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.

Motion of non-confidence by the Faculty of Education Faculty Council Reply

April 25, 2018

The following Motion of non-confidence in the BOG and call for an independent, external, judicial review of the BOG conduct and interpretation of the York University Act was passed by the Faculty of Education at the Special Meeting of Faculty Council on April 25, 2018.

Votes in favour: 25

Votes against: 3

Votes abstaining: 3

Motion: The Faculty of Education rejects the BOG understanding of their responsibilities and authority to include authority to suspend classes during a disruption, and we reject their interpretation of the respective roles of Senate and the Board of Governors under the York University Actand further the Faculty of Education rejects the BOG’s assertion that they are fulfilling their fiduciary duties, all of which was asserted in the April 2, 2018 letter from the chair of the BOG to the chair of Senate. We put forth a vote, a statement of non-confidence in the Board of Governors and a call for an independent, external judicial review of the Board’s conduct and interpretation of the York University Act.

1. Respective roles of Senate and the Board of Governors under the York University Act, 1965
Section 12 of The York University Act, 1965 clearly vests responsibility for academic policy of the university exclusively with Senate and gives Senate the authority to enact by-laws, rules and regulations for the conduct of its affairs, regarding academic policy. And further The York University Act clearly states Senate’s jurisdiction over academic policy is wide ranging, general and without limitation: without limiting the generality of the foregoing.
The language of section 12 is unlimited and gives no overriding power to the BOG to override Senate jurisdiction over educational policy. This means that Senate’s authority over academic policy does extend unilaterally and without limitation over academic policy and all matters that pertain to, and impact on, academic policy. There is no requirement or obligation under the York University Act for Senate to consult with the BOG on academic matters, or to seek its agreement on academic policy, although it has the power (not obligation) to consult, if it so wishes.
Unlike some other university Acts in the province and across Canada, the York University Act distinctly protects the Senate’s powers. There is nothing in the York University Act that accords priority, paramountcy or overriding jurisdiction to the decision of the Board.
By stark contrast the powers of the Board of Governors, under the York University Act, are immediately limited by the language under section 10 of the Act which clearly provides in its opening words that Except, as such matters by this Act specifically assigned to Senate, the conduct, management and control of the University and its property, revenues, expenditures, business and affairs are vested in the Board. This means that except for academic policy, which is clearly the exclusive jurisdiction of Senate as stated in section 12 of the Act, the other conduct is within BOG jurisdiction. It also means that when the BOG’s conduct, management and control over revenue have implications for academic policy the Senate has paramountcy. Under the York University Act, the BOG powers are clearly and unequivocally limited by the Senate’s control over academic matters.
Following the reasoning of Justice Sharpe in the case Kulchyski v. Trent University, 2001, These words qualify all of the Board’s powers, including its general governance power and its specific authority over property and expenditures. I agree with the appellants’ submission that by enacting these words, the legislature provided its own solution to potential conflicts between the Board and the Senate. The legislature subtracted authority over educational policy from the Board’s powers and protected Senate’s power over educational policy from encroachment by any power of the Board. Neither the Board’s powers of general governance, nor its power of the purse, allow it to usurp the role of the Senate to control, regulate, and determine the educational policy of the University. (Paragraph 65)
Explicitly, under the York University Act, the limitations of the Board’s powers are precisely in the area assigned to Senate namely, in the area of academic policy. Preserving the academic integrity of York University is central to academic policy. Any disruption (labour or otherwise) that undermines academic integrity is squarely within the purview of Senates authority. Moreover, s. 12 (b) gives Senate the explicit power to determine such things related to standards, courses of study and requirements for graduation. This also speaks to Senate’s power and authority over class suspension or continuation. In the Kulchyski case, Sharpe J. tells us that Administrative interpretation and practice may be used to assist in determining the meaning of legislation and can be an important factor in case of doubt about legislative meaning. (para 91). Senate policy and the university by-laws support this view and past practice of the university during previous strikes also reflect Senate’s clear authority to cancel classes.
