16, 2000, Gazette)
the scenes at the
Information Centre for Students
Photo by Jennifer Browne
The Information Centre for Students was in
operation during the MUNFA strike.
During the MUNFA strike, over 4,000 students, parents, and faculty
placed calls to the quickly-organized Information Centre for
Students, looking for information, a chance to rant, and a listening
"The ICS is a temporary emergency information system,"
explained ICS co-ordinator Sarah Anthony. "Whenever there
is a crisis on campus in this case, a strike we
get the latest information from the working committees and place
operators on phones in order to respond to student inquiries
as quickly as possible and with the most accurate information
"A lot of times they were frustrated and the fact that we
were there to listen to their concerns was important," said
Jennifer Browne, the co-ordinator of the Career Planning Centre
who worked in the ICS in addition to her regular work. "People
seemed impressed with the fact that they got a human voice to
listen to them. I think a lot of them expected a machine."
Siobhan Pardy, a fourth year psychology student and fellow ICS
worker, adds, "Being or having been students ourselves,
we were able to validate their feelings and confirm or correct
information they heard on the news."
Under the direction of Rob Shea, acting director of Student Development,
the Information Centre for Students was accessible physically,
on the fourth floor of the new student centre, but received most
of its inquiries by phone which were set up within an hour of
the strike call. SWGC had a similar system, coordinated by Mary
The staff, themselves MUN alumni or current students in advanced
years of study, worked shifts that ran from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.
daily. On weekends, demand necessitated a typical workday in
the range of 14 hours a day.
"The longer it went on, the harder it became for those of
us with family responsibilities and so on," explained Lisa
Russell, arts internship co-ordinator. "But we were glad
to be there. It was important to do for the students, and it
certainly gave us a chance to get to know each other better."
As Mr. Shea explained, "This system is part of a contingency
plan that is always in place, regardless of the nature of the
crisis. When it's over, we'll put the phone lines back up into
the ceiling, push the tables against the wall, and hope we don't
have to use it again for awhile."
Primarily, the ICS staff answered calls from students worried
that they'd lose their term or wondering when they'd get back
to class or have an exam. But there were also less common, but
still important, calls, such as the one from the student wondering
when she should get the ferry from Fogo.
"The further away they were, the more notice of return to
class they needed to have," Ms. Russell observed.
Ms. Browne added another. "We asked callers for their student
numbers, and through that we found that the majority of calls
were from students in first year. Being unfamiliar with the system,
maybe they thought that everybody else knew the rules and they
were the only ones who didn't, which of course they weren't."
There were also the fun calls from callers who clearly thought
they were accessing an open line show instead of a student service.
"We had some interesting characters call in," Ms. Anthony
said, "and some regulars, too."
Although the ICS is currently winding down operations, Mr. Shea
said it will be ready to go again whenever need warrants.
ICS staff are: Cal Adey, Sarah Anthony, Kelly Aspell, Jennifer
Browne, Tom Brophy, Grace Butler, Charlie Cheeseman, Linda Gregory,
Gail Hickey, Marilyn Moores, Siobhan Pardy, Lisa Russell, and