Colorado College may often be described as a “bubble”, but events that occur on far-away continents can still affect us.
Collin Hiew and Justin Perkins, two juniors who planned to go abroad to Brazil this semester, can attest to that. Both were scheduled to leave last July 12, but 6 days before their flight to Brazil, the Associated Colleges of the Midwest contacted them to explain that their trip was cancelled until further notice.
Brazilian Federal University Professors were striking for higher wages along with other federal employees, leaving classrooms empty, and the CC duo with nowhere to go. Now, Hiew and Perkins are getting a second chance, but only after an adventure that seems ironically impossible: they are stranded at CC.
The strike started on May 17, and Hiew and Perkins were aware of it in their planning stages. ACM assured them that their plans would be safe, but they weren’t.
“ACM kept sending us e-mails throughout those months saying, ‘Oh, it’ll be fine, there’s no reason to worry,’” said Hiew. “The warning period kind of sucked.”
Professors at 40-50[Sam Howar1] universities in Brazil joined the nationwide strike, seeking reforms and more money. The professors continued to do their research, but stopped holding classes.
The decision to strike came as a response to what a labor federation saw as a backing out on former promises made by the government in 2011.
During this mandate from Brazilian President Luis Ignacio Lula da Silva, the country’s economy grew due to international trade. As a result, the government provided regular salary increases above inflation to civil servants, including the federal university professors. However, in 2012, as the deficit grew, the government stopped adding benefits to the civil servants’ contract and refused to start the practice again.
The professors ended the strike and resumed classes on Sept. 10, without much victory. The government did not give in to many of their demands, and are now requiring that they make up the work hours that they lost during the strike. However, the main teachers’ union said they still have other plans of action that they are working on for the future.
Meanwhile, Hiew and Perkins were left somewhat adrift coming into their junior year at CC. The Residential Life office offered them housing, but they would have had to pay for a half semester or a whole semester, and when the school year started, they were under the impression that they would only be on campus for one block.
However, one block turned into two blocks when “procedures got delayed,” according to Hiew, and the men found friends to stay with off-campus while they waited to take off for Brazil.
Despite the troubles, Hiew complimented CC for the administration’s helpfulness in the predicament.
Hiew said the administration was supportive and assisted them with last-minute class enrollment.
“I have no complaints about how CC handled this. ACM mishandled it,” he said.
The two men will go to Brazil for third, fourth, fifth, and sixth blocks.
Hiew, normally a History and Political Science major, will be taking advantage of a scholarship option for an environmental program in the country, while Perkins will engage in regular classes. In addition, of course, both will study Portuguese.