Tonight, the National University is in turmoil after the failure to launch of what was supposed to be the first day of the 2020/2021 academic year. It's a failure that was signaled over the weekend when union Secretary Christopher De Shield took to Facebook to bring a message of defiance from the union.

And this morning, as predicted, courses at the University of Belize did not go ahead. Cherisse Halsall found out there's more than one reason why...

The first semester of UB's academic year should have started today, albeit virtually

But difficulties being experienced with the moodle platform this morning derailed that plan.

And ahead of those difficulties faculty had made a decision not to teach.

Dr. Christopher De Shield, General Secretary, UBSFU
"Faculty members of the Union will not be formally teaching their courses until course assignments and issues of management are finalized. This collective action allows for adequate preparation time to preserve quality teaching, a high percentage of our faculty have only just received their finalized teaching assignment in the last week some as little as two working days before the start of classes, other courses are still being assigned. This faces faculty in a position where they must prepare for an un-negotiated drastic increase in course load within a very limited timeframe. Preparing for and transitioning to online instruction requires faculty to design and upload course content. Time that is not provided to them. For these reasons, the union is entering negotiations with the board to help resolve management issues impacting faculty, staff, and students."

It's not a decision they take lightly but one in which they were given no other choice.

Sarita Lewis, Lecturer, RLC
"The reality is the reality, there are some lecturers who at this point in time don't have a full load I am one of those lecturers and one of the courses that was assigned to me was outside my area of expertise. There is no way I can be prepared to teach today in a course that I am not familiar with."

Now students can only hope that negotiations set to begin tomorrow can result in some form of direction for them and their professors.

Dr. Christopher De Shield, General Secretary, UBSFU
"We're doing this in the hopes that tomorrow we start negotiations and we can resolve some of the issues that have come this drastic proposals, un-negotiated proposals that we are dealing with now."

Cherisse Halsall:
"It's an increased workload, it's more of your time and your payment has been reduced. How is that resonating with the union?"

Dr. Pio Saqui, President, UBSFU
"Not very well, not very well and it's even more upsetting because of not being able to be given the chance to tell the administration that and I'm sure they know."

The Union is appealing to students to support its cause and help them see it through. They've advised them to use this week to complete their virtual orientations and familiarization with the university's online learning platform, promising to continue to offer advice but not to teach any new content at this time.

Again, negotiations between administration faculty and staff commence tomorrow. But they are already off to a bad start with President's Sankat's position on the negotiation of a Collective Bargaining Agreement for the union being that it would be quote: "Absolutely irresponsible to do so under the present circumstances of crisis and pandemic." End quote

Channel 7