SMU students to rally without university support

The university's senate was unable to pass a motion requesting academic accommodation for the Student Day of Action


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SMU students won't have to spend their day at school next Wednesday if their professors okay it, despite senate decision. (Photo: Corey Davison)

Saint Mary's University students are the only ones in Halifax who will not receive university-sanctioned academic accommodation in order to attend a province-wide protest next week.

Instead, faculty will individually grant permission to those who want to attend the Student Day of Action on Feb. 2.

The Saint Mary's Students' Association put forth a motion addressing these amnesty issues at an emergency senate meeting on Wednesday. But, because nobody seconded it, the senate could not even consider it, said Barbara Bell, secretary of the senate's office.

The student leaders requested that professors allow students to attend the Student Day of Action and not penalize them for any missed work. They asked professors to show leniency on the day for students' participation marks, readings and in-class tests and assignments by re-scheduling or extending deadlines.



Similar motions have been approved at the University of King's College, Mount St. Vincent University and NSCAD University. Dalhousie's senate passed their motion on Monday.

However, Saint Mary's students will still head to Province House with their colleagues. Mike Mercer, vice president of student affairs for SMUSA said on Tuesday that they would be attending the rally regardless of the senate's decision.

It is now up to the students to decide whether they can miss class to attend the rally to protest high tuition fees in Nova Scotia.

"Senate doesn't have control over what students do or do not do," Bell said. She said the motion was merely a request and that the senate can't interfere with how faculty members choose to handle students' requests to miss class to rally.

Other routes to protest

Students may still be able to get support from professors to protest.

Jeff Power, president of Saint Mary's faculty union, said that he will be putting out a letter on Thursday encouraging faculty not penalize students who want to rally.

"I think it's an important issue and if they want to get involved and demonstrate their support for greater funding for education, I think it's a worthwhile educational experience," Power said.

Peter Twohig, Canadian research chair in Atlantic Canada studies and history professor at SMU said that faculty should make accommodations for students for this day of action the way they do for athletic events.

Twohig doesn't teach on Wednesdays, but would "absolutely" excuse students to attend the rally if he did. "I would probably actually encourage them to participate."

He said that the discussion around higher education is something that students need to be involved in.

"We in Nova Scotia ... really struggle with the issue of high tuition fees. Even when some provinces have made a move, Ontario and Nova Scotia have increased fees."




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