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Students hold rally on Bay Street, want to get back to class

Rally was a part of larger movement across Ontario as striking college faculty members vote on employers offer
20171114-Sault College students rally-DT
A group of college students rallied at the corner of Bay and Elgin Streets to draw attention to the effect the college faculty strike is having on their education, Nov. 14, 2017. Darren Taylor/SooToday

A small but vocal group of Sault College students rallied at the corner of Bay and Elgin Streets Tuesday as the province-wide community college faculty strike continues through its fifth week.

“We wanted to come down here and have a rally of our own so that our voices are truly heard,” said student Tiffany Curran, speaking to SooToday.

Each of the group’s members were enrolled in Sault College’s Bachelor of Science in Nursing program, stating they were there to represent themselves as individual students affected by the strike and to represent Sault Ste. Marie as part of a province wide rally, inviting other students to join them Wednesday and Thursday.

Curran said they intended to deliver written testimonials from students, detailing how the strike has affected them, to Sault MPP Ross Romano’s office, with the hope he will pass them on to the governing Liberals at Queen’s Park.

The students say they want a quality education after having paid tuition for the entire semester.

Students across the province plan to rally Tuesday through Thursday as striking OPSEU-represented faculty members vote on whether to accept the latest offer from the College Employer Council (the CEC, the group representing Ontario’s 24 community colleges) and get back to work or not.

“We really don’t want to give an opinion on that (the voting) today. We want to draw the focus to our concerns and how we’re being impacted,” Curran said.

“I don’t want to be a part of the politics (between OPSEU-represented faculty and the colleges),” said Victoria Frayling.

“I just want to get back to class. If we (students) stay at home and do nothing, we don’t get to have a say later, so I wanted to come out and stand up for us,” Frayling said.

A ‘yes’ vote from the majority of voting faculty would mean they would accept the CEC’s offer, which includes a 7.75 per cent salary increase over four years and a promise to enhance full-time employment opportunities for part-time teaching staff, 

A ‘yes’ vote would mean classes could possibly resume Nov. 20.

Meanwhile, OPSEU is calling for a no vote and hiring of more full-time faculty and more academic control for professors and instructors over curriculum.  

Tuesday’s small student rally, and others across the province, are grassroots rallies and not organized by any students union.

"On behalf of Sault College Students Union, we want to reiterate that we are remaining neutral regarding the bargaining parties. However we support and highly respect any student led initiatives to have their voices heard in a respectful manner and we encourage them to continue educating themselves on both sides of the bargaining process and continue to voice their concerns,” stated the Sault College Student Union (SCSU) in an email Tuesday.