Statement to York’s Senate Reply

March 12, 2018

Statement to York’s Senate submitted by Senator Richard Wellen:

We the undersigned Senators would like to address recent statements by the University Counsel and members of the senior administration of the university which have asserted that York University’s senior administration and/or Board of Governors has authority or veto power regarding decisions to suspend classes during a labour dispute.

It has always been understood (and pursued in practice) that Senate, in conjunction with Senate Executive, has responsibility for decisions to suspend classes during a labour dispute based on considerations of academic integrity and fairness to students. The advice of the administration and other bodies within the university has always been considered by Senate and Senate Executive, but the decision taken has always been understood as lying within the purview of Senate.

This policy is founded on the principle of Senate’ s authority over academic policy as enshrined in the York Act, which is the governing legislation of the university, as well as relevant policies on disruption and class cancellation. In short, Senate in conjunction with Senate Executive, is the body that is properly constituted to make such decisions.

Recognizing the authority given to Senate over academic policy is always important as a general matter, but it is particularly so during a labour dispute or a strike. In such circumstances, the senior administration and the Board of Governors, no matter how well-intentioned, are positioned as labour relations protagonists responsible for negotiating with the union in the strike. By vesting responsibility for class suspensions and other similar matters in the Senate – which is meant to take a disinterested stance towards labour relations – the primacy of issues of academic integrity and fairness to students can be given greater assurance and the decisions made will have greater legitimacy. Moreover, the membership of Senate and Senate Executive is composed of multiple stakeholders – students, faculty, staff and administrators – who act in concert to oversee and enact the academic policies of the university.

No matter what view one holds on the question of suspending classes during a labour dispute, we believe that the authority and role of Senate in such decisions must be preserved in the interest of academic integrity and collegial governance by Senate as established in the York Act. It is the duty of Senate to consider and determine this issue, a duty that must not be denied the Senate by Senate Executive or other bodies within the university.

Signed by:

Julie Allen
Kurosh Amoui
Kym Bird
Heather Campbell
Devin Clancy
Sonny Day
William Denton
Amanda Glasbeek
Ricardo Grinspun
Rawan Habib
Merle Jacobs
Sirvan Karimi
Muhammad Ali Khalidi
Willem Maas
Marcia MaCaulay
Giulio Malfatti
Andrea Medovarski
Merouan Mekouar
Kim Michasiw
Jacinthe Michaud
Marina Morrow
Mina Rajabi Paak
David Skinner
Talha Tanweer
Richard Wellen
Lesley Wood

Critical Disability Studies Students and Alumni Response to the CUPE 3903 Strike 1

March 8, 2018

Dear Critical Disability Studies Department Head, Dr. Nancy Viva Davis Halifax, Chair of the School of Health Policy and Management, Dr. Marina Morrow, Graduate Program Director of Health Policy and Equity, Dr. Dennis Raphael, Dean of the Faculty of Health, Dr. Paul McDonald, and all sitting members of the University Senate:

We are writing you as past and current York University Critical Disability Studies students with an urgent request to:

a)   Immediately suspend all classes that continue to be held in your respective programs (Critical Disability Studies, the School of Health Policy and Management, and Health, Nursing, and Environmental Studies) and
b)   Pressure the University Senate to immediately suspend all classes that continue to be run at York University both on campus and online for the duration of the CUPE 3903 strike.

As Critical Disability Studies students, we are immersed in reading, writing, and thinking about social justice every day. We recognize that social justice, and accessibility in particular, are inextricable from the issues CUPE 3903 members are striking over at present – including but not limited to generalized precarity; lack of job and income security; support for survivors of sexual violence; and proactive measures protecting and promoting diversity, equity, and accessibility in processes of hiring and promotion.

Contrary to what York’s official communication may lead students to believe, the continuation of some classes during the strike, along with the liberty granted to professors to make individual decisions about the continuation of their classes, runs contrary to the interests of students, staff, and faculty alike. York University’s cultivated fragmentation of our community pits students against each other, our professors, and our morals – including those that undergird the fundamental principles of our disciplines. Students are being told to choose between supporting a union fighting for the future we are taught to imagine and compromising academics into which we have poured significant time and monies. Despite Senate policy, classes that continue to run during the strike necessarily disadvantage those unwilling and/or unable to cross picket lines, both material and virtual. Students who do not attend classes still running miss accessing lectures, in-class discussions, and the opportunity to interact with course directors and peers, as well as the ability to follow syllabi as planned. While those who do not cross picket lines are entitled to appropriate accommodations following the strike, there is no way to ensure that, compared to peers who have continued to attend class, we will retain an equal ability to excel in our courses.

