More than 60,000 Ontario college students have signed an online petition demanding their money back because of a strike by faculty members, but a Toronto official says it's too early to talk about tuition refunds.
Jen McMillen, dean of students at Humber College, says administrators are focused on getting students through the strike, which has entered its second day.
"Our goal is to have them achieve all of their learning goals," McMillen told Metro Morning on Tuesday.
"Regardless of what the impact of this current strike is, that's what we are going to focus on. Talking about refunds is assuming that they are not going to be able to do that. We're not at that place and time."
McMillen said students are asking many "legitimate, reasonable" questions about the strike. Administrators, however, may not have all the answers.
More than 500,000 students across the province are affected by the strike at 24 Ontario colleges.
The Ontario Public Service Employees Union, which represents professors, instructors, counsellors and librarians, failed to reach a deal with the College Employer Council before a strike deadline.
McMillen said questions posed by students are many and varied.
"'What does this mean? Why did it happen? What should I do? I had a midterm scheduled today — should I write it? How long will the strike last?' All things that are very reasonable for students to be wondering about at this point in time," she said.
"We can't really predict when it will end."
McMillen said administrators are reminding students that all academic activity, including classes, tests and exams, is suspended on campuses but many support services are not. "Campuses are fully open," she said.
At Humber, for example, varsity athletics programming is continuing, while health care and student life services and peer tutoring are available. About 30,000 students at Humber are affected by the strike.
"What we are trying to do now is, as much as possible, help students understand that this is the reality that we are facing and that there are things they can be doing that we can be helping them with during the interim, while we wait for the disruption to be resolved."
McMillen said college administrators understand that student frustration with the strike is growing.
"They are invested and incredibly committed. And anyone who works with students respects and knows that commitment they have made. We are trying to do the best we can to try to help them through and stay on track," she said.
When asked if students will lose their year, she said students are urged to talk to academic advisors.
"There's nothing to indicate at this point in time that students should alter any plan or path."
She said, however, academic leaders at every public college in Ontario are focused on a plan for a return to work. No bargaining talks are currently scheduled.