Although the faculty strike at the University of New Brunswick has come to an end, the resulting proposed changes to the academic calendar were a hot topic at council on Sunday.
An email from UNB sent out to students last Friday announced that pending senate approval, efforts to minimize the amount of class time lost during the strike will result in the semester being extended to April 17 and no March break. Exams will be condensed within the period of April 22 to 30.
This has raised many concerns among students and the UNBSU wants to make sure they are all considered before the senate makes its final decision.
“The student senators are getting together to look over all the student concerns and come up with alternative suggestions and solutions to try to accommodate these concerns. We’re going to try our best to represent the student perspective,” said Jenn Connolly, UNBSU vice-president internal.
Connolly said that out of the feedback she has received, students are most concerned about losing their March break. Many of their complaints came from a financial perspective.
“The biggest complaint that I’ve been getting has definitely been regarding March break. A lot of students are concerned with the fact that they’ve already paid vast amounts of money to go on vacation and that might not be a possibility now,” Connolly said.
Other students will be unable to bring in the extra cash they were anticipating from working full time.
A discussion was opened at council to suggest alternative solutions and to bring more concerns to the table.
LGBTQ councillor Lee Thomas addressed the issue of mental health. With the proposed changes, students will be attending classes for eleven weeks straight with no long weekends and a condensed exam period – something that promises to leave students over-stressed.
“Our Student Union has made a big push for pro-mental health and I think our students are hoping to see us fight for their break,” Thomas said.
Other councillors suggested alternate solutions. Engineering councillor Liz Calvin said an alternative could be having no midterms or assignments due during the week originally set aside for March Break.
“I was wondering if it’s possible to negotiate that there’s no mandatory classes or midterms and assignments,” she said. “So that the people who want to go to class can go to class but the people who have other plans aren’t being severely punished.”
Other suggestions included negotiating for no assignments or tests during the last two weeks leading to exams.
Greg Bailey, UNBSU vice-president external, said that while he has been speaking with student unions from other universities who have gone through similar circumstances, each situation is unique.
“We’re talking to our counterparts from other schools but they don’t have too many suggestions for us so I suggest everybody get creative,” Bailey said.
No date has been set for when the senate will meet but Connolly said they are pushing to have it as soon as possible.
“We’re going to be trying our hardest to represent the students and to make sure that the student voice is heard at the meeting,” Connolly said.
“The outcome might not be the best but we’ll be fighting hard for it.”