Friday, October 14, 2011

BU Strike - Education Forum

-status of student teacher vs volunteer, all students will NOT be volunteers
-must have a Faculty Advisor
-check email that was sent around
-no students should be at a disadvantage (not thinking about the context and what this means for the strike, thinking only of the students)
-you have the choice to go on practicum or not, no special accommodations will be made
-lock out vs. non-lock out
-all students will be evaluated, although some will not have a face-to-face faculty advisor - this is personal experience and research that this is an appropriate way to deal with this at the moment
-the dean will be our faculty advisor if we don't have one
-we will trouble-shoot as we go along if this does not work for everyone
-of primary importance is our relationships with CTs
-self-assessment component for non-face-to-face advisory
-dean thinks that assessments are equal, will look at it again as it unfolds - evidence based decision
-the senate is the one making the decisions of penalty to students for not crossing the picket line
-that is his answer at this time but it may change in the future
-you have to follow your conscience - with that comes responsibilities
-he would love to hear from us if we have anymore concerns

-MTS and Dean are in conversation (not necessarily in agreement but in advisory with each other)

MTS President:
-is impressed with how seriously we are taking this matter, and is very hopeful for the future of the MTS
-MTS concerned about quality of education
-public schools act requires schools to welcome student teachers
-labour relations - another worker could refuse to do anything not related towards their job
-this is a non-issue because no CT should end up being a faculty advisor or doing their work
-if a CT does please call dean of ed or MTS
-labour laws prohibit them from a definitive
-province does not allow strike action by teachers, we are an essential service
-if there is a dispute with your school then they should call MTS and student should call the Dean/MTS
-it is up to BUFA to ask students for their solidarity and up to the individual to decide their stance
-this is a BU/BUFA matter, this is not a joint undertaking.
-you will have some form of FS, but some are not the traditional sense of the word - MTS will not judge at this time if this will be valid - this is up to the department (dean)
-supervised student teaching is mandatory - have supervision from CTs and faculty of education - the liberty model is partly a faculty choice, partially a discussion - this may be flagged (seems to think it is mostly up to the discretion of our faculty however)
-feels unprepared to give clear answers, normally it takes at least a week to look over the facts and he has had only 2 days

 -BUFA/faculty do not want you to lose out on here
-they want you to have a successful practicum
-you are pawns in this situation
-Faculty advisors will be crossing the picket lines if they go into the classrooms because they are BUFA members
-this sort of communication with staff and students should continue
- the union has been very helpful to her in her own life
-interrupting the practicum would cause everyone to go back to the table
-it is not required that a different union not go to work in support of different union, there are different ways to show support
-is shocked the administration is threatening students about their education

-all students will be protected in the protocol and not penalized for classes missed
-if this doesn't happen then the Administration are the ones that didn't agree
-please contact if you have questions or are concerned that you are being taken advantage of my Administration or BUFA
-you should not have to compromise your values for your education
-BUSU will advocate for all students
-be confident in your decisions for next week, whatever they may be

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Strike Information Forum #2

Today we had another forum where we had members of the Administration team and the BUFA teachers' union at two separate back-to-back meetings to discuss student concerns about strike-related issues. Here are my notes on the key issues discussed during the forum. (They may be slightly biased as I have omitted the details of what was said by certain individuals when I felt their comments were unprofessional.)

Session 1 - School Administration

- Administration get the same settlement as BUFA teachers in regards to the raise in pay scale increments discussed in the contract

- University President says Administration are suggesting a pay scale increase of 13% over 3 years (this contradicts the statement made by BUSU yesterday about -14% for pay scale)

- Dean of Education says student practicums will start on Monday and all Education students will receive an email later today. Dean says he has been in communication with the President of the MTS and that student teaching should not be affected by the strike. He says that he is working on a contingency plan for any students who may have Faculty Advisors who will not work in a show of support for BUFA.

- BUSU says that they, as an organization, stand with BUFA although this may not be representative of the opinion of the student body. BUSU suggests a meeting at a future date to discuss this in more detail.

- University President says she wants to hear student opinions on these issues.

- University President claims she wants to meet somewhere in the middle with negotiations with BUFA but that this has not been happening so far.