Unlike the Board, Senate’s very expertise is in academic matters. The BOG suggestion that they have the expertise, competence or statutory authority to determine academic matters is preposterous. Their conduct violates the York University Act.
2. Fiduciary duties of the Board of Governors
Since the letter suggests that the BOG fiduciary duties somehow give it the power to overstep its role under the York University Act, we would like to address this notion head on. We reject the assertion that the Board is somehow acting in fulfillment of their fiduciary duties in this blatant power grab and aggressive attack on Senate’s exclusive jurisdiction over academic policy. This interpretation is a gross distortion of the BOG fiduciary duties at law. In the university setting the fiduciary duty of care owed by governors and officers of the university is described by the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges the following way:
The duty of care generally requires officers and governing board members to carry out their responsibilities in good-faith and using that degree of diligence, care and skill which ordinarily prudent person would reasonably exercise under similar circumstances in like positions. Accordingly, a board member must act in a manner that he or she reasonably believes to be in the best interests of the institution.
The duty of loyalty means that the board member must not act in their own individual interests, or the interests of another person or organization, but rather must act in the interests of the university and its not- for- profit or charitable purposes. They must act reasonably and in good faith and not out of expedience, avarice or self- interest.[1]
In our view, the BOG has certainly been acting out of expedience and quite possibly in bad faith. According to this legal standard, and contrary to the claim in the April 2, 2018 letter, York’s BOG are not fulfilling their fiduciary duties to carry out their responsibilities in good-faith and using that degree of diligence, care and skill which ordinarily prudent person would reasonably exercise under similar circumstances in like positions. In our view, they are not acting prudently or reasonably or with diligence and care. In fact, past practice shows that previous BOG at York, and elsewhere around the country, as well as statute and case law, have all respected Senate’s power over academic policy. This is especially crucial during disputes and disruptions to maintain academic integrity.
Contrary to the assertion in the letter that the majority of governors independent external members who receive no salary or other remuneration who volunteer their time, knowledge and expertise for the benefit of the university and all its stakeholders; current and future students, faculty and staff, alumni, donors, and the public at large, we contend the BOG are, in fact, not acting in the best interests of the university and all its member constituents, nor is the BOG protecting the public interest in its reckless and flawed interpretation of the York University Act. We, as paid employees and academic stewards of this institution are invested in educational governance at York. We are extremely concerned that York’s reputation has been squandered in this strike by the BOG. Chaos and confusion abound as a direct result of the BOG actions in this matter.
This raises issues for us regarding our non-confidence in the BOG’s leadership and, as represented by its Chair. We believe the BOG’s egregious interpretation of theYork University Act compromises their ability to institute any legitimate, internal governance review at York University, and that an external, independent, and judicial review of the BOG’s conduct in this matter is urgently warranted, to ensure that, now and in the future, the respective roles of Board and Senate in a labour disruption are respected and clearly understood by all members of the community, and that any decisions about how to manage the academic implicates of a strike are effectively implemented.
The faculty that have submitted this motion have consulted in-person together at two open invitation meetings to tenure-stream members of the Faculty of Education and on-line numerous times since March 5th, 2018 to prepare this motion.
1. York University Act, 1965

