York Deserves Tuition Refund

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

February 4, 2009 Ed Cartoon

Yesterday students at York University saw the inside of a classroom for the first time in three months. The provincial government forced an end to the strike, sending 3,340 part-time and contract faculty back to work.

As of yesterday, York students have paid tuition fees for 26 weeks of instruction, but will only receive 23 weeks of instruction. Thus York students are asking for 12 per cent of their tuition to be reimbursed â€" three missed weeks divided by 26 total weeks.

Due to the strike, York classes will carry into June, and thus students will miss out on summer moneymaking opportunities. Also, the remaining terms and exam periods will be compressed, hindering the quality of education.

Moreover, students who do not live at home will have to pay rent for the extra time spent in class in May and June.

While students will receive the same credits this school year, the quality of their education and the reputation of their degree has suffered.

Students deserve to be compensated for their lost time and money and 12 per cent of their tuition is a reasonable request.

The university has not paid its contract workers for three months and the money saved during this time should be used to repay students.

In the past, striking workers at York have received retroactive pay for the period of the strike when they settle the dispute. Since both York’s administration and the contract and part-time faculty are to blame for costing students three months of instruction, York should not get to keep the money and contract faculty should not get it either. Students suffered and it is students who should benefit.

Part of the blame might rest on the government for not stepping in until now. However, although they were slow, the back to work legislation was better late than never at all.

Additionally, the government had no way of knowing how long the strike would last, nor is it the government’s job to interfere with the affairs of a private institution.

It could take York years to recover from the negative press of the strike. It will undoubtedly result in fewer students applying to York, a trend already seen through a drop in applications from high school students to York despite a banner year for applications overall.

But there is a silver lining: other universities will hopefully learn from York’s situation going forward. In 2010, contracts at many Ontario universities are up and administrators should start to talk now to prevent similar conflicts.

It is a general tactic to leave discussions regarding contract negotiations until the last minute, but if other universities have learned anything, they will begin preliminary discussions now.

In time, York will rebuild its image and repair its tainted reputation, but in the short term its responsibility is to the students whose quality of education has been affected and whose money has been lost. A tuition refund would be a great start.

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