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Fanshawe Pres guarantees quality education for graduates

Diana Forbes | Interrobang | News | April 3rd, 2006

Three inconvenient weeks away from the classroom has left college students around the province wondering how they will make up for lost time before the end of the semester.

Each of Ontario's 24 colleges outlined their own specific Semester Completion Strategy, which insures that all students will get the education they paid for.

Fanshawe College president Howard Rundle said by eliminating the scheduled exam week and making the most of remaining class hours, most programs will be finished by April 28.

“My impression from talking with faculty members today was that they were quite keen on ensuring students finish on time,” Rundle said of faculty's opinion on the semester extension. “Students are quite clear they want to be done on time too.”

He said while some programs, like broadcast journalism, are “on track” because students worked throughout the strike, others are harder to accommodate because the curriculum was completely stalled by the walkout.

Although some students in clinical programs with rigid course requirements will be forced to go into May.

In addition to canceling most exams, Fanshawe's Semester Completion Strategy gives students until April 3 to hand in any assignments or write tests and college withdrawal dates have been extended to April 4.

Cramming seven weeks of class into five means a workload influx for students, which causes concern for those who already have enough on their plate.

“Everything is condensed down and tests are now worth more,” said Stephanie Witt, a first-year law clerk student, who welcomed the thought of moving some of the curriculum into the next academic year. “[The strike] didn't benefit us at all.”

The additional workload is also a concern for student union president Melissa Smart.

“I think there is a concern around workload and the money students have paid to be in class,” Smart said, but added that the FSU is not considering filing a class action suit on behalf of students.

“I have said all along that students shouldn't have slacked off,” Rundle said concerning workload.

Although the hallways of Fanshawe seemed deserted during the strike, Rundle said approximately 1000 students were coming into the school and between 5000 to 6000 students logged onto Fanshawe Online each day.

“If they had a glorious holiday for three weeks it's their own fault if they are behind,” Rundle said.

Although the strike officially ended on March 24, most students around the province weren't back in class until March 28.

Each college independently decided their back-to-class date, and Rundle defended Fanshawe's decision, saying teachers and students needed that time to organize the rest of the semester.

“The Monday, the extra day, was about the students and to make sure all program requirements are met,” explained Rundle. He said the teachers he spoke to welcomed the planning day.

Smart agreed with Rundle, saying it was in everyone's best interest to have the Monday to coordinate remaining classroom hours.

“They needed the time to organize and work out the wrinkles before students could get back to class,” Smart said.

But Fanshawe faculty union president, Paddy Musson, had an opposite reaction to the class delay.

“We did not need that extra day,” Musson said. “The teachers went on strike to get more time with students. I felt like it was a punishment to be kept away from our students an extra day.”

She said teachers would have used the time on the weekend to prepare for Monday classes.

Musson said management told teachers to “cut chunks out of the curriculum” to make up for lost class time. She said the Semester Completion Strategy “short changes” the students and would like to see class hours extended either on weekends, nights or into the month of May.

But Rundle said rescheduling class hours would inconvenience students with part-time jobs, cut into homework time and cost the college a lot of money in overtime expenses. “We have not lowered standards for graduation,” Rundle said of the Semester Completion Strategy.

Those students who found themselves at a financial disadvantage due to the strike may also have options to relieve their monetary stress.

“There will be a special financial aid program in place for students who have demonstrated a financial need, like those who are on OSAP or can demonstrate extra expenses,” explained Rundle.

Rundle also stressed that individual circumstances, such as leases, employment and expensive travel arrangements, will be taken into account.

“In those situations we will work with students individually, if needed, not to inconvenience them,” explained Rundle. “Our concern is to giving students the best possible situation.”

If students have specific questions or needs, the college is asking them to contact their division to individually resolve the situation.

Rundle said the ministry of education is currently working on a plan to partially reimburse those who had to drop out of school or failed to complete semester because of complications involving the faculty walkout.

Students are asked to contact their division or Fanshawe's financial aid services at 452-4280 if they have any questions concerning their finances.
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