- University President says both sides always have a lawyer in negotiations. She justifies her choice of lawyers by saying they needed a new dynamic in order to try to prevent these negotiations from going in the same way they had in the past. She picked someone from out of town in hopes that they would be unbiased and act as a new voice. She justifies the cost saying he is a highly respected lawyer and she hoped hiring him would make negotiations go faster in the long run, thereby equaling out the cost of his fees. She says he does not charge for his travel time.

- Member of Administration states that questions related to the quality of education received by students during the strike should be addressed to the University Senate. It is stated that Senate meetings are generally open to the public unless dealing with a sensitive issue. The date and time of the next Senate meeting could not be given.

- Student asks about why the President will not meet with her. The President skirts around the question. In the process it becomes clear that this student has tried to meet with her many times before and has successfully at least once. The President claims she would love to meet with students but cannot give suggested office hours... continues avoiding addressing the issue appropriately.

- The Dean of Education says that all the Deans are also willing to talk with students and to please drop by. He makes a comment about appropriate discussions only, which is somewhat confusing as to what was meant by it. He also suggests that more meetings like this forum should take place between students and Administration.

- Member of Administration says that the Administration has been fair in its bargaining with BUFA but claims that specific details of what is being bargained are private.

- Member of Administration talks about conciliation stating that both parties are fairly far apart in opinions. A collective agreement has to be reached at the table. The current issues have to do with wages and benefits but more importantly with reconciling the language being used in regards to these money-related issues. (Example: Sabbaticals and how it costs the University and extra $1 million annually for a replacement for someone on sabbatical. These replacements are the sessional professors.)

- Dean of Education says the Administration and his department want to see quality of programming for students.

- Member of Administration states that tuition would double if the faculty get the increases they are asking for. They also state that an 11% increase from the government is required just to maintain the status quo. 90% of the current budget is going towards paying staff and there is nowhere to cut away more fat from the budget. It is going to start affecting the staff. Fingers are pointed at the provincial government because it is claimed that we live in a setting created by provincial mandates on university funding, etc.

- President says that the disability coordinator will remain available to aid students during the strike because she is an essential service. A tutor is also available for these students. When a student tries to clarify whether this would mean students have to cross the picket line to access these services the President chooses to question the intelligence of the students present with her remarks. She proceeds to define what an essential service is while effectively avoiding the question.

- Student asks about why a new Admin position is being created when there is no room for it in the current budget. Member of Admin says that our university has one of the thinnest Adminstration teams in the country. Our university chooses to put any excess in the budget towards improving classes. The position that will be created is an Associate VP research position. The Admin claim it will be an income generating position as it will give them more negotiation power and interaction with the government. They claim our university will fall behind if this position is not created and that even the neighbouring college (ACC) already has this position.

BUFA is met with arguments from the President.

- No answer is given when students ask if the Admin have a contingency plan to keep future strikes from causing similar problems for students at the end of the next contract.

- Students from BUSU ask why the President will not provide them with a copy of her contract which they claim should be publicly available. The President responds that she feels that names and earnings are public-domain but not the terms and conditions of her employment. She refers to the office petitioned by BUSU in order to get a copy of this document and says that it is up to their discretion now. She says that the house she lives in as part of her contract is one that she has to pay rent for and that she would prefer to live elsewhere.

- International Student asks what broader issues need to be addressed to create a more permanent fix and restore harmony to negotiations between Administration and staff. An Admin member answers in such complicated language that the regular student body would have difficulty understanding the implications, let alone a student with English as an additional language. The just of the argument was that 3 different Presidents have been unable to come up with a way to prevent further strikes, and that they are uncertain that there is a good solution. A comment is made about it taking two to create this sort of situation.


Session 2 - BUFA Teachers' Union

- Negotiating Committee says that although negotiations began in the spring when their contract expired in March, the issue of money was avoided by Admin until the last couple of weeks. The reason for the strike is the Administration's unwillingness to discuss this part of the agreement. It is admitted the some concessions were made on both sides but the strike resulted from the Administration not giving a new counter-offer in regards to salary/benefits.

- Member of BUFA says that tuition pays less than a quarter of the university operating costs so it in unreasonable for the Administration to say that tuition would double if BUFA gets the salary they ask for. In addition the government regulates tuition.

