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) http://people.laps.yorku.ca/people.nsf/researcherprofile?readform&shortname=agnesw Founding Director/Directrice fondatrice, Vita Traductiva http://vitatraductiva.blog.yorku.ca/ 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

Motion of non-confidence by the Faculty of Graduate Studies Council Reply

May, 10, 2018

The Council of the Faculty of Graduate Studies overwhelmingly passed a motion of non-confidence with the following language:

BE IT RESOLVED THAT the Council of the Faculty of Graduate Studies expresses non-confidence in the senior administration of York University, defined as the President, the Vice-President Academic & Provost, and other Vice-Presidents, and in the Board of Governors.

Motion of non-confidence by the Development Studies Graduate Student Association Reply

The following motion was passed on Wednesday, May 9, 2018.

Motion:
BE IT RESOLVED THAT the Development Studies Graduate Student Association expresses non-confidence in the senior administration of York University led by President Rhonda Lenton and in the Board of Governors led by Rick Waugh.

Rationale:
With the strike now in its tenth week, York’s administration continues to refuse to bargain with CUPE Local 3903 to resolve outstanding issues in a timely fashion. The approach of the Senate Executive Committee to remediation while the strike is ongoing has created confusion and chaos within York’s community, intensifying the anxiety and stress of students, faculty and staff, as well as undermining the academic integrity of courses and therefore York’s reputation. T

he York University senior administration and Board of Governors appear to be disconnected from the York University community, demonstrating their refusal to establish meaningful dialogue with all university stakeholders. York’s President and Board of Governors, with the support of Senate Executive, have deviated from a just and fair interpretation and application of The York University Act, 1965, thereby undermining collegial governance at York.

Given these considerations, the Development Studies Graduate Student Association can no longer express confidence in the leadership of President Rhonda Lenton or Chair of the Board of Governors Rick Waugh.

Furthermore
The Development Studies Graduate Student Association calls upon other organizations, associations, councils, and bodies within the greater York University community to pass similar motions of non-confidence in the senior administration and condemn ongoing attempts to undermine collegial governance at York University.

Two motions by the Department of Social Science Reply

April 30, 2018

The Department of Social Science passed the following motions at its meeting on April 30, 2018:

 SOSC MOTION OF NON-CONFIDENCE

The actions of the York University Board of Governors and Senior Administration in relation to the ongoing strike are doing incalculable damage to the reputation of York University, to our ability to serve our current students and attract students, and to our financial situation. The Department of Social Science in the LA&PS Faculty therefore expresses no confidence in the senior administration led by President Rhonda Lenton and the Board of Governors led by Rick Waugh.

SOSC MOTION REGARDING SENATE AUTHORITY

The Department of Social Science in the Faculty of LA&PS condemns the attempts made by the York University Board of Governors and Senior Administration to weaken the autonomy and undermine the authority of Senate over academic matters, as enshrined in the York University Act.

Motion of non-confidence by the LA&PS Faculty Council Reply

April 30, 2018

LA&PS Faculty Council expresses non-confidence in the senior administration of York University led by President Rhonda Lenton and in the Board of Governors led by Rick Waugh.

Rationale

With the strike in its eight week, the Administration of York University, led by President Rhonda Lenton, continues to refuse to bargain with CUPE 3903 to resolve outstanding issues. Although it welcomed the appointment of Commissioner William Kaplan, the Administration still publicly refuses to negotiate. The positions of Administration remain deeply contradictory. On the one hand, the Administration has stated that CUPE 3903’s positions “continue to be well outside the range of anything the university can ever agree to.” On the other hand, the Administration calls for CUPE 3903 “to allow an independent third party to decide what’s fair and impose a settlement that binds both sides.” The Administration claims that the proposals are outside what they can ever agree to, but supports a process of binding arbitration that might lead to those very same outcomes. This strategy has nothing to do with negotiating a contract and everything to do with bypassing negotiations altogether.

Because of its refusal to bargain, the winter semester is in chaos. Now the Administration has announced the imminent cancellation of summer semesters. This announcement once again usurps the authority of Senate and Senate Executive to make decisions on class suspension due to a labour disruption. It demonstrates a “scorched earth” approach to contract negotiations placing the business-driven interests of the Board of Governors over the academic reputation of the institution and the education, mental health and future of our students. The Senate Executive Committee has managed remediation in full deference to this administrative approach. It has created chaos and dysfunction within York. It has intensified the anxiety and stress of students, faculty and staff, and undermined the academic integrity of courses and York’s standing with students, families and the public.

