TIM SMITH/BRANDON SUN
Students line up to purchase textbooks and other supplies in the BU Bookstore during orientation day at Brandon University on Tuesday.
A new school year is officially underway at Brandon University, and many faculty members and students are calling it a fresh start.
Second-, third- and fourth-year students wait to give individual tours to first-year students during orientation day at Brandon University on Tuesday. They also helped new students with any questions they might have about university life. (TIM SMITH/BRANDON SUN)
Joel Grouette offers a free Vitamin Water to BU student Trisha Zakaluzny during orientation day at Brandon University on Tuesday. (TIM SMITH/BRANDON SUN)
First-year business student Mindy Wu looks over textbooks in the BU Bookstore during orientation day at Brandon University on Tuesday. (TIM SMITH/BRANDON SUN)
On Tuesday, the campus was full of enthusiastic first-year students who were getting acquainted with the school as part of the annual orientation.
"I was a little nervous trying to figure out where I’m going and everything like that, but I’m excited to start classes," said Corin Harder, a first-year arts student. "I came from a really small town, so I need an actual map to figure out where I’m going now."
While the atmosphere at BU is positive and lively, there are still some lingering issues from the tumultuous 2011-12 year. A faculty strike lasted from Oct. 12 to Nov. 25, which meant no classes for the university’s 3,000 students.
"I don’t think anybody would disagree that it was a challenging year," said Todd Fugleberg, president of the Brandon University Faculty Association. "I, personally, and most of the other professors I’ve talked to are looking forward to getting back into it and interacting with students … We’re looking forward to the year and the opportunity to have an uninterrupted year of courses."
Reggie Smith, a second-year student and member of the Bobcats basketball team, said last year’s strike was hard to deal with.
"It was rough with the strike, because we didn’t have a coach or anything like that," he said. "So we couldn’t even have good practices, organized the way it should be … but I still got my grades, I still did everything I had to do, so it didn’t really spoil anything for me."
Smith is optimistic about the next year.
"I know there’s not going to be two strikes in a row, so I’m happy about that," he said. "I’m looking forward to my second year here … Not everything’s brand new now, so I actually know where I’m going when I’m walking around, so it’s not too bad."
Fugleberg, an associate professor in physics and astronomy, said one of the ongoing issues is that some faculty positions not being filled during sabbaticals or when people retire.
"I know there’s been a number of faculty positions that have been left open, which means there’s some courses that aren’t being taught," he said.
Another issue is the fact that several faculties, including Health Studies, Education and Science, all have acting deans.
"It’s definitely concerning," Fugleberg said. "You want to have someone in an administrative position who has a vision and a goal, and is able to carry out that vision and that plan. If you have a person in an acting position then it doesn’t allow this sort of long-term planning, and it sort of delays some of the growth and new things that could be happening."
Enrolment numbers are expected to be released later this week, but the university had been projecting a decline. Last March, enrolment was down by 12 per cent. At that time, BU projected it would bounce back by seven per cent and were expecting enrolment to be down five per cent this fall.
BU president Deborah Poff has a positive outlook for the next year.
"We’re happy, we’re moving forward, I think it’s going to be a great year," Poff said.
Katie Gross, director of recruitment and retention, said they have been building their program over the years and are now reaching more schools in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Northwest Ontario.
Gross said most students were able to get back in the groove following the strike.
"It’s amazing how people bounce back right away," she said.
"Day one after the strike, people were ready to continue and move on, and I think that’s a good sentiment for this year and how BU is back in action, and will just continue to grow and be successful."
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition September 5, 2012