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McGill social work students plan to strike from in-person classes, stay online


Dissatisfaction brewing for weeks at McGill's School of Social Work has led to a rebellion, as undergraduates voted on Monday to refuse to return to in-person classes for at least a month after the scheduled date of Jan. 24.

Details about the strike vote are still unclear. A student association for undergraduate social work students will officially announce the news on Tuesday, according to a brief statement by one of the student leaders.

A general assembly held for the student association had high turnout, said that student, Jo Roy, and the vote passed with 95 per cent support.

Roy told CTV that the student society believes there are 140 students in the bachelor's program, and that just over half, 73, attended the meeting. Of those, 70 voted to strike.

That's a margin "I am sure would be consistent with the rest of our program," Roy wrote.

McGill's administration hasn't yet responded to the student association or indicated whether it plans to accept their decision, said another social work student who helped advocate for the vote, Codey Martin.

McGill hasn't yet responded to a request for comment from CTV News.

Roy said it seems doubtful McGill would decide to fail or otherwise punish the entire cohort for refusing to attend in person, if the vote does have that level of support.

"We are going into a workforce that is desperate for social workers," Roy wrote, saying McGill would risk a black eye not just in its public image but with the Canadian Association of Social Work Education.

"McGill would have a lot to lose if they tried to force us back now."

Under the terms of the strike vote, students would keep doing online learning until Feb. 25, a month past the school's planned return-to-class date, and then they'd re-evaluate in a new general assembly on Feb. 25.

The students say they're worried not just about their own infection risk, but about their clients. Third- and fourth-year students spend much of their time in practicum-type settings, working in the community.

"Telling students that they need to come to class in poorly ventilated and maintained buildings, only for McGill to send those students to work with vulnerable people on other days of the week, is a risk and threat to the communities we serve," the student society wrote in its strike resolution.

The vote also came as a response to McGill overruling the School of Social Work administration earlier this month, the student society wrote.

Social work students were told by their school director on Jan. 4 that the school "had independently decided to continue online learning for courses until February 25th," they wrote.

Two days later, the director emailed them again to explain that he'd learned he was "not authorized" to make that decision and that the social work faculty had to abide by the rest of the university's schedule.

"The [School of Social Work] and faculty are more than capable of making sound decisions regarding pedagogy in the midst of this public health crisis," the students wrote.

This is a developing story that will be updated. Top Stories

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