- Union Members voice concern that asking students to cross the picket line to go to class on Monday, and asking teachers to cross the picket line to teach is an attempt to break the Union. It is stated that a broken Union will create a broken institution and that students should not support this. There is some concern about the President's previous political agendas and her approaching this negotiation as a politician and with the same ideals. Professors encourage students to continue to use the library, and gym, and other related services and say this will not be seen as crossing the picket line.

- Union Members express concern for student equity in regards to students choices to cross or not cross the picket line in order to attend classes. (This is concern the Administration is not acting with equity in mind and that they are putting students in a bad situation.) They urge students to consider the long term implications for the university if the Union is broken. The History department states there will be no classes held by any of the profs in their department.

- Negotiating Committee says that they have not been informed in the strike protocol that the disability centre would be open as an essential service but state they will be willing to work with that. They encourage students needing this assistance to access it.

- Negotiating Committee briefly outlines some of the issues currently on the table for the negotiations. They include procedures related to hiring, firing, and tenure as well as financial and benefit related concerns (ie. pensions). They say that they are not aware that any of the issues being brought to the table are private and that there are summaries of their negotiations on their website. This information is publicly accessible and the same as what is provided to all union members outside of the negotiating committee.

- Profs express their dislike for not being able to teach and say no one votes for a strike because they want one, but that their hands are bound because the employer holds more power and not providing a service (ie. teaching) is their best tool at this time to get negotiations to move forwards. They wish there was another way, but only the government can change this process. They stress that their working conditions inevitably affect students' learning conditions. They allude to compromises they have already made which are greater than those the Administration is willing to make. They also point out their working conditions have been going downhill over the last 10 years.

- Union Members say that when a concession is made a protocol will be signed that states that no penalties to the faculty will result from the strike actions. Union Members say they want to see the same clause in this protocol with regards to students who choose not to cross the picket line to attend classes.

- Negotiating Committee says the negotiations so far have been mostly over documents and procedures. The Administration wants to completely change the documents related to hiring, firing, and promotion procedures. There are "dozens if not hundreds" of changes proposed, which is what has been taking so long with negotiations. The Administration wants to remove protections from the faculty in regards to these procedures and place the hiring power completely on the Administration team and the Deans, with no input from the Union. There is some concern about the language of the documents excluding people the university actually wants to hire, which will result in the Administration hiring people that may not be "qualified" for the position based on the document of qualifications.

- Students ask why a conciliator was not brought in before the Union went on strike. The Union responds that this was because they were still talking up until 5am that same morning.

- Some students express concern that their professors obligations to certain activities go beyond their teaching normal classes at the University (ie. band performances) and ask how these issues will be addressed. The Union states that the Line Captain can give passes to professors who have justified causes for crossing the picket line.

- Students express concern about profs who do not have a PhD and their futures at Brandon University. A Union Member says some professors have been hired in the past based on having the equivalent of a PhD through related experience in the field, and that it has gone towards their tenure. She goes on to say that some areas taught at Brandon University (ie. Aboriginal Studies) do not yet have related PhD programs so the Admin will find it very difficult to find a qualified PhD for these positions.

- Negotiating Team says the Admin are not keeping open dialogue with them which is why negotiations have stretched since March. (ie. 3 and a half weeks in July when Admin were unavailable to meet.) They state that a concession must be made by next March because once their current agreement is 1 year expired they will no longer be protected by it. They point out the employer has the power and that they have been trying to work on them with logic. (Also, they are unable to strike in the summer because they cannot withhold a service.) Union expresses concern about the unwillingness of Administration to negotiate in the last few bargaining rounds.

- Union states that all professors at the university, including sessionals, are members of BUFA

- Professors support small class sizes in order to keep more options open for students. (Plus small class sizes are just "better.")

- Union states that they have never used outside lawyers for negotiations on their side of the bargaining and that their negotiating team is made up of volunteers who have made themselves available for negotiating whenever they are not teaching.

More from the Admin

From the Brandon University Website:

Brandon University Position on Locking out Faculty

October 13, 2011

The Brandon University Students’ Union (“BUSU”) has recently issued a communication to its membership and to the wider community urging the University to lock out its faculty rather than allowing them to return to work, should individual faculty members choose to work during the strike.

Prior to this communiqué, representatives of BUSU met with the Administration and expressed the same request. We provided our reasons to BUSU orally, but these have not been passed on in the BUSU press release. We offer the following explanation.