We know that disabled people face disproportionately high rates of poverty, are subject to un/under-employment, and continue to struggle to access and remain in institutions of higher learning. Those of us who identify as neurodivergent, Mad, D/deaf, and/or disabled are dependent on the kinds of measures being advocated for by CUPE 3903. Health benefits, long-term job security and stability, and financial support, among others, would help address structural barriers and alleviate the enormous stress and anxiety already steeped throughout academia. No one is served by a rotating door that disproportionately expels disabled students, staff, and faculty who rely on whatever material and emotional certainties academia can provide to them. We also recognize that issues of disability and accessibility are compounded by and entangled with other forms of marginalization; the advancement of rights and protections for LGBTTQ* people, racialized people, Indigenous people, women, trans, and non-binary people – as advocated for by CUPE 3903 – are, in fact, advancements for all.

We are writing following suit of other Departments, Faculties, and student groups who have already requested the immediate suspension of classes during the strike in solidarity with CUPE 3903, including Faculty of Environmental Science graduate students; the York Federation of Students Access Centre; the College Presidents Association; and the Departments of Social Science; Sociology; Politics; Gender; Feminist & Women’s Studies; the School of Translation; Politics, Cinema and Media Arts; Equity Studies; Communication Studies; and Social Work.

The School of Health Policy and Management has stated by e-mail that they support CUPE 3903, but we are asking that this sentiment be translated into meaningful action. Rather than continue to allow YUFA faculty to make individual decisions about their courses, we ask that professors set an example to their students of active allyship and praxis by immediately suspending all classes in Health, Nursing, and Environmental Studies.

We do not want to cross picket lines of any kind representing our and our professors’ futures and livelihoods. We do not want to endorse the perpetuation of a two-tiered system of recognition and compensation in academia that leaves us with access to only 40% of all available faculty members at York University for supervision. We do not want to place our professors, colleagues, and peers on the picket lines at greater physical risk by inadvertently stoking animosity among our community and encouraging community members to continue to come to campus. And we do not want to contribute to prolonging this strike; given collective bargaining practices to date, we feel that the strike is much more likely to be effective and resolved in a timely fashion if we respect and respond to the pressing concerns of CUPE 3903 and allow them to disrupt the university’s habitual functioning as per their legal rights.

Precarity, either explicit or condoned through a lack of action, serves no one and its perpetuation represents an inequitable, unsustainable, and untenable future for all those involved in academia and all those yet to be involved.

We urge you to take seriously our request and respond with concrete action by suspending all classes still running.

Sincerely, and in solidarity with CUPE 3903,

Caroline Kovesi, MA Critical Disability Studies
Lorena Moltisanti, MA Critical Disability Studies
Jessica Doberstein, MA Critical Disability Studies
Raya Shields, MA Critical Disability Studies
Rylie Whitchurch, MA Critical Disability Studies
Michelle Shelley, PhD Critical Disability Studies
Fallon Burns, MA Critical Disability Studies
Sara Liden, MA Interdisciplinary Studies
Aisha Farra, MA Critical Disability Studies
Kimberley Sauder, PhD Critical Disability Studies
Hilda Smith, PhD Critical Disability Studies
Kevin Jackson, MA Critical Disability Studies (Alumni)
Dr. Jen Rinaldi, PhD Critical Disability Studies (Alumni, President of the Canadian Disability Studies Association 2017-2018)
Cath Duchastel de Montrouge, MA Critical Disability Studies (Alumni)
Bridget Liang, MA Critical Disability Studies (Alumni)
Fiona Cheuk, MA Critical Disability Studies (Alumni)
Fran Odette, MSW (Past-President of the Canadian Disability Studies Association 2016-2017)
Jenna Reid, PhD Critical Disability Studies
Julia Gruson-Wood
Estee Klar, PhD Critical Disability Studies
Jenna Caprani, MA Critical Disability Studies
Amber Reid, MA Critical Disability Studies (Alumni)

An open letter to FES Dean by Master’s students 1

March 7, 2018

Dear Dean de Costa,

As students of the Faculty of Environmental Studies, we are writing to ask that the Faculty suspend classes for the duration of the CUPE 3903 strike, in following with other academic departments across the University.

We do not consider non-action in this situation to be a neutral stance but rather a decision in alignment with the York University administration. By allowing classes to continue, students feel pressured by the administration and their professors to cross the picket line, whether physically or electronically. The decision by FES to continue with classes despite the strike undermines the authority of CUPE 3903.

Our faculty has been the most affected by the 800 graduate student jobs that were cut over the past two years. Hundreds of us who are graduate students in FES have lost the opportunity to gain crucial work experience as graduate or research assistants, as well as the health insurance and benefits that allow students to continue their studies. Many of us will now graduate without any academic work experience. This strike is going forward in part to demand that the University return these jobs. As students who should be members of CUPE 3903 currently or in future years, we see our solidarity as a critical part of this strike.