2. Letter from Chair of BOG to Chair of Senate Executive, March 2, 2018

[1] Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges. Governance Brief on Fiduciary Duties. At Note that the Canadian University Boards Association (CUBA), which York University is a member, directs members to this American association and this document regarding the statement of board duties. Similar statements appear in case law. For example, the fiduciary standard was classically defined by Judge Cardozo in Meinhard and Salmon, 164 N.E. 545 (N.Y.1928) as “Not honesty alone, but the punctilio of an honor the most sensitive, is then the standard of behavior, the duty of finest loyalty, and, stricter than the morals of the marketplace.”

Statement from the Department of Cinema and Media Arts, AMPD Reply

April 25, 2018

To: Mr. William Kaplan, Investigator, Ontario Ministry of Labour Industrial Inquiry into the CUPE 3903 Strike at York University.

We, the faculty members of the Department of Cinema and Media Arts, join our colleagues from Glendon, the Department of English and many other colleagues across the university, in expressing our outrage at York administration’s continued refusal to negotiate with CUPE 3903 in good faith. We condemn the administration’s strategy and, with our colleagues, present this vote of non-confidence in President Rhonda Lenton, her senior administrators, and the Board of Governors of York University.

Rationale: For eight weeks, the administration has played a game of hardball, insisting the two sides in the current labour dispute are too far apart to even consider negotiating. This is a misguided strategy as evidenced by the resounding 85% of the union membership of CUPE 3903 that voted ‘no’ in the forced ratification vote, April 9, 2018.

We believe collegial governance is what distinguishes universities as institutions committed to a public good. This core aspect of the university’s mission, however, has been steadily eroded over the past decades as decision making has become centralized and, in particular, Senate authority has been challenged and breached both prior to and during the current labour disruption. Spending on administrator salaries has skyrocketed. Please see Mathew Kurtz’s illuminating article in Excalibur, “The rising cost of high-income administrators at York.”

We believe that much of the erosion of collegial governance stems from a Board of Governors, chaired by Rick Waugh, that is increasingly unrepresentative, undemocratic and whose orientation is blatantly anti-union. Their vision of a corporatized university is not the vision we share. The refusal to negotiate, which we believe is informed by an explicit desire to break the union, is undermining the integrity of our academic offerings, demoralizing faculty, punishing students – including students who, as TAs and GAs, are walking the picket line – and is ruining the reputation of York University.




Motion of non-confidence by the Department of Sociology in LA&PS Reply

April 25, 2018

The Department of Sociology at LA&PS adopted the following motion of non-confidence in the York University Board of Governors and administration at its meeting on April 25, 2018:

The ongoing strike is 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 Sociology in the LA&PS Faculty expresses no confidence in the senior administration led by President Rhonda Lenton and the Board of Governors led by Rick Waugh.

York students do deserve better – That’s why instructors are on strike Reply

April 30, 2018

By Dana Phillips

It’s the refrain we hear over and over again: “those poor students, caught in the middle of persistent labour disruptions at York university.”  What follows is often, as in Martin Regg Cohn’s recent Toronto Star column, a rebuke of striking union workers for being so darn unreasonable, under the thin guise of balanced journalism.  Sure, goes the argument, teaching staff have legitimate concerns, and precarious work is a problem. But why does CUPE local 3903 insist on being such a troublemaker?

I would be the first to argue that students do deserve better, and I’m confident that my fellow CUPE members, by and large, feel the same way. Many of us are students ourselves; we are also experiencing disruptions to our programs of study, in addition to significant losses in income, and ongoing economic uncertainty. Nearly all of us work closely with students whom we care about and want to see succeed. This is no small part of the reason that we continue to stand up against an administration that is in the business of lining its own coffers at the expense of quality higher education.

Like all unions, CUPE 3903 has its own internal politics, and these have in times past been admittedly problematic (as has York’s own governance). But to suggest that the union’s grievances therefore have no merit is simply fallacious. CUPE 3903 is not an outlier, as Regg Cohn suggests—it is a sector leader.  The hard won rights of CUPE 3903 union members have set a precedent for precarious academic workers across the country at a time when the rapid corporatization of universities should be what has us all alarmed and outraged. This is why arbitration is not a good option for CUPE 3903; you can’t lead the way through a decision-making process that bends towards the status quo.

One of the biggest points of dispute in this strike relates to the job security of Unit 2 contract faculty. York argues that providing opportunities for experienced contract instructors to transition into tenure-track positions (in lieu of the usual open search process, but with the same high bar for granting tenure) threatens standards of teaching excellence for students. And yet, York relies on contract instructors in short-term, low-paid positions to teach more than a third of its classes (more than half if you count teaching assistants). If York is truly concerned about teaching excellence, one wonders why the administration is currently fighting to have more courses taught by full-time graduate students from Unit 1, who are generally less qualified than the Unit 2 contract instructors they would be replacing.  There is nothing good for students about having “professors” who are overworked, underpaid, and unsure of where their next paycheck is coming from.