There are a number of reasons why the President and the Board of Governors decided not to lock out faculty during this strike:

1. A lockout is a weapon some employers use to get concessions from the union and employees to accept lesser working conditions than they previously enjoyed. Brandon University is not seeking concessions from BUFA at this time.

2. Many professors have told the Administration that they do not support the strike and want to teach during the dispute. Consistent with this, according to BUFA’s announcements, over 28% of those professors who voted on whether to give the Union a strike mandate voted “no”. Taking into account those who did not vote, the Union’s mandate is less than 70%.

3. If professors want to teach and students want to be taught, it is difficult to justify denying them their right to choose. The Labour Relations Act gives employees the right to work during a strike conducted by their union, unless they are locked out by the employer. If all of the professors support the strike, then the opportunity to teach is a non-issue.

4. Although most universities do not ever lock out their faculty, BU did this in the last round after a strike was declared, and it led to the longest dispute in BU’s history.

5. The option of locking out was thoroughly discussed with all aspects of the administration of the University and the unanimous choice was not to lock out.

6. Each student makes a contract with the University that they will pay their tuition fees and dedicate their time and effort to pursue their course studies, in exchange for the University providing them with the instruction outlined in the calendar. The University feels honour-bound to fulfill that contract to the extent that it reasonably can, despite the withdrawal of service by the Faculty Association.

Hopefully, this provides some insight into why the University will not lock out its faculty. We remain committed to make every reasonable effort to achieve a fair and equitable collective agreement.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Information from BUFA

BUFA has released information on their website related to the strike which is too detailed to post here. If you are interested in viewing it please go to:

Please note that information labelled October 9th or later was not publicly released until sometime this afternoon (October 12th) adding to my concerns about transparency from all parties involved in the negotiation process.

Documents from BUSU

Strike Notice Email
Sent via university web-mail at 5:53am. Received at 2:15pm.

Attention Fellow Students!!!

We have JUST been informed that there will be a job action by the Brandon University Faculty Association. The strike shall commence today at 7:31AM as they outlined in the deadline notice.

No job action is taken lightly and although we have not yet spoken with members of the bargaining team about the negotiations today, we can tell you that they met from 1:00 PM yesterday until a few minutes ago with minimal break in between. What this shows is that both sides came to the table to try and reach a resolution but in the end they were still too far apart on the issues.

We do not know at this time how long the strike will last and our staff and council will be heading into work to start doing research on the reasons for the strike and how it will impact students. Most specifically, what will happen with education students heading out to student teach, and health studies students who have clinicals. We will do everything in our power to try and answer all students questions and will keep you informed as it progresses.

Likewise, this is not a holiday for students and you don't want to see yourself in a pinch when the strike ends. For example, if you had a midterm scheduled today then nothing says that the strike doesn't end tomorrow and that you won't have to write it on Friday. So please, keep on top of your homework, continue with assignments, contact others in your classes to set up study groups. When we return to classes after the strike, you don't want to be in a situation where you are behind in all of your classes.

BUSU has already met with the Brandon University Faculty Association (BUFA) and the faculty is COMPLETELY supportive of students who wish to cross the picket line in order to go to the library and study, those who already live on campus, etc. The faculty does support students and recognizes that we are in some ways the innocent bystanders in this whole situation. If you chose not to cross the picket line it is also fine and respectable as. In the past, your building, the Knowles-Douglas Student Centre, has been neutral territory in which it is the only building that the faculty are allowed to enter on campus during a strike. So, if you are in SUDS (which will be open!) or in the Mingling Area you may see some of the professors in the building. This means that it is also a neutral space for students as well who do not want to cross the picket line otherwise.

Now, how to we best represent your issues and concerns? Well, today at noon in SUDS we are planning a student forum. The format will include a chance for students to talk about the details of the strike negotiations, what it means to be a student during a strike, and there will be a separate portion where the faculty and administration have each been invited to address the student population. SUDS, as we mentioned will be open and will be serving food and drinks so stop by for the forum and hopefully we will be able to have many of your questions answered.

Likewise, anytime through the strike please feel free to contact or stop by the BUSU Office at [information omitted for privacy] and we can try and address all of your concerns.

Together we will get through this, and know that we are here for you.

In solidarity,

[Name omitted at blogger's discretion]
Brandon University Students' Union

Documents from Administration


Q: Who is on strike?
A: The Brandon University Faculty Association (BUFA) is on strike. This union represents Faculty including sessionals, Professional Associates, Instructional Associates and Administrative Associates.

