Concordia University students unhappy with elimination of semester break after strike

Students at Concordia University in Edmonton are upset that the school has eliminated the one-week semester break following a two-week faculty strike.

An online petition with more than 1,800 signatures on Monday is asking the institution to reconsider reducing the half-yearly winter vacation from a full week to the long Family Day weekend.

Christine Ryvers, a final semester student in a post-graduation education program, started the petition.

She said plans with family or vacations would be dashed for many of her peers. For Ryvers, who lives in Fort McMurray but stays in Edmonton for the semester, that means less time with her fiancé.

Eliminating the break will affect student well-being, she said.

“It feels a lot like a mental break from class,” Ryvers said. “College is hard. We can choose it, but sometimes it’s hard to get through it.”

An extra week was also added at the end of the semester — time that could be spent applying for jobs or entering the workforce, Ryvers said.

Challenging course load

Sophomore science student Anika Downham signed the petition.

Downham says time off from classes is crucial for keeping up with a demanding course load — especially for those, like her, who work full-time.

She would like to see the university find another way to make up for lost time, “because it just punishes students for something that was beyond our control.”

Concordia vice-president Tim Loreman said Alberta universities must provide students with a minimum number of teaching hours and because of the strike delay, the school must make up two weeks of tuition. ‘education.

“I appreciate the challenges the strike has brought to our students and I sympathize with them,” Loreman said in an email. “It wasn’t easy to cancel Reading Week, but it was better than the alternative – extending the winter semester into the summer.”

Loreman said the university will give students an extra day off Feb. 22 and is asking faculty to reduce student workloads that week.

The schedule change was announced the same day a four-year collective agreement was reached between the university and the striking faculty.

The deal has been ratified by 89% of members, according to a statement from the Concordia University Faculty Association of Edmonton, the bargaining agent for 82 full-time professors, librarians, job placement coordinators and lab instructors.

The strike, which began Jan. 4, was a first for faculty associations in Alberta and interrupted the start of the winter term for more than 2,500 students.

The university is expected to start classes on Wednesday. Classes will be online until at least January 31.

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