Looming Dal strike resembles 2002 walkout

As the potential for a 2012 Dalhousie faculty strike looms, it has some people fearful that is will resemble the last strike at Atlantic Canada’s largest university.

The Dalhousie Faculty Association (DFA) is legally able to strike beginning Mar. 10 (Ian Froese photo).

By Ian Froese

As the potential for a 2012 Dalhousie faculty strike looms, it has some people fearful that is will resemble the last strike at Atlantic Canada’s largest university.

Mike Smit, currently a postdoctoral fellow at York University, wrote two posts on his Dalhousie student politics blog about the school’s last strike in 2002. He says he fully understands the concerns that current students are facing, as he experienced a strike firsthand a decade ago.

“The campus was a ghost town,” Smit recalled via Skype last week. “You’re not studying. You’re not at the library. You’re terrified about what will happen if it doesn’t work out. It’s frightening.”

In 2002, the Dalhousie Faculty Association strike halted classes for nearly a month, welcoming students back to the classroom on Apr. 1. In an effort to salvage the semester, in-class instruction was extended to Apr. 27. Most exams were held throughout April during regular class hours.

As an executive member of the Computer Science society, Smit made an effort to keep his faculty informed of where negotiations were heading.

Related Resources
History of strikes at Dal
Post-strike workload

“What students appreciated the most was information,” said Smit. “The first question they asked was, when is this damn thing going to be over? And second, what was this damn thing about?”

Now, the DFA is legally able to strike beginning Mar. 10, two weeks after the conciliator filed his report. This comes more than a week after conciliation between the DFA and Dal administration came to a close. They are expected to return to the negotiating table this week.

Marjorie Stone, McCulloch Chair in English, is hoping to avoid seeing her fifth Dalhousie strike. She was the official liaison between the faculty and student groups in 2002.

“It’s very stressful for students,” said Stone. “I’m hopeful that there will be a lot of information coming that will give guidance to students in how to get through the strike (if it happens).”

Smit isn’t convinced that the strike will be avoided.

“If I were a betting man I’d say the strike is going to happen,” said Smit, recommending students do some self-directed studying and find a reliable source of information about the strike negotiations. He conceded there will be a lot of biased and false information floating around, especially with the advent of social networking.

“To the individual student, you’re going to have to grin and bear it. There’s not much you can do.”

Related audio
Majorie Smith, McCulloch Chair in English, discusses what students should do if a strike occurs. 

Majorie Smith, McCulloch Chair in English, discusses what students should do if a strike occurs.