Classes suspended indefinitely at Mount A as faculty and librarians begin first day of strike

Faculty and librarians at Mount Allison University in Sackville are walking a picket line, while many students slept in on Monday, after negotiations between the university and faculty association broke off late Sunday. 

Classes, labs and tutorials are suspended until further notice, the university said in an email to students.

Arts student Sydney Thorburn of Ottawa, who is in her third-year, is hoping the strike will be short-lived.

"I took advantage of sleeping in this morning … but I'll still be in the student centre or the library today trying to get assignments done that have to get done at some point," she said.

Submitted by Sydney Thorburn

Students are in the middle of midterms, and Thorburn said while some professors made it clear leading up to the strike what students should be working on, others told them, "we'll figure it out later."

"How are we supposed to know what's happening or what we're supposed to keep up with doing?" Thorburn wondered. "Like if I miss a midterm am I going to be responsible for teaching myself that information and writing it again when the strike is over?"

'It just didn't work out'

Rob Hiscock, director of communications for Mount Allison University, told Information Morning Moncton on Monday that meetings between the administration and the faculty association continued on Thursday and Friday, and some progress was made.

"We tried to put the best offer on the table, addressing as many issues as we could and some of our own issues and it just didn't work out," he said.

In a message to students, Jean-Paul Boudreau, president of Mount Allison, urged everyone involved to interact "with consideration and respect."

Matt Litvak, who speaks for the Mount Allison Faculty Association, said faulty was told it was a "take-it-or-leave-it offer" by the employer.

"It's unfortunately clear from their actions that they may be willing to meet, but they're not willing to meet to negotiate a settlement."

Student shares concerns about lack of professors

Litvak lists academic resources and workload as one of the key issues in the stalled negotiations, along with job security and compensation for part-time professors.

"There doesn't seem to be recognition of what we need to do and what resources need to be provided to deliver the programs the students depend on," Litvak said of the approach by the Mount Allison administration.

Submitted by Ben Mersereau

Thorburn has considered the concerns of faculty and said she can "definitely understand where they're coming from."

With a major in international relations, and minor in history, she must take four courses from a list of 23 to complete her degree. She said of the 23 options, only one is being offered this semester.

"I have no choice but to take it. So whether I like the Roman Empire and want to learn about it or not, I'm forced to take the course because there's no other option."

Litvak said part of the problem is that retiring professors, or those on sabbatical, aren't being replaced.

"If you have these professors … and they're retiring what is stopping you from replacing them? If you have professors going on sabbatical, why aren't you hiring more part-time professors to take over those classes because students are only here for four years," Thorburn said. 

Hiscock said last week that the number of faculty at Mount Allison "ebbs and flows" with enrolment, and that the university continues to have one of the lowest faculty to student ratios in Canada.

Second strike in 6 years

Members of the Mount Allison Faculty Association last went on strike in January and February 2014.

It lasted three weeks, with students only able to return to class after the two sides agreed to settle their outstanding issues through binding arbitration.

This time, the two sides have been using a provincially appointed mediator.

Mount Allison Students' Union is remaining neutral in the strike but will be advocating "a timely return to classes for all students," the union said in a news release Monday.

The student union said it will push for a tuition rebate program, depending on the length of the strike.

Mount Allison created an FAQ section on its website to address questions and concerns from students. The faculty association is also posting updates and information about the strike on the Mount Allison Faculty Association website and social media.