The April 2 letter from Rick Waugh, Chair of the Board of Governors, to Lesley Beagrie, Chair of Senate, is a frontal attack on collegial governance at York. It states that “oversight and accountability for the operations of the University rest with the Board of Governors.” This misleading statement fails to acknowledge the exception clause from the York Act: “Except, as to such matters by this Act specifically assigned to the Senate” (article 10). “The Senate is responsible for the academic policy of the University” (article 12). The Board’s usurpation of Senate’s authority for academic governance during a labour disruption violates the legal framework that established York University and the Board’s fiduciary responsibility for “collegial self-governance” (York Mission Statement).

Given these considerations, LA&PS Faculty Council can no longer express confidence in the leadership of President Rhonda Lenton or Chair of the Board of Governors Rick Waugh.

Motion of non-confidence by ComCult Graduate Student Association Reply

On Friday April 27, the Communication & Culture Graduate Student Association, made up of students, research assistants, teaching assistants and graduate assistants in the Joint Graduate Program in Communication & Culture at York University and Ryerson University, unanimously passed a motion expressing non-confidence in the senior administration at York University. This motion and rationale draw language and sentiment from the many statements of non-confidence issued by faculty, student and staff associations across York’s community.

Motion:
Be it resolved that the ComCult GSA expresses non-confidence in the senior administration of York University led by President Rhonda Lenton and in the Board of Governors led by Rick Waugh.

Rationale:
With the conclusion of the eighth week of the strike, York’s administration continues to refuse to bargain with CUPE 3903. The Senate Executive Committee has failed to provide clear remediation throughout the strike leading to confusion and chaos within York’s community, intensifying the anxiety and stress of students, faculty and staff, as well as undermining the academic integrity of courses and therefore York’s reputation.

York’s President and Board of Governors, with the support of Senate Executive, have
undermined the historic interpretation and application of The York University Act, 1965, thereby undermining collegial governance at York. Given these considerations, the Communication & Culture Graduate Students’ Association cannot express confidence in the leadership of President Rhonda Lenton or Chair of the Board of Governors Rick Waugh.

This expression of non-confidence is not grounded in the disparity between the demands of the Union and the offer of the Employer – rather, this statement is based in the failure of senior administration to uphold academic integrity as well as their actions in the erosion of said integrity through their continued strategic efforts to undermine the process of collective bargaining. Beyond undermining the Union’s constitutional right to collective bargaining, the Administration’s unwavering commitment to punishing CUPE 3903 for dismissing binding arbitration has clearly demonstrated their priority to cut operating costs at any cost to their own students.

Read their official statement.

Statement by CUPE 3903 Member, Devin Clancy at Senate Meeting, April 26, 2018 1

April 26, 2018

I’m Devin Clancy and in case anyone in this administration has forgotten, I am a member of this community. After being forced to picket outside for 8 weeks, in the cold, the wind, and freezing rain, you start to wonder if anyone at the top making six figures actually cares about those of us that do the work of this university. So to be clear, I am a student, teaching assistant, and CUPE 3903’s representative in the senate.

Two weeks ago on April 12 the senate passed this motion:

“Senate urges both sides in the labour disruption to immediately return to the bargaining table and take the necessary steps to settle the dispute as soon as possible”

As we all saw when entering the meeting today, CUPE 3903’s democratically elected bargaining team is sitting outside these doors as we speak, waiting for York to come to the table.

Where is Kathryn McPherson?

Where is Rob Lawson? If you know, please let our health and safety committee know, we’ve been waiting for his response to our Vari Hall inspection since December.

Where is Noura Shaw?

Where is Barry Miller?

And where is York’s union busting lawyer Simon Mortimer?

Lyndon Martin, Senator Martin, why are you not outside right now sitting at that table? Why are you not calling everyone on your team to join you?

Senator Martin, you have been directed by the most senior collegial decision making body of this university to “immediately return to the bargaining table” and “settle the dispute as soon as possible.”

What gives you the right to disregard your colleges’ direction? What gives you the right to refuse the direction of the senate? What empowers you to abdicate your responsibility to bargain?

Have you, like 800 graduate assistants, also been “liberated from work obligation” by the Board of Governors and the corrupt executive of the senate?

For two weeks now, York and CUPE have been involved in a process of mediation and inquiry. Our union’s bargaining team met with commissioner Kaplan, revised our proposals, and clearly showed a desire to negotiate a deal to end this strike.

Yet, even before the mediation period ended, York emailed the entire community to brazenly state the university would never negotiate. And it said this despite being expressly directed by the senate to do so. This is, without a doubt, a crisis of collegial governance, but it is also a crisis of the values and principles of York University.

