Transit strike prompts SMU student to drop out

Says bus was only means of getting to school.

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All transit services have been suspended since Feb. 2. Photo: Adam Scotti

Chase Sabourin made a big decision today: he dropped out of his courses at Saint Mary's University. And he lays the blame squarely on the HRM transit strike.

"I've been contemplating the decision for the last two weeks or so," he says. "I woke up today, checked the report that said the negotiations still weren't going well and I couldn't wait around."

The 19-year-old criminology student lives with his parents in Beechville. To get to his second-year classes, he would usually commute by bus, which would take him more than an hour. Without bus service, he's unable to get into the city and says cabbing each day is not an option.

"It's kind of frustrating that I had to drop out," says Sabourin. "The strike could end this week or a couple months down the road. However, I can't keep my current schedule hoping the buses will run tomorrow."

Steve Proctor, Communications Manager at Saint Mary's, makes the university's stance clear.

"[Sabourin] is entitled to make his choices as he sees fits, but I think the university would see it a little on the premature side." 

Like many universities in Halifax, SMU is suggesting alternative transportation during the strike, such as carpooling and ride shares.

"The services don't work with me and my schedule," says Sabourin, who also works 55 hours each week at several part-time jobs close to his house. With his complicated schedule, he says it is impossible to arrange rides into town.

Reaching out

Sabourin says he called SMU's Student Service Centre this morning before officially dropping all of his courses.

"I told them I'm planning on dropping out (and) my reasons for doing so and they didn't communicate any other possibilities for me to continue with them," he says. "They just accepted that I wanted to drop out because of the strike and that was it."

Proctor couldn't speak to exactly what the Student Centre would have told him, but maintains that there are other options and that missing a few days of class should not warrant dropping an entire semester.

Proctor says if a student has made a decision to drop out after only two days of the transit strike "that's certainly their decision to make. But I would like to think that there's lots of opportunities out there."

For example, the school is open to certain academic flexibilities.

"We have sent a note around to all the faculty... asking them to be as accommodating with the students as they can be within the circumstances," says Proctor. "What that means has to be worked out with the individual students and their professors."

Sabourin acknowledges that he didn't speak to any of his professors directly, only with the Student Service Centre.

No looking back

Proctor says if the strike were to end soon and Sabourin wanted to register again, "that would be a discussion we would definitely entertain with the registrar."

Still, Sabourin remains steadfast.

"I would not re-register," he says. "I've made my decision & will stick to it. I'm excited to get back there in the fall, though."

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