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Concordia part-time teachers on strike

With just weeks left in the Winter semester, Concordia’s part-time teachers are going on strike.

Roughly 20 classes will be cancelled starting March 31, and the number will increase if an agreement cannot be reached.

“We will be walking out of about a dozen departments,” said Maria Peluso of the Concordia Union of Part-time Faculty Association (CUPFA).

She said that walkouts will take place on days with the fewest classes, but said that the union will up the ante should the administration “fail to respond.” More classes will be cancelled week-by-week, and Winter exams could be interrupted if negotiations continue through April.

The announcement was made in front of a roomful of teachers and Montreal media at a press conference on March 26.

In an email sent to all students, the administration tried to reassure students that their winter term would not be affected. Students are still expected to attend classes and write take-home exams.

“If the professor does not appear for the course, it is nonetheless the student’s responsibility to turn in any work due for the course to the department office responsible for the course immediately,” reads the statement.

The Concordia Student Union, several of Quebec’s teacher’s unions, and at least two of Concordia’s student faculty associations have sided with CUPFA’s job action.

Concordia’s 900 part-time faculty members teach 40 per cent of classes at the university. They are asking for wages equal to those of full-time staff at Concordia and their counterparts at other universities.

The union has been without a contract since 2002.

– Ben Ngai, with files from Karen Fournier

The Concordian (CUP)

Program to address shortage of sign language interpreters

In the face of a critical nationwide shortage of interpreters, anyone with an interest in sign language will have the chance to try their hand at a new program this fall at Lakeland College in Alberta.

“The first year is called the Deaf Studies Program, and it’s a certificate program,” said Debra Russell, Peikoff Office Chair in Deafness at the University of Alberta and Director of the Western Canadian Centre of Studies in Deafness.

“Students have 10 months to study American Sign Language, deaf culture, deaf arts and literature, that kind of thing.”

From there, students can enter the two-year diploma program: Sign Language and Interpretation, which takes 16 to 18 students per term. Some courses will be available online or offered on weekends, while some will be intensive, three-week face-to-face affairs.

Russell said there are a number of factors contributing to the shortage of sign language interpreters.

“The inclusion of video relay services (VRS), which employs interpreters, is probably the most growing employer in North America,” she said.

VRS allows deaf people to communicate through sign language via videoconference, which employs a large number of qualified interpreters. The face-to-face interpretative service has someone speak to an interpreter, who then signs through the screen to the deaf recipient.

Other factors boosting the demand for interpreters include the consistent enrolment of deaf children in public schools from K-12 and the numerous health, legal, and work-related services they require.

– Kirsten Goruk

The Gateway (CUP)

1,000 crickets released in rez

1,000 live crickets were emptied into the hallways of a student dormitory at Nova Scotia’s St. Francis Xavier University as a pre-hockey game prank.

The March 16 stunt resulted in at least one student leaving the residence due to a phobia of insects, and two students being fired as residence executives.

Residents of Thompson and Tompkins targeted rival dormitory Chisholm and Gillis in advance of the university’s residence hockey tournament, the Xavier Cup. The two residences were scheduled to play against each other in a hockey tournament on March 18.

At a meeting with university officials on March 17, Chisholm and Gillis residence president Sheryl MacAulay denied having had any advance knowledge of the prank.

Later that day, four individuals came forward. But student union president Adam Harris and university officials later learned that MacAulay and the residence’s vice-president did in fact know about the prank before it happened, contradicting their earlier statements.

“The house leaders had just told us 24 hours before that they weren’t involved. This is why we asked them to resign,” explained Harris. “Many people in the residence knew [about] and were involved with purchasing the crickets…It wasn’t just these four girls that organized it. There were reports that they collected money from the rest of the house and had been planning this.”

Both residences were removed from the Xavier Cup, and the university also imposed undisclosed sanctions on several students.

Andrea Forbes, the student union’s vice-president of student relations, said that bonding activities are being planned for the two residences.

– Nikki Johnston and Ashley Fletcher

The Xaverian Weekly (CUP)