Open letter from STS graduate students and alumni 1

March 14, 2018

Re: Current labour disruptions and the need to suspend classes

Dear professors:

As current and former students of the Department of Science and Technology Studies, we are writing to ask that classes within the STS Graduate Program, STS Undergraduate Program, and Division of Natural Sciences (NATS) be suspended for the duration of the current CUPE 3903 labour disruption, following the example of numerous other academic departments across campus.

We are disheartened by the lack of public support expressed by the Departmental and Graduate Program Executives and the conscious decision to allow classes to continue to be held. Inaction in this circumstance does not reflect a position of neutrality, but instead displays an alignment not with your CUPE 3903 colleagues and students, but with the York University senior administration. Allowing classes to continue causes both graduate and undergraduate students to feel unfairly pressured to cross both electronic and physical picket lines, putting them in compromising situations as students and as TAs. This pressure has exacerbated the chaos and frustration felt by the broader York community, which directly affects those of us on the picket lines, as we are confronted by verbal and physical violence on a daily basis. Therefore, in the interest of safety, the academic integrity of all STS and NATS courses, the minimization of chaos, and the facilitation of remediation once the labour disruption is resolved, it is essential that all classes within the Department of Science and Technology Studies be suspended immediately.

The Division of Natural Science, which provides general education courses to undergraduate students that embody the supposed interdisciplinary and liberal arts mandate of York University, depend on the labour of STS graduate students in order to function. Our research and pedagogical expertise, which dwell at the intersection of science, technology, and medicine on one hand, and the social sciences and humanities on the other, ensure that our undergraduate students and peers enjoy a robust and contemporarily relevant education. Whether it is at incoming student orientations, meetings of the program executive, end-of-year program retreats, or Faculty of Graduate Studies (FGS) council meetings, graduate students are regularly reminded that we are the largest body of researchers and educational workers on campus, and those that interact closest with undergraduate students. Yet, together with contract faculty, those of us who provide 60% of the teaching labour at York have been forced to withdraw our labour and collectively fight for increased job security, predictable and protected graduate funding, the restoration of over 800 graduate assistant positions, and greater support for victims of sexual violence and racial discrimination.

In taking the decision to suspend classes, you will be following the lead of the Schools of Social Work and Translation (Glendon) and the Departments of Sociology; Politics; Politics (Glendon); Equity Studies; Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies; Anthropology; Social Sciences; Cinema and Media Studies; and Communication Studies. Such academic departments have argued that “the suspension of all classes for the duration of the strike will minimise the chances of dangerous incidents on the picket lines, which have occurred in previous strikes” and that they “cannot in good faith provide education which is inconsistent and lacking in integrity, where some students are being taught, albeit without the kind of curriculum and pedagogy they were promised, while others are being deprived outright because of the conviction of their conscience.” In addition, the Liberal Arts and Professional Studies (LA&PS) Faculty Council has recently passed a motion calling on the York University Senate to suspend all courses across the University without delay in order to preserve academic integrity. Such concerns must also exist within the Departmental and Graduate Programs Executives and the only means through which to remedy this is through the suspension of all classes.

Lastly, this academic year has proven unique in the history of STS at York. In light of the recent Cyclical Program Review (CPR), graduate students displayed that their united voice was capable of spurring on structural reforms and changes within York’s institutional framework. We did this, not solely for ourselves, but due to our shared belief in the strength and value of our (inter)discipline within York University and the greater academy. Where we saw flaws and injustice, whether directed at graduate students or faculty members, we demanded change. Our current labour disruption mirrors our attempts to renew our program, ensuring that future graduate students enjoy a program and University greater than we can even now envision and absent of disciplinary divisions. Thus, as we stood shoulder to shoulder with faculty members who felt disillusioned and alienated by recent structural changes, we ask that they stand with us and support our current struggle. So, again, we ask that you suspend all STS and NATS classes, join the growing collective voice currently petitioning the York University Senate to suspend classes university-wide for the duration of the labour disruption, and encourage York University to return to the bargaining table.

In solidarity with CUPE 3903 and academic workers worldwide,

Michael Laurentius, Graduate Student (President, STSGSA)
Erin Grosjean, Graduate Student (Secretary-Treasurer, STSGSA; PhD Rep. STS Exec)
Callum C. J. Sutherland, Graduate Student
André Williams, Graduate Student
Aadita Chaudhury, Graduate Student
Nancy Guo, Graduate Student
Peggy Chiappetta, Graduate Student
Steven Umbrello, Graduate Student
Josh Lalonde, Graduate Student
Sabrina Scott, Graduate Student
Cath Duchastel de Montrouge, Graduate Student
Melissa Banyard, Graduate Student
Alex Gatien, Alumni
Nox Dineen-Porter, Graduate Student
Jason Grier, Graduate Student
Angela Cope, Graduate Student
Muddassir Younus, Alumni
Drew Danielle Belsky, Graduate Student
Madelaine Khan, Alumni
Eleanor Louson, Graduate Student
Travis Hnidan, Graduate Student
Yana Boeva, Graduate Student
Madelaine Ley, Graduate Student
Aftab Mirzaei, Graduate Student
Merle Davis, Graduate Student
Tyler Hnatuk, Graduate Student
Jeffrey Wajsberg, Graduate Student
Lina Pinto García, Graduate Student
Ryan Collis, Undergraduate Student
Paul Toro, Graduate Student
Mariam Hassan, Alumni
Roula Faraj, Alumni
Matthew Burns, Graduate Student
Anna Artyushina, Graduate Student
Serena Naim, Alumni
Mustafa Ebrahem, Alumni
Yousif Hassan, Graduate Student
Lindsay Small, Alumni
Kasey Coholan, Graduate Student
Raymond Huynh, Alumni
Kelly Ladd, Graduate Student
Einar Engström, Graduate Student
Elyse Watkins, Alumni
Anita Buragohain, Graduate Student
Emily Simmonds, Graduate Student
Bernard Isopp, Graduate Student
Julia Gruson-Wood, Graduate Student
Ben Mitchell, Alumni & Sessional Faculty
Bretton Fosbrook, Alumni

 

One comment

  1. Pingback: Important links regarding the CUPE 3903 strike « YU Talk

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