Classes cancelled for Congress raises concerns

Not everyone was happy about Congress 2012 rolling onto the WLU campus last week. Semra, a fourth-year business student who chose not to disclose her last name, particularly wasn’t.

“Some people were happy about it and some people weren’t too happy that we were going to be missing quality class time with our professors; quality lecture which is irreplaceable,” said Serma.

Because of the magnitude of the convention, Wilfrid Laurier University had to cancel all classes that were scheduled during the week it was running. Instead of extending the term by an extra week, the university decided to cancel classes and have the instructors provide alternate forms of learning for the students, whether that was assignments or online discussions.

According to Ray Darling, the registrar and commissioner of oaths at Laurier, this concern about lost class time was brought up last summer when they were determining how they should administer lectures during Congress. Darling said that some people during the planning stages for the convention were worried about the perception that the university was favouring Congress over its own students.

“Basically we went to students and faculty members at the time and there was no interest in extending the term an extra week,” said Darling. “What we got back was that students wanted those extra weeks at the end of the spring term before the fall terms starts because [an extended term] would obviously eat into that.”

Extending the term wasn’t the only other option that the university looked at. There was also discussion about potentially moving classes to the University of Waterloo, the other host of Congress, but Darling stated that wasn’t feasible.

“We explored going to UW for a bit, but we ended up discovering that they didn’t really have space for us,” added Darling. “[Congress] ended up running more events up [at UW] than we thought initially.”

Semra believes that the school should refund the students on that lost week of school. According to her, the week was an inconvenience.

“For me, I just felt like I didn’t learn as, many of the assignments weren’t very high quality because they were never done in the past,” she said of the assignments that were given instead of the lectures. “I would just like the tuition [back], I just think a lot of other students want the tuition back for the week that was lost.”

Since it was only one week out of the 12, Serma is essentially asking for approximately $250 in compensation from a five-course load.

“I just think that because students are paying for a service and the universities are providing a professional service,” she added, noting that she wasn’t given prior notice before the spring term that Congress was going to cancel a week’s worth of lectures.

At this point, Darling stated that they will not be refunding students based off that week alone and that many other universities in past years have done this during the their spring terms when they host Congress.

“I guess I would apologize to them in terms if they felt that they were cheated perhaps, but the university’s intent was that the instructors would still cover the curriculum that they always cover — they would just do so in a different fashion,” said Darling.

Darling added that in the fall term professors who were teaching in the spring were given three e-mails and notices about what was happening during Congress. Since intersession classes only run six weeks, professors teaching those particular courses had the option to extend the length by one week if they wished to.

“That wasn’t a week off for professors,” Darling continued, noting that he hasn’t received any formal complaints from teachers or students about Congress. “Certainly the intent was that students can still interact with professors during that week, it would just be an online environment [instead].”

Even though class work still continued online as opposed to lectures, Semra still feels this was unfair. There is currently no petition circulating, but she noted that she would sign one if there was.

“I think it just kind of broke the rhythm of the semester because we weren’t expecting it,” she said.

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