Frost student supports college teachers but anxious to return to school

By Roderick Benns

Frost student supports college teachers but anxious to return to school
Brianna Callaghan, third year environmental technology student at Fleming College.

Brianna Callaghan travelled all the way from her home on Manitoulin Island to build her education profile.

She first worked on her undergraduate degree at Trent University, and then decided to get one of Fleming College’s premier diplomas in environmental technology, at Frost Campus in Lindsay.

On her third and final year, on track to receive her diploma, she couldn’t have known that her carefully-laid plans would be put on hold for five, nail-biting weeks in Ontario’s longest running college strike.

Now, that strike has ended after the Ontario government introduced back-to-work legislation over the weekend, opposed only by the NDP and supported by the Progressive Conservatives, who say they would have ended the strike even earlier.

The strike affected 12,000 professors, instructors, counsellors and librarians across Ontario. About 2,000 students in Lindsay have been left out of class in a battle about job quality for college instructors.

At least 70 per cent of college faculty are part-time, one of the key issues for the union given concerns about precarious work – employment that is part-time, casual, or contract, often without benefits.

“I supported my teachers during the strike,” says Callaghan, who was working at her part-time job at Boiling Over’s Coffee Vault in Lindsay during the interview.

“They deserve full-time hours and recognition for all the work they do.”

As well, the Frost student thinks teachers should get more academic freedom to create their courses, since they are the experts in the field they’re teaching about.

At the same time, Callaghan says she was getting anxious about her final year being placed in jeopardy.

“It was my money and my time that I had invested,” she tells The Lindsay Advocate.

Audrey Healy, union steward for Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) Local 352, previously told The Advocate that college instructors go from semester to semester, never knowing if they will have another course to teach.

Healy also pointed out the strike was about giving teachers more academic decision-making power, which rests solely with the colleges right now.

“We need some of this power in the hands of teachers – so it’s more like a model of shared governance,” Healy said.

Without this, the union steward says the quality of education suffers. For example, if a three-hour weekly class is shorted by a college to two hours it may be cheaper for the college but perhaps not beneficial for the students.

“In some cases, they (the students) are being short-changed in their education,” Healy said.

As for Callaghan, she’s “excited” to get back to school tomorrow.

The Frost student has what she calls a “messy” adapted schedule in front of her, with a one-week break around Christmas and then a semester that will continue for an extra two weeks longer than it was supposed to originally.

When she does finally graduate, she’s excited to try and find employment helping to bring clean water to northern communities in Ontario or elsewhere in Canada.

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