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Mount Saint Vincent University Students’ Union is siding with the faculty association as a strike deadline looms.

After last week’s campus-wide email sent by Brian Jessop, the Halifax university’s vice-president of administration, the student union has set out to “convey the faculty association’s perspective.”

The vice-president’s email noted MSVU full professors are the paid the third highest average salary in the province.

The Mount’s faculty average a higher salary than other Nova Scotia universities because more than 70 per cent of its faculty are over 55 years old, putting them at the top of their pay scales, said MSVUSU in a news release based on a number provided by the association.

“The university remains in a sound financial position at March 31, 2018. ... The university has consistently balanced its budget and maintains a minimal debt in comparison to the total insured value of buildings and contents,” stated the students’ union, quoting the university’s financial statement for the 2017-2018 fiscal year.

“It’s kind of clear the university is trying to villainize the faculty and they’re trying to pit students against their professors,” Kenya Thompson, the student union’s femme representative, said of Jessop’s email.

“Any hostility that is experienced by the faculty, we kind of see as also directed at us as students,” said the 20-year-old student.

Thompson and other students’ union members have set up a table and been handing out flyers on campus with information about the faculty association’s contract negotiations.

“The faculty association doesn’t have the capacity to communicate in the same ways as the university administration,” said the third-year public policy student. “So we felt that responsibility to stand alongside of them and make sure their side of the story is heard.”

Other than wages, the association is negotiating workload demands and support for caregivers and victims of domestic violence.

“For a feminist institution and university that’s supposed to be committed to advancing women, it’s absolutely ridiculous that they aren’t willing to support people that are in that very vulnerable position,” said Thompson.

Students have been reaching out to MSVUSU because they don’t know what’s going on, said the femme representative.

“Students see and recognize what’s happening,” she said. “Students learning conditions are faculty’s working conditions. They go hand in hand.”

The students’ union has voiced their support for the faculty association to members of the administration, said Thompson.

While MSVUSU hope a strike is prevented, Thompson said its support will stay with the association if the union hits the picket line.

“We’ll have our signs out and we’ll be supporting them and also supporting the students,” she said.

“We want the administration to know without students and without faculty, MSVU is not a university,” said Thompson.

Jessop and a MSVU spokeswoman declined to comment.

The faculty association could not be reached for comment, but said last week the union will not engage in public bargaining.

The 144-member union represents full-time faculty, lab instructors and librarians at MSVU. Ninety-four per cent of the association voted in favour of a strike in early November.

The university and faculty association are to meet with a conciliator on Jan. 2 for the final round of bargaining.

If an agreement is not reached, the union would be in legal strike position as of Jan. 7 — the first day students return to class in 2019.

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