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January 24, 2009

York University on Strike: Where is the student right?

Do students, either as individuals or as a body, have any rights? If a student signs up for a program or course of study, do they have the right to assume they will be finished in a reasonable amount of time? In today’s crazy world of education, it would seem the answer is a resounding NO.

York University students have paid for a service which they are not currently receiving. Some students’ summer jobs and/or graduation may be jeopardized, and it is out of the hands of the students. Teaching staff wants what they want, university administrative staff want what they want – what about what the students want? What about what the students were promised when they registered? No one would ever sign up for a program anticipating taking an extra-long time to graduate, through no fault of their own. The York strike goes on, the students wait, perhaps finding temporary employment to fill the time; no one seems to care what they want or need. No one seems to notice it is their future on the line; they are merely the pawns of the educational system.

I, too, am a pawn, and have been for 22 years. From my very first strike experience (elementary school) to my last one (college 2.5 years ago), it has always bothered me that the students seem to have no say in what happens to their education, and their subsequent futures. 22 years after I began kindergarten, I am still, this very day, at the mercy of my (unnamed) post-secondary educational institution. Just one in-class credit shy of graduating in May, I received an email today from my department coordinator saying that one class has been canceled due to low registration numbers. Again. For the third time. While I do understand, rage aside, that it isn’t exactly feasible for a college to offer a class without enough students, does the college understand it is holding my future hostage – AGAIN? I am now, probably more than I ever have been, acutely aware of my own powerlessness. If I’d had any idea, when originally registering that it might take me more than two years to complete a 4-semester program, I might have had second thoughts about registering there; after all, who wants to sit around and wait for the college to decide to offer a mandatory class?

My bottom line is this: If a college or university is going to offer a program or course of study, and a student pays the fees required to participate in the course of study, they have made an agreement. The school agrees to provide the education and the student agrees to do the work necessary to earn their grades. If I had more courses to do than just one, I would likely at this point begin looking to transfer to another college. Never mind the fact it would end up costing me extra to do that, as each school offers a slightly different program, so I would have to take an extra course or two; I shouldn’t have to. Regardless of there being 100 students in the class, or 1, if a school has made the offer of a class – a mandatory class, at that – they should have to follow through. They should not have the right to play God with anyone’s future. I’m tired of waiting, hands behind my back.

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