Q: During this strike period, will the University be closed to students?
A: No. Though some classes may be cancelled, all possible administrative and student services will continue. In particular:
• Some professors will continue to teach their courses, including some field experience for students in the Faculty of Education and the School of Health Studies.
• Some professors may return to teaching duties after having been on strike for a period of time. It is important that you keep well informed.
• Library facilities will continue to be open and all library resources including electronic resources will continue to be available.
• Classroom buildings, including study rooms, will be open.
• Practice studios will be available to students.
• Computer facilities and resources including Moodle for students will remain in operation.
• Residence and Food Services will continue.
• Financial & Registration Services will remain open.
• Other student services will be available to the best of our ability.

All non-BUFA employees of the University are expected to come to work and perform their
duties. Regrettably, due to the strike action by BUFA, the University will likely have to cancel
some classes.

Q: During the strike by BUFA, is the University planning a lockout of BUFA members? Will
some classes continue during a BUFA strike?
A: The University has no plans to initiate a lockout. Some professors will continue to teach their courses including some field experience in Education and Health Studies.

Q: Because of the strike action, are students likely to lose their academic credits or year?
A: The University takes its responsibility to students very seriously and will do everything possible through administrative and University Senate channels to ensure that students are able to complete the classes in which they are enrolled. This may involve special make-up classes or an extension of the term, but this would be a last resort. Most faculty strikes are very short. In over 30 years, no student at Brandon University has ever lost a semester due to a strike.

Q: What impact will all of this have on students' ability to complete their classes, get their credits and graduate?
A: That will depend on when the strike ends. As mentioned above, most faculty strikes are of short duration. There is some flexibility in most teaching programs. There is a short break between the end of classes and the start of exams, and some ability to compress the examination schedule. Beyond that, examinations could be delayed if necessary. In general, the adaptations that can be made will depend on the teaching program and evaluation practices involved and cannot be prescribed in advance. However, there are some options that would allow the University to conclude the academic term on or near schedule, in spite of a strike. Senate will play a key role in establishing the overall principles that will guide the completion of the academic year after any strike, and there are many student
members of Senate. The University will do everything possible following the strike to ensure that students finish their classes, terms, and the year as close to the original schedule as is feasible. Indeed, at this point, students would be wise to assume that all classes and examinations will occur on schedule and manage their time accordingly.

Q: What about essays or assignments which are due during the strike?
A: Due dates and tests may be deferred until after the strike ends. For those classes that continue throughout the strike, please check with your professor regarding deadlines.

Q: Will a strike affect students' eligibility for student loans or other student aid?
A: A strike will not affect students' eligibility for university or government financial aid. Where
necessary, the University will assist students in dealing with appropriate agencies or government

Q: Can I get a financial refund if I choose not to return to the university?
A: It is our intention that no student will lose their semester or year because of this strike. The deadline for refunds has passed for the fall semester.

Q: Does the strike affect University residences and meal plans?
A: No, residences and food services will continue to operate as usual.

Q: During the strike action, will students in field placements (i.e. Education and Health Studies) be able to continue with their placements?
A: Education – There is no change to the roles and expectations for teachers and student teachers (Faculty of Education Field Experience Handbook 2011-2012, pp. 12-14). Students should check to confirm whether or not their faculty advisor is on strike or continues to work. If they are working, student teachers will continue with the scheduled field placement. If the faculty advisor is on strike, the Dean of Education will provide assistance and advice to assist student teachers with self-evaluation using the reflective process (Faculty of Education Field Experience Handbook 2011-2012, p. 15).

Health Studies – Health Studies students in their Senior Practicum placement can continue with this experience. The Dean of Health Studies will maintain regular contact with the practice agencies and student mentors. In all other field placements, students should check to see if their faculty member is working or is on strike. If they are working, the student can continue with the scheduled practice experience. If the faculty member is on strike, students may contact the Dean of Health Studies.

Q: Will students who work on campus be affected?
A: Students who have employment on campus should continue to report for work, including for the completion of any marking that has been assigned. Normal terms and conditions of employment will apply. Student employees will not lose remuneration for which a commitment by the University has been made.

