Quebec Student Teachers Oppose Revenge for Strike Action

Quebec Student Teachers Oppose University’s Revenge for their Strike Action

Student teachers from Quebec are opposing the University of Quebec in Montreal (UQAM) administration’s campaign to punish them in for fighting for internship and study conditions that allow them to complete their studies in an affordable and dignified manner.

At UQAM, students in the Faculty of Education have been organizing themselves to put forward their demands to ensure that all students can study and complete their internships in acceptable conditions.

Various issues require action which favours the interests of the students. Even though the students actually teach, these are unpaid positions, on top of which the students are still expected to pay high fees. They have a difficult relationship with the university which does not respect their rights and their demands are not treated in a democratic manner in program committees. The cases of harassment in the internship environment and the lack of flexibility for teachers who are parents is increasing. These are not recent problems but this session the students said Enough Is Enough! and decided to strike to win their case.

On Thursday, November 17, in a general assembly the students decided to end their strike and finish their internships with their heads held high. However on Saturday, November 19, the UQAM administration decided to take revenge. In a vindictive manner it informed the students by email that those who went on strike would not be able to finish their internship, that their report cards would say they abandoned their course and they would have to resume their internship in the fall of 2023.

To use positions of power to punish students for fighting for their rights is unacceptable. For several years students who complete internships as part of their course requirements have been raising their concerns which the administration has not addressed. It is a broken democratic system. Punishing students for fighting for their rights to complete their studies in a manner which is affordable and takes their needs into account is cowardly and contemptible. The students are determined to make the UQAM administration recognize the students’ internships and make the necessary arrangements to allow them to continue their studies in acceptable conditions.

Below is the response from the Executive of the Student Teachers Student Association to the administration’s attempts to target those who participated in the strike during their teaching placements:

“Yesterday, the Board of Directors of UQAM decided to punish the students of the Faculty of Education for having dared to demand ACCEPTABLE internship conditions. Indeed, by validating the recommendations of the Commission des études, they are ready to make many 2nd, 3rd and 4th year students repeat the semester, also affecting their obtaining teaching certificates. This means approximately 750 students will be penalized in their academic career by having to withdraw from their internship and intensive courses. The Board of Directors is imposing terms of resumption on us that force students to go back to class and keep their mouths shut.

“Over the past year, we have tried to advocate improvements to our practicum conditions in the program committees, in our regular meetings with the Dean, by voting for a strike week in the Winter 2021 session and by sending an open letter to the faculty that was signed by over 1,100 students! There was no response. Thus, the strike was proposed as a reaction to UQAM’s bad faith on this issue. After having let the conflict marinate for five weeks, UQAM now wants to punish us for having gone on strike when it is responsible for the strike’s duration and its existence.

“At the November 15 and 18 student commissions, some faculty commissioners stated clearly and directly that the repression of education students will serve as an example to prevent future strikes. In the past, student strikes have not been met with the threat that the students will be deemed to have abandoned their courses. This measure, which breaks the social contract, is a precedent that will have a serious impact on our democratic society. 

“Let us remember that student strikes are responsible for many social changes that have allowed, among other things, access to higher education for the majority of the Quebec population. They are a tool that must continue to exist to allow us to win important struggles, including for paid internships. Attempting to impede them is a serious attack on our democratic rights, and we cannot remain inactive in the face of this attack.

“Thus, in keeping with the directives of the last general assemblies, the ADEESE will hold an emergency general assembly with the strike being the sole agenda item. The UQAM administration is trying to drive a wedge between the penalized students and the others in a move to divide and rule. The members fought on principles of solidarity; it is important to continue doing so in order to protect the members whose sessions are at stake. Let us remember that it is unimaginable for UQAM to push back the semester of 5,200 students.

“We submit the following proposal to the Commission des études de l’UQAM:

“- Whereas the conditions for returning after a strike recommended by the Studies Commission for 20 years have established a non-punitive standard for students (see examples in: 2005, 2007, 2009 [faculty strike], 2012 and 2015), 2018;

“- That the due date for assignments (including practicum assignments) in the fall 2022 semester be extended to January 9, 2023, the beginning of the winter 2023 semester;

“- That accommodation measures be put in place for intensive courses so that no one receives a withdrawal notice, and that teachers be able to grant an “incomplete” in the student’s internship record;

“- That, for the other courses, no retake session be imposed in the classroom, neither in synchronous nor in asynchronous mode;

“- That the files of students who have gone on strike be analyzed by a committee on which a student sits to determine the success of the internship notwithstanding the number of days missed;

“- That UQAM make a commitment so that no student who has gone on strike will receive an incomplete mention for the sole reason of having gone on strike.

“The ADEESE executive continues to work actively. We are counting on student solidarity to work together to complete our session. Let’s not let UQAM create a climate of fear and put an end to student democracy!

“With rage and love, thank you,
“The ADEESE executive

“Interns united will never be defeated.”

(Translated from the original French)