still contingent on final grades, including exams. Chase also stressed that international students were a priority for the administration.
“People who are far, far from their home it’s [(their academic security is)] very important to us, there’s no question about it.”
Both Tom Chase and AVP UR International, Livia Castellanos, pointed towards Canadian government regulations that are in place to protect international students in cases of issues outside of their control, such as a job action. Castellanos also explained the process being undertaken with students on exchange at the University of Regina.
“The Government of Canada protects the student and they continue to hold their legal status until the classes resume.”
“So, the students that are here for one semester, or study abroad, we are going to be communicating with the students and also we are going to be communicating with the institutions where the students are being received from and we are going to try to provide them with the supports and the mechanisms that will allow the students, perhaps, to defer their exams and/or to defer their final grade so that they can obtain those marks and move on into their education in their home institution.”
Castellanos said that those affected count “around 131 students.”
Castellanos also laid out UR International’s view of international students who are obtaining a degree from the University of Regina.
“The students that are seeking a degree here, or they are seeking a certificate or a graduate degree will not be affected because we are assuming that those students are continuing their studies here with us. So, they will remain with their visa[s].”
She went on to speak about the rule forcing international graduate students to take summer classes and what would happen in the event of a prolonged job action.
“The regulation about the students taking courses in the summer is a regulation that each university in Canada has the right to put in place for international students. So, in that case, we will communicate with the Government of Canada about the situation at the university and they will also be protected from the legislation.”
Castellanos said that a meeting with affected students is planned for Mar. 29 with details to be released at a later date.
Today, Mar. 21, a short statement was released by the University of Regina and sent to the campus-wide litserv detailing a town hall to be held Mar. 22.
“As you are aware, the University has been bargaining with the University of Regina Faculty Association (URFA) since March of 2018. The University has received a number of requests from students for more information about the collective bargaining process. As a result, students are invited to meet with the University tomorrow when the University President and Provost host a town hall to listen and address student questions.”
“The event takes place:
March 22, 2019
Language Institute (LI) 215”
We will continue to update our readers as this story develops.