Happy belated birthday Humber — the Big Five-Oh. Your party got postponed, and we didn’t get to celebrate until this past Wednesday, but that’s only because 2017 was a busy year.
Looking back, it was a mostly tough one on Humber students.
In January, students returning to the college after the winter break, almost immediately came face to face with a slight complication: norovirus.
More than 200 students from Humber North’s residence were hospitalized with symptoms of nausea, vomiting and diarrhea for upwards of 48 hours. The college went through an intense sanitation purge of its cafeterias and bathrooms, but everyone was paranoid for a while after that outbreak.
Terrible way to start a semester, but it wasn’t the most trying thing to befall the college. No, that happened in October when college teachers, counsellors and librarians walked off the job and the Ontario-wide college strike began.
For five weeks beginning Oct. 16, the Ontario Public Service Employee Union (OPSEU) would butt heads with the College Employer Council (CEC) while 500,000 students were left out of class and without a clue as to what would happen to their school year.
The semester was salvaged — courtesy of back-to-work legislation by the provincial Liberals — at the cost of a revised schedule that no longer had room for a reading week (Feb. 19 to Feb. 23) and a fall term that would carry over into 2018.
Students returned to classes mid-November with mixed feelings: happy to be back, but jaded and frustrated with what they went through and how everything will play out for them. The strike would affect them in varying degrees depending on their programs.
Humber revealed that some 2,000 students — including 179 international students — decided to drop out altogether because of the hardships and uncertainty they experienced with the strike. It is unknown whether they’ll re-enroll in Humber again or decide on a college outside of Ontario.
Outside of Humber, working students were treated to a minimum wage increase by the province. It increased to $14 per hour from the previous $11.25, (it will increase again to $15 per hour in 2019). This news, however, was bittersweet as some establishments, mostly certain Tim Hortons’ locations, decided to cut employees’ paid breaks and worker benefits to save money.
Numerous employees are complaining that with unpaid breaks and having to cover their own benefits they’re worse off than before. This has caused an uproar with people boycotting Timmies online and joining unions in rallies outside the coffee shops.
And to top it all off, the LinX lounge at the North campus ran dry in September when the bar underwent a change in management, whether or not it will ever stock alcohol again is still up in the air.
From avoiding norovirus to freaking out over the college strike, and not being able to grab a cold one between classes — it’s been a hell of a year. Let’s hope 2018 treats students and the college better than 2017 did.
Let’s have a toast for the upcoming winter semester.
Cheers, drink up…