UNB students fight to keep March break in wake of strike

University of New Brunswick students have started a petition to keep their March break, says the president of the student union.

Students have started petition against proposed amended schedule designed to make up for lost time

University of New Brunswick students have started a petition to keep their March break, says the president of the student union.

About 2,500 signatures have been collected so far, Ben Whitney told CBC's Information Morning in Fredericton on Tuesday.

The university plans to cancel the March Reading Week in an effort to make up for class time lost due to the faculty strike that started Jan. 13 and ended Jan. 30.

UNB also plans to extend classes until April 17, with the exam period scheduled from April 22 to April 30 — including some exams scheduled on Sunday, April 27.

The proposed changes, which still require senate approval, would mean students only miss four days of classes and the summer term would begin as scheduled.

Whitney says students are under a lot of pressure in the wake of the faculty strike. He says his email inbox is overflowing with complaints and he's seeing a steady stream of worried students at his office.

"Folks are happy to be back to class, but are feeling stressed out by the proposed new schedule. The way it's been changed right now is we're going down from about 13 weeks down to about 11-and-a-half, cutting out the March break and then compressing our exam period from a little over two weeks to about eight days," he said.

"You know, we want to get our classes in and all that from what we've missed, but the new compression is causing a lot of stress."

More than missed trips

Whitney says some people may not be sympathetic because they think students are just missing out on a trip, but he says it's much more than that for many students.

"Besides the financial implications of that, you know, with non-refundable tickets and things like that, you really get into issues of students who — there's a lot of students who book job interviews over the break. There's students who go to conferences. There's students that have, you know, jobs that they have to work, and there's a lot more issues that come out of that than just, you know, 'I can't take a trip,'" he said.

Peter McDougall, UNB's associate vice-president for human resources and organizational development, says students have legitimate concerns.

That's why the administration is recommending that there be no tests or due dates during what was supposed to be Reading Week, he said.

"The university is, of course, very mindful of the fact that this labour disruption has had an impact on students. We're trying to do our very best in the time that we have to minimize that impact. That's why the academic calendar that's been proposed by the registrars resulted in only a loss of four teaching days and still got us finished before the end of April," McDougall said.

The university senate is expected to vote on the proposed term schedule during meetings Tuesday and Wednesday.

A ratification vote on the tentative agreement reached between the university administration and the Association of University of New Brunswick Teachers is also expected to be held on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The tentative agreement calls for salary increases of 2.5 per cent in the first two years of the contract, with any increase in the third year to be determined through arbitration, according to the president of the AUNBT.

Meanwhile, the student council is asking the university to compensate students for costs associated with last month's strike by 550 full-time professors and librarians.

They are seeking a rebate on tuition.