April 9, 2018
On April 5th, 2018, colleagues from the Faculty of Education, York University, met to discuss our ongoing concern with the Administration’s troubling tactics during the labour dispute. These tactics reverberate through all levels of collegial governance and democratic process, and affect every aspect of our work. Having entered into its fourth week, the Administration embarked on the dangerous wager of forcing ratification and, in the meantime, has done little to improve the climate of negotiation between itself, the university community, and CUPE 3903.
Within this context, we want to express our support and solidarity with our students and colleagues of CUPE 3903. We do so as a commitment to our responsibility as faculty for the well-being of the University, and against the unfair and precarious situations of employment at the University. As professors, we feel it is our duty to protect the University’s educational principles and to support our students and colleagues by adhering to 1) collegial governance, 2) principles of academic integrity, and 3) our responsibility as educators to our students. We reaffirm our role and responsibility as faculty because these three aspects have been under threat during this dispute.
As scholars, professors, and instructors of education, we are uniquely positioned to gage the damage that recent events pose for academic integrity and scholarly innovation that are the hallmarks of York University’s highly regarded reputation. Our worry is that this dispute is not merely about providing fair conditions for workers, but increasingly about the Administration’s re-alignment of faculty governance. It seems to us that the University is being run less and less by professors and students, who are invested in educational and academic concerns, and more by people in management and commerce, guided by the Board of Governors, with little or no experience in or sense of responsibility for academic and educational matters. Such a re-alignment betrays the longstanding right to have educational and academic autonomy from the Board of Governors for which faculty and others have previously fought. This managerial and economic trend will not serve faculty and students well.
As professors of a Faculty of Education who have long-standing experience and engagement, sharing with multiple stakeholders, in public schools, communities, and educational sectors, we roundly reject the Administration’s rush to undermine faculty governance and educational authority. Our position aligns with those expressed in numerous universities and by school teachers worldwide, some of whom are protesting in the streets today, the devastatingly failed project to make education profitable. Rendering education a commercial project, and putting financial concerns before pedagogical ones, privileges the few while denigrating the promise education holds for so many. Our students, young people, and children stand to lose the most from the reckless actions of the Administrators and the Board of Governors. These managerial actions, lacking foresight, have caused so many teachers, educators, and scholars everywhere to take a decisive stand for the idea and ideals of education, academic integrity, and free enquiry underlying the right to public education in just and democratic societies.
We urge the Administration to respect collegial processes and return to the bargaining table, in good faith and fair play, to lessen the turmoil, confusion, and conflict we are all experiencing. Labour disputes are important events that help us to think about ourselves and the society in which we want to live; they also take the temperature of our foundational institutions and the core values driving them. A strike gives us pause to reflect on the state of our academic organization and how we belong and commit to it. For many of us at York University, this dispute exposes the deliberate collapsing of collegial structures into managerialism, and how our talents, which defy economy, are exploited for their serviceability to the bottom-line. A strike also reminds us (because we all tend to forget) that nothing in life is given. Our lives are all precarious (in different ways) and, in a democratic society, we have a right to speak of our needs and a responsibility to take care of each other. Our Administration needs to remember — indeed, we all need to remember — that when you give people a living, dignifying wage, and treat them like people with minds and dreams and the promise of a shared and sustainable present and future, rather than seeing them as economic “units” and income generators, we provide the fundamental conditions for education to be possible.
In solidarity with teachers and students everywhere,
Roopa Desai Trilokekar
Aparna Mishra Tarc