How can anyone in this administration honestly believe that York’s actions in this strike represent a commitment to “social justice”?

What hollow notion of justice do you pretend to hold Rhonda? Is your justice always brought to us by TD bank? Does it rely on investing in arms and occupation? Does your justice depend on investing in TransCanada pipelines?

The only social justice at this university comes from students and workers on the ground who stand up against corporate interests and fight for the generations of students and workers to come.

For our local, social justice is not an exercise in branding, but a lived reality. It’s embedded in our union’s commitment to the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, to Jane and Finch Action Against Poverty, to supporting Indigenous struggles for self-determination.

And it is embedded in our union’s commitment to direct democratic representation of its members in the collective bargaining process.

Yet, in York’s submission to the Industrial Inquiry, our model of democratic organizing and open bargaining—which is an active practice of social justice—has been directly attacked. And Simon Mortimer used our members’ written academic work in order to attack it.

This is an assault on our members’ academic freedom. Our own critical analysis of York University is being used against us in a legal process to break our union.

What new era of bargaining does the Lenton regime want to normalize here? Clearly it involves as little bargaining as possible, and as much security, fake websites, and bogus PR that money can buy.

This administration does not care about students. This administration does not care about academic integrity or academic freedom. This administration does not care about its own reputation. And it certainly doesn’t care about its workers.

All this “social justice” university cares about is breaking CUPE 3903, by any means necessary. Even if that means destroying the summer semester and losing millions of dollars in the hope that next provincial government will introduce unconstitutional back-to-work legislation in June.

Rhonda Lenton, “social justice” president, are you really hoping for the next government to fulfill your wishes?

That’s a direct question, but I don’t expect a truthful answer. And I don’t think anyone does anymore. York University’s “social justice” president lacks integrity. And your sorry excuse of leadership is falling apart.

A growing list of student groups, departments, and faculties are passing motions of non-confidence in the senior administration, President Rhonda Lenton and in the Board of Governors led by Rick Waugh.

Rhonda, our own department of sociology has expressed its loss of confidence in you.

So I ask: President Lenton, will you stop destroying everything this university stands for and resign immediately?

Statement by Ricardo Grinspun, at Senate Meeting, April 26, 2018 Reply

April 26, 2018

President Lenton, I rise today to ask that either you commit to making a meaningfully improved offer to CUPE 3903 in order to end the strike immediately or, failing that, offer your resignation, since you will have failed the academic mandate of this institution. Your letting down of the community of faculty, staff, students and their families will be beyond repair, unless we settle this strike now. If you are not able to take the necessary steps, it is time for you to step down and allow us to move on with the fundamental work of our university: To advance knowledge and scholarly work through a vibrant community of students and faculty – working together – for the betterment of our minds, lives and society.

The managerial and leadership approach that defines your administration is unsustainable and detrimental to the common good that characterizes a healthy university. Your uncompromising and unnecessarily aggressive approach displayed throughout the CUPE 3903 strike is profoundly inimical to the university as a public trust and the values espoused in our mission statement, such as collegial governance and academic freedom. The hardball approach to both governance and labour relations contradicts York’s publicly stated espousal of social justice, and the social justice-engaged research that defines so much of our university. Unfortunately, your actions confirm the concerns expressed by the 900 full time faculty who responded to the YUFA poll in November 2016, of whom only 11% supported your candidacy to be President of York.

The university is paying a very heavy price for your appointment. Your intransigent actions during the labour dispute, and the complete disregard of the impact on York’s academic reputation, speak clear. The community feels shocked and helpless in the face of your categorical refusal to bargain, your reckless brinkmanship, regardless of the cost for students, academic standing and our reputation. While pursuing a scorched earth approach to labour negotiations in the hope of crippling the union representing graduate students and contract faculty at York, you have hurt the lives of tens of thousands of students and brought disarray to our university.

Because of your refusal to bargain and your disdain for York’s students, the winter semester is threatened, and you have eroded academic integrity beyond recognition by proposed accommodations on a broad scale. Now your administration has announced the imminent cancellation of summer semesters. This announcement once again usurps the authority of Senate and Senate Executive to make decisions on class suspension due to a labour disruption. The Senate Executive Committee, on which you sit, has managed remediation in full deference to this administrative approach. It has created chaos and dysfunction within York, intensified the anxiety and stress of students, faculty and staff, and undermined the faith of the public in our university.

No amount of money poured into public relations or private security can obscure this reality. You now wear this reality.

President Lenton, speaking on behalf of thousands of faculty, staff and students, please know your actions so far do not have our confidence. Unless you move to settle this strike, we call for your resignation.