At your service…within reason

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As the strike continues into its second week, the remaining students at UNB Saint John are trying to make do with no classes and more free time on their hands. In addition, they now have to contend with reductions among some of the student services.

Kevin Bonner, director of student services acknowledges that many have gotten past the “initial fear and confusion” over the strike’s possible implications and says, “We’re trying to get the idea out there that services are available.” He points out that several services continue to be in operation for the students’ benefit. Nevertheless, there are noticeable reductions in some areas of campus activity.

“There are some services, such as food services, that have diminished, simply because the volume is not there, obviously,” says Bonner. “We don’t have the numbers on campus like we used to.”

On Wednesday, Jan. 15, the Baird Dining Hall began operating at reduced hours with less staff. Dining hours are now between 11:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. seven days a week. Due to the strike and the lower traffic of students, the operating staff at the cafeteria has also been reduced. Currently, the manager, a cook and a caterer are working there daily.

Bonner explains that it is difficult due to the lower volume of students and staff who use the cafeteria on a daily basis. “Well, there’s no doubt that the volume of students on campus is greatly reduced and of course, there is a number of faculty who are not here,” says Bonner. “There are losses in terms of day-to-day traffic of people being here.”

Although many students have left campus, Bonner points out there are still several students living on campus. “There are students who are continuing to be there- international and resident students, so there continues to be activity,” says Bonner. “I think what the university is struggling with is trying to find the balance, for example, of food services and to make sure we have people here to supply the services while understanding there’s simply not the volume of students we would expect this time of year.”

The Tim Hortons has reduced its hours and are now open from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday to Friday. In addition, the Commons Café in the Hans W. Klohn Commons has been closed. Howler’s Lounge remains open on Thursday and Friday afternoons but no longer serves pub food.

The management of the cafeteria declined to comment on the matter. However, Compass Group Canada, who provides food and catering services, released an email, stating, “Please know that Chartwells’ employees at UNBSJ will continue to meet their work schedules and continue to provide quality food service as expected.”

On a positive note, Bonner says students have been making good use of the available services, such as counselling, financial aid and the writing center. “The counselling center remains busy,” says Bonner “We’re encouraging students to talk about financial information, scholarship information and other kinds of things they could have been putting off such as resumes and transcripts.”

In addition, apart from a few technical departments, the vast majority of library services are still available.

To pass the time Bonner encourages students to keep themselves occupied during the strike. “We’re encouraging them to make the best use of the time that is thrust upon them now,” says Bonner. They expect to be in class now, going through their syllabus, etc. That’s not happening at the moment, and so the issue is “what will you do in this kind of environment?”

“Students can use the university in some of the ways we’ve prescribed to keep on top of their assignments and course readings,” says Bonner. “So again, it remains business as usual for many areas in the university.”