Q: If students come on campus, will they have to cross picket lines?
A: Students can expect that during the strike, members of BUFA will establish picket lines. This is their legal right. At the same time, students and others have the legal right to cross a picket line if they wish. Those on picket lines are entitled to distribute information and speak to persons crossing the line but may not interfere with their legal right to cross a picket line. In a strike situation everyone is expected to show courtesy and respect to others exercising their legitimate rights.

Q: Should students delay making travel arrangements for the end of term?
A: It would be sensible to avoid making travel arrangements that cannot be cancelled or changed.

Q: Where can students get more information?
A: Further information will be included in future notices. These will be distributed on campus and will be available on the BU web site (

Q: During the strike will Admissions remain open?
A: Yes, all regular services of the University will be open and operating.

Q: During the strike will the voluntary withdrawal date be moved?
A: No. Beginning with the current fall semester the voluntary withdrawal date has been extended to a much later date in the semester. Please consult the University calendar for specifics.


Letter from the President

October 12, 2011

Dear Members of the Brandon University Community,

On October 12, 2011, the Brandon University Faculty Association (BUFA) went on strike. While the decision of BUFA is regrettable, the University is committed to our students. Consequently, the University remains open for all members of the university community, students, faculty and staff. In order to give members of our community time for organization after a holiday weekend, the University will be cancelling classes from October 12 through 14, 2011.

During the next few days, we will be contacting our faculty and will communicate in a timely fashion to students which courses will resume the following week. The information will continue to be updated and we ask students to check their BU email account for information concerning classes. As well, this and other pertinent information will be available on the university’s home page.

We sincerely hope and are committed to an outcome that will promote the future viability and success of our university.


[Name Omitted at blogger's discretion]
President and Vice-Chancellor

About the Brandon University Strike

Today I attended the first hour of the student forum organized by BUSU (Brandon University Student Union) and here is the information I have gleaned before and during this event... (Keep in mind I do not support the opinions one way or another in this section, and they may be biased because of the sources they came from. My own opinion will follow in a separate section. If any of the below information is incorrect, I am sorry. It is only what has been given to me.)


BUFA Teachers' Union:
- the administration wants higher contributions to pension plans but will not match staff contributions
- are asking for a raise in salary to match inflation
- sessional professors who have been at the university for years have still not been offered contracts
- the hiring process for new profs should still include the BUFA Union

- want more research conducted by profs, and published in higher caliber publications
- want more profs hired in the future to be required to have a PhD so that the university can capitalize on research grant money from the government
- want to create a new administrative position (Vice President)
- want the hiring process taken out of the hands of the BUFA Union and given to faculty councils, with the final say coming from university Administration
- want to offer more distant ed courses and internet courses (which cost more to students and give students less face time with profs)
- expect sessional profs to offer more courses so that other profs can conduct more research
- want profs to have a heavier course-load to offer students more selection (while not being properly compensated for this course-load difference)

BUSU Student Union:
- states Administration hired a lawyer from Winnipeg at $330/hour to help with negotiations (estimate of $100 000 of legal charges to the university last week alone)
- Brandon University is already in budget crisis which is resulting in programming cuts, especially to the smaller departments on campus
- continues to support the tuition freeze
- the President of the university is getting paid $261 000 annually which amounts to $83 per student. This is higher what is paid to the presidents at many other larger Canadian universities
- claims the President of Brandon University is not releasing information that should be made available to the public (ie. Brandon University students)
- argue some of the best professors at the university do not have their PhDs and that a PhD does not necessarily make a quality professor
- argue there are not enough facilities to accommodate increased research and the grants the Admin want to take advantage of
- argue there is not enough government funding available, so where will the extra $$$ come from to pay for more research?
- students are being put in a bad position because they will be asked as of next week to choose if they will cross the picket lines in order to attend classes, in the Administration's divide and conquer strategy (issues for students include: needing extra face time with profs, not wanting their tuition $ to go to waste, and if they should cross picket lines and snub the teachers' union)
- profs are put in a bad position by being asked to cross picket lines to teach students if they did not vote in favor of the BUFA strike

Faculty of Education/Nursing Faculty:
- Education Faculty members expressed original concern about student practicums being cancelled if there were to be strike action
- Concern about strike action negatively impacting students in these faculties due to the difference in how these professional programs are run compared to other university programs
- many profs in these faculties voted against the strike and some refused to picket at the expense of their own paycheck
- Dean of Education offers to act as Faculty Advisor for education students so they can continue with their practicums during the strike (practicums are off-campus field experience so no picket lines will be crossed)
- concern about how long this strike will last

MTS Teachers' Union:
- Education students in practicum are seen as volunteers but will not meet teaching requirements unless they have a faculty advisor overseeing their placements (Student teaching is not forbidden)
- MTS supports BUFA Teachers' Union


As I See It...