CUPE 3903’s proposals for Units 1 and 3, meanwhile, focus on ensuring accessible and equitable access to graduate education for future students—i.e. current undergraduates.  While CUPE looks towards the future, however, York and much of the media remain fixated on the strike’s most immediate impacts, thereby losing sight of the deeper issues threatening public education for years to come.

One of the problems with opinions like those of Regg Cohn is that they assume that striking workers are primarily to blame for what is happening to students at York. This is nothing new; it comes up all the time on the picket lines.  Perhaps it should come as no surprise that it is easiest to blame those who are out in the cold day after day, physically obstructing the way to classes, degrees—business as usual.  It seems as though these are the people that chose to mess everything up for everybody.

What, though, about the choice of York administrators to refuse to come to the bargaining table for weeks on end, while CUPE remains ready and willing to negotiate? What about the economic and educational systems that place highly educated and skilled people—the people we hope our students will become—in the position of struggling to make ends meet? The ability of these causes to remain invisible is what gives them their power and privilege.

The university and the public are rightfully concerned about the well-being of York’s undergraduate students at this difficult time. Unfortunately, they seem much less concerned about the well-being of those who provide the bulk of those students’ education, and who, in many ways, reflect those students’ own precarious future.

Motion of non-confidence by the Science & Technology Studies Graduate Students Association Reply

The following motion was passed on April 21, 2018. 


The Science & Technology Studies Graduate Students 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.


With the strike entering its eighth week, York’s administration continues to refuse to bargain with CUPE 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.

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 Science & Technology Studies Graduate Students Association can no longer express confidence in the leadership of President Rhonda Lenton or Chair of the Board of Governors Rick Waugh.

The Science & Technology Studies Graduate Students 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.

Motion of non-confidence by the Glendon Faculty Council Reply

April 20, 2018


Glendon 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


With the strike in its sixth week, York’s administration continues to refuse to bargain with CUPE 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.

York’s President and Board of Governors, with the support of Senate Executive, have undermined the historic interpretation and application of the York Act, thereby undermining collegial governance at York. Given these considerations, Glendon Faculty Council can no longer express confidence in the leadership of President Rhonda Lenton or in the Chair of the Board of Governors Rick Waugh.

Open letter to President Lenton by YUFA Executive Committee Reply

April 20, 2018

Dear President Lenton,

In your recent message to the York community (“Two days of mediation produce no settlement”), you claim that the CUPE conversion program remains a “fundamental issue” in the current labour dispute. You state that the University’s proposal of two conversion appointments (which falls below CUPE’s previous contract and the historical average) enjoys the “public support of many full-time faculty in the York University Faculty Association.” You add that “Academics support University’s position on conversions.”

It is incumbent upon your office to provide evidence for such statements about the opinions of our members. This letter did not disclose that your claim of “public support” refers to a petition you received from 152 members of YUFA who have organized a special group to discuss issues such as conversion appointments and the CUPE strike. Everyone is aware, including yourself, that among the more than 1,500 members of YUFA there are diverse views on the conversion program. The program has nonetheless been approved in every YUFA collective agreement voted upon by our members in the last thirty years.

It is disingenuous in this context that you failed to consult with YUFA before claiming that academics support the bargaining position of the York administration in this strike. By misrepresenting the views of YUFA members, your statement appears calculated to drive a wedge between YUFA members and our colleagues in CUPE 3903 upon their return to work. We ask therefore that you issue a correction, making it clear that you are in receipt of the signed petition of approximately 10% of our membership, but that you are not able to make a reliable claim about the opinion of YUFA members on the issue of the conversion program in the current negotiations.

Executive Committee
York University Faculty Association

Motion of non-confidence by the Department of English in LA&PS Reply

April 18, 2018

The Department of English at LA&PS adopted the following motion of non-confidence in the York University Board of Governors and administration at its departmental meeting on April 18, 2018:

Given that the Board of Governors and the York University administration are completely disconnected from the York University community and have demonstrated their determined refusal to establish respectful dialogue with all university stakeholders, it is moved that the Department vote its non-confidence in the York University Board of Governors and administration.