UTech strike ends but students now make demands

UTech strike ends but students now make demands

Observer writer

Thursday, November 07, 2019

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STUDENTS at the University of Technology's (UTech) Papine campus are awaiting a final decision on whether their exams will be postponed following the near two-week suspension of classes due to a strike by the academic staff.

In the first full day of classes after the 11-day strike, students were invited to a meeting with President Professor Stephen Vasciannie on the school's campus yesterday. Vasciannie apologised to the student body for the strike, which he said interrupted classes at a crucial point in the semester.

“It is not a strike against you, it is a strike against me,” the university president said in his opening remarks at the meeting. In response to a question regarding the extension of the exam timetable, Professor Vasciannie expressed uncertainty about agreeing to such a demand, but stated that the request was indeed valid.

“If we make any adjustments to the exam timetable we will take into account that you have lost 11 or 12 days of teaching,” he said. But he cautioned that a postponement of exams until January “will cause a chain reaction to everything else”.

He promised, however, that normality would return to the university as early as next week, but reminded the students that another meeting had been set with the University's Academic Staff Union (UTASU) for next Monday, where further discussions would be held about the ongoing retroactive payment issue, which had led to the strike.

“I am optimistic that if the matter falls through (on Monday) then the issue will go through to the Industrial Disputes Tribunal and the lecturers will have no choice but to resume teaching,” he said.

The Students' Union, led by President Kahlil Hutchinson, laid out several proposals to Professor Vasciannie that the union feels would benefit the students who had been greatly affected by the industrial action.

Students want:

1. Only material taught prior to the strike, as well as material that can only be taught in the remaining weeks, to be assessed on examinations.

2. An adjustment of the semester's schedule, either by extending the date from December 13 to December 16, or eliminating the study break period and initiating contact hours for students.

3. A waiver of the $8,000 late fee that was attached to students' accounts who failed to pay their full tuition fees by October 29, 2019.

4. An uploading of all class content onto the university's learning platform Moodle.

5. An extension of the due dates for assignments that were affected by the strike.

6. A special allowance be given to international students whose return flight preparations would have been interrupted by the strike.

7. A reduction of semester 2 fees by five per cent and/ or decrease of the enrolment commitment fee from $28,000 to $25,000.

8. Push forward exams to the first two weeks of January.

Professor Vasciannie promised that a response to all requests and proposals would be given by this afternoon.

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