An Open Letter to Premier Wynne Reply

May 16, 2018

The Honourable Kathleen Wynne
Premier of Ontario

Dear Premier Wynne,

I am aware that you are in an election campaign but I don’t believe this should prevent you from acting, on the contrary.

Ontario’s second largest university, York University, is in a profound crisis, as I have already written to you and the Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Development.

A self-appointed, unrepresentative and imbalanced Board of Governors, overwhelmingly rejected by students, staff and faculty, is abusing its power in an attempt to bust a legitimate union. Their tactics are the equivalent of a disguised lock-out, and they are willing to destroy the university in the process.

When can we expect to see you and the Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Development at York University to confront this illegitimate and abusive Board?

A disguised lock-out

Other governments are able to assume their responsibilities and intervene. Faced with a similar abuse of power by senior administration at the Université du Québec àTrois-Rivières (UQTR), the Quebec Liberal government held a cabinet meeting and the Minister of Higher Education, Hélène David, immediately presented the President of UQTR with an ultimatum to end the lockout and get back to the negotiating table.

This is a very good example of what could be done. It is not too late for you to act. We have been waiting already 10 weeks for your government to act meaningfully.

We cannot wait weeks and weeks again until after the elections are over.

Associations representing 56,000 York students have lost confidence in the Board and the President

The situation at York University is much more serious than the one at UQTR. The York University Graduate Student Association (YUGSA) representing all of York’s almost 6,000 graduate students and the York Federation of Students (YFS) representing approximately 50,000 students at York have passed votes of non-confidence in the Board of Governors and President Lenton.

Five faculty councils (Glendon, Education, Environmental Studies, Graduate Studies and Liberal Arts & Professional Studies) and numerous departments and departmental student associations have adopted votes of non-confidence in the Board of Governors and the senior administration.

This wave of rejection is unprecedented. The message is loud and clear: the only way to move forward is to replace the Board and the President.

Your government is responsible for ensuring that public funds are used respectfully

Your government funds York University on a per-student basis, from hard-earned taxpayers’ dollars. The Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development oversees Ontario universities to ensure that, in return for this funding, they deliver quality courses to their students.

The Board of Governors and administration are demeaning York courses and degrees by offering full course credit for only 60-70% of coursework. They are shamelessly intimidating instructors to comply. As professors, we cannot in good conscience be complicit with this kind of educational fraud. It goes against all our principles as teachers, and all the educational values of a university.

York University has been given full funding; it cannot be allowed to deliver 60-70% of its course content. The Ministry cannot allow York University to undermine with impunity the academic quality of its courses.

Your government must hold the York University Board and administration accountable for their misuse of public funds.

We need a new Board and administration

This Board and administration have lost contact with the educational purpose of a university. They are not elected and see themselves as accountable to no one.

Rather than resign in the face of these massive votes of non-confidence, they are brazenly seeking to intimidate students and instructors and impose senseless measures that make a mockery of academic integrity. They are allowing the situation to rot, with no end in sight.

Why have you, as Premier, following Québec Minister David’s example, not convoked a meeting with York University’s Board and President, and gone yourself as Premier to York University with your Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Development, to present them with an ultimatum. At UQTR, professors and students formed a guard of honour to welcome Minister David.

I implore you as Premier to help us put York University back together again as a functioning and harmonious educational institution.

This Board and administration have deliberately created confrontation and in their arrogance they are willing to wreak havoc with students’ lives and destroy the whole university. They must be stopped.

I implore you as Premier to help us remove this illegitimate, unrepresentative, disconnected, imbalanced, sexist and heartless Board and senior administration, so that we can put in place a new Board and a new administration, and build together a university that truly reflects our shared values of social justice.

When can we expect you at York University? It’s not too late for you to take action and regain the esteem of the university community and the public.

Sincerely, Agnes Whitfield, Ph.D., c. tran.
Professor/Professeure titulaire, Department of English/Département d’études anglaises York University/Université York, Toronto (Canada) Founding Director/Directrice fondatrice, Vita Traductiva Visiting Professor/Professeure invitee, Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz, 2017 Bilingual Joint Chair in Women’s Studies, Carleton University, University of Ottawa/Chaire conjointe bilingue en études des femmes, Université Carleton, Université d’Ottawa, 2009-2010 Virtual Scholar, Heritage Canada/Chercheure virtuelle, Patrimoine canadien, 2006-2007 Seagram Visiting Chair in Canadian Studies, McGill University/Chaire d’invité Seagram en études canadiennes, Université McGill, 2003-2004 Présidente, Association canadienne de traductologie /President, Canadian Association for Translation Studies, 1995-1999

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