College faculty strike about more than job status, teacher says
La Cité instructor says the right to pass or fail students is essential to academic freedom
While much of the attention of a province-wide college strike has focused on the issue of job stability, one part-time instructor says many of her colleagues are also fighting for something they feel is essential: the right to pass or fail students.
Tens of thousands of college students across Ontario have had classes cancelled since the strike began on Monday.
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Vicky Panteleakos, a partial load teacher at Ottawa's Collège La Cité in the respiratory therapy program, said academic freedom isn't as much of a concern at her school in her department.
But she told CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning colleagues at other schools say it is an issue for them.
"It's not the problem of knowing what to teach and what not to teach, that's not the freedom they are looking for," Panteleakos said.
"It's more the freedom of whether the students should actually pass or not."
Teachers 'not exclusive voice'
Panteleakos said sometimes when students are unhappy after they fail a simulation or other practical test, they go to administrators to fight for their marks.
She said in a field like health care, that can be problematic.
"You don't want a nurse or a [respiratory therapist] who just passed because they had other help elsewhere and not because they were capable of doing so," she said.
"You want to make sure they know their techniques and are doing things right with [your] family."
A face from the college strike line: Vicky Panteleakos is a part-time lecturer who joined us to talk about living from contract to contract. <a href="https://t.co/8epJNMqgHO">pic.twitter.com/8epJNMqgHO</a>—@OttawaMorning
The Ontario Public Service Employees Union workers, which includes professors, instructors, counsellors and librarians, walked off the job on Monday.
It is also arguing for at least half of faculty to be full-time, for more stable contracts for employees of at least a year, better pay and a collegial senate model.
The College Employer Council has argued if the schools meet the union demand to make half of all faculty full-time, it would cost more than $250 million and lead to a net loss of 3,350 contract positions.
As to the issue of academic control, the college argues faculty "are not the exclusive voice" and that programs meet "provincially mandated standards and the requirements of accreditation bodies and industry partners."
The union argues ensuring academic freedom and longer contracts for faculty are "no-cost items" for the colleges, but said they haven't been able to come to an agreement with the College Employer Council on the issues.
Panteleakos, who is also a casual worker at the Ottawa Hospital, understands the uncertainty that comes with contract work.
Her contracts at the college are 15 weeks, which give her stability only on a short-term basis. She says while it makes it hard for her, it can also be hard for students.
"It's not to the advantage of a student to have a bunch of [teachers] on partial loads," she said.
More than 60,000 Ontario college students have signed an online petition demanding their money back because of the faculty strike.
Panteleakos understands their frustration.
"It is a lot of money, they are paying for a service, and I understand that," she said. But she added she is fighting for the possibility of more stable work.
"If the college offered full time, I'd take it. Because I love it."
With files from CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning