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Rebuilding after the riot: Fanshawe student job hunt is not going to be easy

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The St. Patrick's Day riot has left many Fanshawe students and alumni ashamed and embarrassed about the actions of a small number of people from the Fanshawe community. Many are worried about how Fanshawe is being portrayed in the media, and some are concerned that this negative attention will have serious consequences on their job hunts -- even for people who had nothing to do with the riots -- simply because of the school they attended.

One Fanshawe student has already lost a co-op position out of town because of the St. Patrick's Day events. Another student attended a job fair, where all anyone wanted to talk to her about was the riot, not her skills or qualifications. Neither student was present at the riots, but they and others are already experiencing its negative effects.

Ashley Hake, who is in her second year of Fanshawe's Financial Planning Services program and is just weeks away from graduating, said she definitely thinks the riot will have a negative impact on her job search. "I have worked so hard to get this diploma, and now I have to work even harder to find a job. Most of the application process is online and I am afraid that once they see that I just recently graduated from Fanshawe College, they will overlook my application -- I am hoping employers will realize that not everyone who participated in the riot was from Fanshawe College."

Shaman Ayerhart, who graduated from Fanshawe's Music Industry Arts program in 2008, was so concerned about the negative fallout from the riot that he and several other alumni started an online petition called "Fanshawe College: Expel students involved in rioting." (The petition is now closed, but you can view it online.)

"We want these guys [made an example of]," said Ayerhart. "We want them publicly expelled, we want their names and we want them barred from ever going to Fanshawe again. We want our administration to take a stand against this sort of behaviour."

People who signed the petition could also post a reason why they signed it. "There were numerous responses on the petition website from Fanshawe graduates who were saying, ‘We will not hire a Fanshawe graduate from this year,'" said Ayerhart. "We're all questioning what a diploma from Fanshawe is worth. No other college in Ontario has this problem. We just feel like [College administration] has a responsibility to all alumni to improve the image of our school. That image is rapidly deteriorating and it's devaluing our diplomas, certificates and degrees."

The petition closed after reaching over 2,000 signatures in 24 hours, and Ayerhart sent it to Fanshawe College President Dr. Howard Rundle, the Chair of the Board of Governors, the Chair of the Alumni Association and major news networks across Canada.

Local businesses have also shown that their decisions about who to hire may be affected by the events. Shawn Adamsson, Vice President of Operations at rtraction, a digital design firm in London and vocal Fanshawe supporter, tweeted a message to student rioters in the early hours of March 18: "Dear #Fanshawe students: if you're involved in this riot you needn't bother putting a resume in front of me. Think about your future NOW."

Not everyone believes that the riot is going to have as negative an impact on Fanshawe alumni and students as they may fear. Doug Millar, Manager of Fanshawe's Career, Co-operative Education and Community Employment Services, said he feels comfortable that, for the most part, students will still find employment opportunities in London and outside the city.

"Such publicity is never good, but our employers are smarter than that," he said. "Our employers have worked with this college for over 40 years -- the employers know that coming to the college to find workers is in their best interest as well."

College President Rundle agreed. Despite the history of violence around the Fleming area over the past years, "Employment success of Fanshawe graduates is higher than average amongst all colleges and has been all throughout this period," he said, adding that he didn't think the St. Patrick's Day events will have an impact. "When people stop and think, [they] realize that we're talking about maybe 100 misbehaving people and 16,900 behaving people. Every college or university of our size will have just as many misbehaving people."

Erika Faust is a Staff Writer at the Interrobang out of Fanshawe College in London, Ontario.

This article was reprinted with permission from the Interrobang Newspaper.

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