Did international students want to strike?

The Hall building at Concordia’s Sir George Williams campus. CATHERINE REYNOLDS/The Concordian

A week after the end of the strike, international students reflect on its effects

With the reading week strike now passed, Concordia students can look back on its organization and results. International students are uniquely situated in their opinions on the strike.

From immigration requirements, to living far from their families, these students have many boxes to check in order to study at Concordia. Many international students had to take all this into consideration as the reading week strike approached. 

The Concordian spoke with a first-year Armenian-Lebanese psychology student who wished to stay anonymous. She recalled first learning about the strike while on Instagram the weekend before it was supposed to happen. 

“I was basically thinking, why?” she said. “Even though they had their reasons listed out, I wasn’t really relating, I didn’t understand.” 

Having to pay 12 thousand dollars per semester, she wanted to get as much out of her time in university as possible. “I was worried that the teachers would actually cancel their classes; I didn’t want to miss anything,” she said. 

The picketing, however, did not worry her. “When it’s a soft picket, they don’t actually get in the way if you go into class, and the class I was going to was like that, so I thought, ‘I can go.’” She decided to keep showing up to class that week. None of her classes were cancelled, although she did notice they were emptier than usual. “The two days I had to attend class, there was really nothing going on,” she said.

Looking back on the strike, she said: “Overall, I get it […] They should find different ways to get [mental health] services, because that’s really important.” On the other hand, she added: “I don’t agree with the way they’re doing it. It all seems a bit immature.” 

The Concordian also spoke with Adanna, a Nigerian third-year communications studies major who did not wish for her full name to be disclosed. She expressed mixed feelings about the strike: “Personally, I felt a bit of relief, in the sense that students are speaking out about mental health,” she said. She had hoped that a fall reading week would be implemented this year but was disappointed to see only a reading day on the school calendar. 

That being said, Adanna still went to most of her classes during the strike. Both finances and academic performance were on her mind: “Missing out on that class might just impact my grades and my understanding of what the class is about. Every single day, every single class is important.”

However, Adanna was impressed by the effectiveness of the strike. All the classes for her minor, women’s studies, were either cancelled or held online. In one of her in-person classes, only six out of 25 students showed up.

Carla Jamet-Lange, the mobilization coordinator for the Women’s and Sexuality Studies Student Association (WSSSA), has been involved in planning for the strike since this summer.

Jamet-Lange, a French-German international student, organized most of the strike for her association and is very happy with the results. “It went well,” said Jamet-Lange. “We did a hard picket, and all the classes were cancelled [for the week].”

Despite her support for the strike, Jamet-Lange understands the apprehension many international students might have for legal and monetary reasons. She knows that many international students want to go to class and get their money’s worth, which was made possible by most student associations using soft picketing.

Jamet-Lange says that the question of legality was also considered in preparation for the strike. “Every international student thinks about legal implications when doing something legally grey,” she said. Jamet-Lange accused the University of wanting to sow fear of legal consequences by advising students to call campus security if protesters physically blocked the access to classes, which she says kept some international students from mobilizing. 

“That is just what the University wants,” she said, “[to make] people afraid and not participate in the strike.”

Jamet-Lange made sure to stress the point that “students cannot get into trouble for striking, because striking is a legal right.” She found the University’s response to the strike disappointing. 

“They were just pitting students against each other.”

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