My main issue with this strike is transparency, from everyone involved. My understanding is that these negotiations have been going on since this spring. However, in the past 3 weeks we have been continuously told that there "might" be a strike but no dates were being given until the last minute. The issues being discussed were not available to most students until the last couple of days. This resulted in a large amount of misinformation about what was actually going on. In addition, as an Education student, I was of the impression that this strike would compromise my field experience, as it had in the 2008 strike. As it turns out that is not the case.

Technical difficulties may have resulted in lack of information about the strike. For instance, the Brandon University webmail tends to be incredibly glitchy. Notice of the strike was supposedly sent to all students as of 5am this morning, when the negotiations ended in a stalemate. However, I did not receive any of the notices sent by various parties notifying me of the strike until 2:15pm! This is something that should be looked into after the strike is settled.

Students should have been given proper information up front about the issues being discussed and the exact date strike action would occur within a more reasonable time frame. Students should not have been forced to wait until after the mandatory withdrawal date for courses to know if there would be strike action, because if they choose to withdraw now they will lose significant amounts of their tuition dollars in the process (which most students cannot afford). In addition, this strike very neatly coincided with the Manitoba Provincial election which seems like a dirty move on the parts of both the BUFA teachers' union and Brandon University Administration.

While I do not necessarily support the BUFA union's request for a salary increase that would amount to about a 37% increase over 3 years (according to Brandon University Administration), I also do not support the Administration's projected figures that seem to ask staff to accept a 14% decrease in salary over the same period of time. My concerns are that the BUFA union received a pay increase as a result of the 2008 strike, however, inflation and pensions must be taken into consideration (as said by BUSU). The problem is where is this money going to come from? Our university has already been cutting programming and more cuts are projected for the upcoming years. Students will have less access to the valuable programming that was previously offered at this university. BUSU urges us to point fingers at the government, but I find that unsatisfactory. Yes, we need to get more government funding, but I am paying $3,600 this year for tuition. I paid $5,000 annually for my college tuition in British Columbia... college, not university. Clearly the tuition freeze is not helping matters. I love cheap tuition, but Brandon University has one of the cheapest tuitions in the country and you can't say our programming won't suffer as a result. A small tuition increase may be enough to stop some of this madness! (I am sure I'll get some negative feedback for that statement, but so be it.) So yes BUFA, I don't support your request for a salary increase, but on the grounds that I do not believe the money you are asking is available at the moment. Your other requests seem reasonable from what I have seen of them. I did hear a rumour that BUFA also wanted to do less teaching, but if this was a spin on wanting to do less teaching than what the Admin seems to be proposing in the future then I support that also.

Now the Admin... well, hmmm. I will try to be civil. Let's just say this straight. We need better programming. We don't need more research at the expense of good programming. Research has its place but we cannot afford more research at this time. It has been my opinion over the course of my time at Brandon University that the Administration has never truly been interested in the concerns of students. This Elitism has to stop. Oh and for the record, this university is run with such a lack of organization it is appalling. Offices seem incapable of contacting each other or sharing information. (Email is not expensive, please utilize it!) It cost me $10 to send my transcripts from one department to another, and I had to walk them there myself! Not to mention the humiliation our university had to endure when our President gave a speech at an event we hosted that had members of faculties from universities all across Western Canada. Our President decided she was going to talk about the possibility of extraterrestrial life during her speech. I am sure there is a time and place for that but it is not when representing our school at a conference completely unrelated to the possibility of extraterrestrial life. Also, couldn't you find a cheaper lawyer if indeed you needed one?

Now that the matter of my practicum not being affected has been cleared up I find myself in general to be in favour of this strike. I urge other students not to cross the picket line and attend classes; however, I understand that your tuition dollars are disappearing as we speak and you may be unable to afford to do otherwise. I urge the BUFA and Administration to be more transparent in the future, and hope that everyone keeps student concerns in mind during these negotiations.