By Jessica Robinson, Editor-in-Chief
The morning of Thursday, September 28, as 70 upper-year architecture students were being told to get off the bus that was supposed to drive them to Toronto, it finally sunk in for students of the McEwen School of Architecture exactly how impactful this strike is going to be on their education.
Prior to the strike we were told that in the event of a strike our education would not be sacrificed. #educationmattersLUL 2/17
— Andrew Hrycusko (@AndrewHrycusko) September 28, 2017
Andrew Hrycusko, a fourth-year architecture student and Vice President of the Laurentian Architecture Student Association, took to Twitter to explain what had happened.
“Prior to the strike we were told that in the event of a strike, our education would not be sacrificed,” Hrycusko wrote in one tweet of a 17-tweet thread.
“[On Thursday, September 28, 2017], a class at [McEwen School of Architecture] had a trip planned to Toronto to visit various buildings as case studies. This was to prepare us for the culminating project of our undergraduate degree,” he said.
Professors that had already embarked on field trips were given permission by the union, LUFA, to complete the trips. But there was a miscommunication about the trips that had not left yet. Students were left to conduct the field trips themselves; but when students boarded the bus, they were told that the company would not be driving them to their destination.
“Students [had] hotels and tours booked but no bus and so our year and learning has been torpedoed by [Laurentian],” Hrycusko said.
“The learning being lost at [McEwen School of Architecture] could affect our year. It’s time for [Laurentian] to decide if they care about students. They should accept responsibility for the damage they cause.”
Jim Ketchen, President of Laurentian University Faculty Association, explained that he was initially under the impression that all the field trips in question were already underway.
“I get a phone call about some field trips going. I thought they were referring to trips that were already on, and I said, that’s not a problem, we’re not going to call them back,” he says. “And then later I find out that they’re about to go on a trip; you can’t be doing that.”
“Our members involved say that’s fine, we’re not going—but is it okay if the students go? I’m okay with the students going, they’re adults! Let them go. That’s fine,” Ketchen says.
When administration found out that faculty would not be accompanying students on the field trip, they called the bus company to cancel the transportation for liability reasons.
“This is a trip that was planned prior to the strike obviously,” says Alex Freedman, Laurentian University’s Chief of Staff. “Once the faculty walked off, there was no supervision on the bus. As a Laurentian field trip, there’s liability if there aren’t faculty supervising the students on a bus that we’ve rented.”
“As soon as the Dean of Science, Engineering and Architecture, Dr. Osman Abou-Rabia, found out, he called the bus lines and said, we can’t allow this to go ahead for liability reasons,” Freedman says. “At that point, the field trip had to be called off, because the only supervision on the bus were some senior year students, which don’t qualify from a liability perspective.”
This all happened on the Thursday morning of the strike, because the Dean hadn’t been made aware of what was happening with the trip.
“Osman is also part of the negotiating team [for Laurentian admin], so he had been in Toronto,” Freedman explains. “As soon as he got back and found out what was going on, it was a pretty swift decision to make, from my understanding.”
“Now, some students apparently did continue; they got into private cars and they went anyhow, which is of course their right,” Freedman says. “But as far as being a formal Laurentian thing with a Laurentian-sponsored bus, we are then liable for whatever may happen, and we weren’t able to do that.”
In the end, somewhere between 35 and 40 of the intended 70 architecture students managed to make it to Toronto for the trip and tours on their own.
“After we basically got kicked off the bus, we thought, we’re all fourth years, about half of us have cars; let’s just drive down,” explains Alexander Mayhew, a fourth year architecture student, who is also a contributor to the Lambda.
Mayhew says it actually got “worse” from there.
“We realized there were only two tours—from the same firm, that had done two different buildings—but the rest of it, there was no planned activities. It was just walk in and walk around,” he says.
“But we’re a big group, 40 of us. A lot of the places said no, we can’t handle 40 people, or you can’t take pictures in this building, you can’t see anything. So we were all like, what the hell? We were gonna come down, even without the strike, and there was no planning? The profs didn’t contact any of these people? It was quite painful. So it worked out, but it kind of didn’t.”
By the weekend, some students decided to stay in Toronto for Nuit Blanche; some chose to return to Sudbury; and the rest felt their best bet was to head home for an early reading week. Their biggest collective concern is navigating the next few weeks so that the strike impedes on their education as little as possible.
“Everyone on the trip just want[ed] to be given the opportunity to complete our case studies and prepare for our final projects,” says Andrew Hrycusko. “We all hope that the administration will see that the students just want to get back to work.”
The Lambda will continue to post updates on the strike as it unfolds at thelambda.ca.