Nursing students at the University of Ottawa who take many of their courses through Algonquin College say they're being treated like second-class students as Ontario's college faculty strike nears the end of its fourth week.
There are two separate streams that students entering the school of nursing at the University of Ottawa are placed in. Students in the mainstream program take all their courses at the university, while those in the collaborative program take a combination of courses at the university and at Algonquin College.
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The courses they take, requirements to graduate and the bachelor of nursing degree they end up with are the same, including to whom they pay tuition: the University of Ottawa.
'I feel like we're being treated as if we're second-class.' - Tori Dawson, second-year student in the collaborative nursing program
But students in the college stream feel left behind by the university because they're missing out on classes, labs and clinical placements during the strike, while those in the other stream aren't.
"We feel very forgotten and pushed aside. And with us trying to reach out to the university, they're not reaching back and [giving] us any support," said Tori Dawson, 20, a second-year nursing student in the collaborative program.
Dawson, the vice-president of Algonquin relations with the U of O's Undergraduate Nursing Student Association, said she takes three of her five required courses at Algonquin College's Woodroffe campus — courses that have been on hold since the strike began last month.
"They're saying, 'Just wait, just sit tight.' But we've been sitting tight for four weeks, and it's time for this to end."
Hundreds of U of O students affected
More than 12,000 faculty in Ontario walked off the job Oct. 16. The Ontario Labour Relations Board has scheduled a vote next week to end the strike, and the union is advising its members to vote no.
Dawson estimates there are more than 500 University of Ottawa students taking part in the collaborative program at the Woodroffe campus, with more attending Algonquin's Pembroke campus.
Those in their third and fourth years can't attend their clinical placements, which are required to graduate and are on a strict schedule dictated by the hospitals, she said. They also would normally take all their courses through the colleges.
Dawson said she's contacted both the directors of nursing at Algonquin College and the University of Ottawa but has been dissatisfied with their responses.
'Treated as if we're second class'
"We are University of Ottawa students ... we're getting our degree from the University of Ottawa. We're paying our tuition to the University of Ottawa. But we're not getting any help from them," she said.
"I feel like we're being treated as if we're second class."
'They're going to start their second semester whether we're done our first or not.' - Geneviève Fillion, second-year student in the collaborative nursing program
The disparity between the university stream and collaborative stream has students wondering if they will have to repeat the year if they fall behind, said second-year student Geneviève Fillion.
"[The University of Ottawa] is not going to wait for us," said Fillion, 21. "They're going to start their second semester whether we're done our first or not."
The University of Ottawa said no one was available to comment Wednesday, but a statement would be forthcoming.
Another student in the collaborative program, Meagan Spoerri, 26, started a petition Wednesday afternoon calling for the university to step up and assist students in the collaborative nursing program.
By Wednesday night, it had garnered more than 540 signatures and comments, including from people who identified themselves as parents of students in the program.
Dozens of programs affected
There are around 100 collaborative programs that exist between universities and colleges across Ontario and which are affected by the strike.
In addition to the nursing program, two other programs at the University of Ottawa — digital journalism and public relations — are done in collaboration with Algonquin College, as are four programs at Carleton University.
The affected Carleton programs include interactive multimedia and design, network technology, information resource management and phototonics and laser technology, which are all part of the bachelor of information technology degree.