As you drive towards the entrance to UNBC’s main campus in Prince George, one can’t help but feel the intensity of strike action as you come around the bend of University Way.
Professors, instructors and faculty members walked, marched, waved and moaned in frustrated conversations as they took to the picket lines early this morning (Nov. 7) in response to failed negotiations with the post-secondary school.
For some, this is the second time in five years they had to fight for fair contracts and benefits in order to continue their students’ education.
.@UNBCFA sets up traffic cones across UNBC’s main entrance as part of its strike action this AM. People can still access the campus, but most are being stopped by marching faculty members explaining what’s going on | #CityOfPG @PGMatters pic.twitter.com/ReAB9Z8g1A— Kyle Balzer (@KyleBalzer) November 7, 2019
This is the case for Paul Sanborn, an associate professor in ecosystem science and management specializing in forestry, who’s been with UNBC since 2002.
“This is the best job I’ve ever had,” he told PrinceGeorgeMatters amongst dozens of his peers as the acting captain of the midday picket line shift, further explaining they simply don’t want a repeat of 2015, but it’s a step they had to take to make a statement.
“We don’t do this with a lot of joy. This is not where we belong, we belong in our classrooms with our students, we belong in our research labs with our graduate students. It takes a lot to get us into a situation like this, but we’re committed and we’ll see this through.”
Sanborn says he was up until 10 p.m. last night (Nov. 6) ensuring his students have enough material to work on their own while he and their other professors endure the cold winter days ahead.
He says one of the joys in teaching at UNBC’s Prince George campus is not just helping students get a quality education at a smaller institution, but he gets to see them apply their skills in higher-level courses.
“Often we have a chance to teach the same students more than once as they progress through their degrees,” said Sanborn, who explains he can get as many as 70 students in one class.
“A lot of my students are in forestry and I may get to teach them two or three times as they go through their degrees and you really get to see people grow up. It’s quite magical, and so that’s the kind of personal contact that you really can’t get in a bigger [school].”
Some of Sanborn’s students actually joined him on the picket lines showing their support along with a larger group of young people that came marching up University Way, chanting, shouting and cheering on their instructors.
“It’s very heartening,” he said. “My experience four years ago, when we had a strike before, we had a good showing from the students. So that can’t help but be a vote of confidence.”
Talks broke off early this morning between UNBC and the UNBCFA, and though he couldn’t comment on his team’s expectations moving forward, Sanborn went into more details of why accepting a job with the school was one of the best decisions he’s made.
“I taught a couple of courses part-time when I was with the [forests] ministry, had a good time and liked the students. I figured maybe I could do this full-time, so a job came up and that’s how I ended up here and it was the smartest thing I ever did. It’s been a wonderful career, this is a great institution and I’ve learned so much; I’ve had the chance to work with so many smart, interesting people and have great students as well.”
Faculty members are set to rotate in four-hour shifts on a daily basis, except for weekends, and will remain on the picket lines as long as needed.
About 30 UNBC students march up University Way in solidarity for their professors. Notable chants include…— Kyle Balzer (@KyleBalzer) November 7, 2019
“What do we want? Fair contracts! When so we want them? Now!”
And this one 🎥 | #CityOfPG @PGMatters pic.twitter.com/l1PlnqyNVW