Student strike - Teachers are apprehensive about the return to class

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


by Lisa-Marie Gervais

Translation:  Travis Ahearn

Despite the lack of instruction, they will have to evaluate student performance

If a student has only finished half a course, on what is he/she marked? Annie Lalancette, part-time faculty in the Department of Geography, Planning and Environment at Concordia University is wondering this, herself.  ''I'm a teacher and I have no idea.  I only gave 7 out of 13 courses.  Frederick Lowy (the University's president) says that professors have academic liberty to evaluate students, but how does one do this, when some haven't even been given the course content?'' she asks.

The PhD student points out that the only accommodation that professors have been given is a 5-day extension for the submitting marks.  ''I have two choices has a teacher.  Either I give a half-semester of courses and I evaluate the students based on that and sacrifice the quality of a diploma from Concordia, or I tell them to send their work over the Internet and I evaluate that.  That, however, devalues in-class teaching.  We no longer need teachers.''

Course cancellations have occurred in certain universities, but at Concordia, the administration has insisted that teachers continue on as normal, even in departments where a strike situation exists.  ''In our department, the management took a hardline against the students.  We didn't receive any support.  We are told to be creative, but that puts so much pressure on the shoulders of teachers'', added Véronique Bussières, who studies and teaches in the same department as her colleague, Annie.  ''Some teachers end up being against the strike, in anger, not because they are against its principles, but because of the position in which they find themselves because of it'', she deplores. ''They are caught between a rock and a hard place and it is they who end up suffering.''

Concordia's administration informed all teaching faculty that in cases where too many A's are given, verifications will be carried out.  ''They'll check our evaluations if our students are successful, but if everyone fails, they won't do anything'', denounces Annie Lalancette.

Although worries about the outcome of the semester are shared by many in the college and university network, some teachers are offered a bit more understanding.  Caroline Proulx, a French teacher at Ahuntsic college, is thankful for the cooperation on the part of management.  This doesn't prevent an overall sense of anxiety among teachers.  ''We are worried, because the transmission of knowledge is fundamental for us.  We won't offer up a gift to the government'', said Ms. Proulx, involved with 'Profs contre la hausse' (Teachers Against the Hike).

Clearly, it is out of the question for teachers to demonstrate too much flexibility, such accepting to offer courses on the weekend, or to cut into their two months of summer leave.  This would take the pressure off of the government, she points out.  ''We want the government to be obligated to negotiate.  For the moment, it is difficult to predict anything whatsoever regarding courses starting up again.  Ms. Proulx recognises that the situation remains totally unclear.  We are happy to see that youth is mobilising, but we're looking forward to seeing them in class...but not at any cost.''




Charest plays down the protest movement

Having just returned from Brazil, Premier Jean Charest played down the student protest movement. ''The student movement isn't monolithic.  A majority of students  have kept up with their courses.''

He also maintained that the movement should not be considered a strike.  ''It isn't a strike.  The Government of Quebec is not their employer, and the students are not the employees of the Quebec government.''

The Premier also declared that the tuition increase is not an election issue, and disagrees that others consider this a question that could be debated during an election campaign.  ''We don't see this as an election issue, and there isn't an election right now.'' (The Canadian Press) 

Original article on Le Devoir's website (French)