The Department of Equity Studies has stated 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.”

The Department of Sociology and the Graduate Programme in Sociology has said that the strike will “put students in a difficult situation, creating uncertainty for many [and] that by suspending classes, we can create clarity for students in our department.”

The School of Social Work has said that the “inconsistencies about which courses will continue leads to confusion and unfairness to students.”

The Department of Politics has 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.”

All of these departments also agree that TAs and CUPE instructors are integral to our programs and without their contribution, the integrity of our courses cannot be maintained.

We ask that the faculty align itself with its mandate and act as a faculty that is “dedicated to inspiring active-learners and engaged citizens… that respects and values insight, creativity, justice, and diversity and that works to promote significant social and environmental change toward the creation of a more equitable and sustainable world.” We ask that the faculty immediately suspend all classes for the duration of the strike for the safety and integrity of our students.


FES Students

Kristina Hedlund, MES
Jessica Buckley, BES
Zoë Dodd, MES
Cal Caesar, MES
Robert Wiseman, MES
Grant Calder, MES
Jenna Davidson, MES
Kayla Ginter, MES
Amarita Singh, MES
Loren March, MES
Monica De Vera, MES
Jassi Ranauta, MES
Thomas Lewallen, MES
Jerrica Gilbert, MES
Enrique Moran, MES
Aida Mas, MES
Omar Elsharkawy, MES
Tim Martin, MES
Alex Gatien, MES
Shelby Kennedy, MES
Rabia Ahmed, MES
Hillary Ashley, MES
Cindy Pham, MES
Melina Damian MES
Sarah Jackson MES
Kusha Dadui, MES
Tai Vo, MES
Alicia Campney, JD/MES
Michelle Chin-Dawe, MES
Maureen Owino, MES
Melissa Sobers, MES

Open Letter to Colleagues from the Faculty of Education 1

March 7, 2018

Dear Colleagues:

We are writing to express our concern with our Faculty’s handling of the recent strike and to offer what we wish to be constructive recommendations for moving forward. Faculties of Education have long histories and ties to Teacher Federation labour struggles to ensure the place and protection of teachers in the profession, and children and families in the communities they serve. Indeed, the OCT recognizes this professional history in their quick suspension of the practicum block during the period of the strike.

Rather than acknowledge this history and commitment to the profession, the first response of the administration of the Faculty of Education was to send a deeply problematic form for instructors to outline their reasons for possibly suspending their courses. According to the University Faculty Senate, Professors have the professional right and responsibility to determine if the academic integrity of their course is compromised by the strike.

We feel our Faculty’s collective first responses should be to reach out to students and our school and community partners, suspend all courses and to send a note to our students informing them of our academic and professional responsibility to do so. So many of our courses rely on the support of Graduate Assistants, Seconded and Contracted faculty with strong ties to Unions. Moreover, our graduate program is made up of students who support our Pre-Service and BA (Educational Studies) programs. It is critical that the Faculty of Education of all faculties, show measured support of and pedagogical responsibility for our graduate and undergraduate students.  Above all, collegial principles of education require professors in times of social and political turmoil to take a stand for their students and colleagues.

This is not the first time we have been called upon to respond to a strike and, yet, each time it seems more difficult for us as a faculty, (especially because of the unfortunate cancellation of faculty council meeting this month) to engage critical issues of academic integrity and faculty governance. We call for constructive, principled discussion of collegial process in the spirit of collegiality, as well as mutual respect and understanding for our students and each other during and after the strike.


Steve Alsop (Professor)
Ixchel Bennett (Seconded Faculty)
Khaled Barkaoui (Associate Professor)
Warren Crichlow (Associate Professor)
Roopa Desai Trilokekar (Associate Professor)
Mario Di Paolantonio (Associate Professor)
Don Dippo (University Professor)
Jen Jenson (Professor)
Isabel Killoran (Associate Professor)
Didi Khayatt, (Professor)
Joy Mannette (Associate Professor)
Aparna Mishra Tarc (Associate Professor)
Naomi Norquay (Associate Professor)
Gillian Parekh (Assistant Professor)
Tina Rapke (Assistant Professor)
Theresa Shanahan (Associate Professor)
Vidya Shah (Seconded Faculty)
Nastassia Subban (Seconded Faculty)
Kurt Thumlert (Assistant Professor)



E-mail to students from Glendon POLS Chair 1

March 5, 2018

Tous les cours en POLS suspendus / all courses in POLS suspended

Chers étudiants en POLS / Dear POLS students,

Le département POLS a décidé que tous les cours en POLS seront suspendus pendant la grève: la clarté apportée par la suspension de toutes les classes pendant la durée de la grève garantit l’intégrité académique et favorise la sécurité des étudiants et la santé mentale des étudiants et des professeurs / The POLS department has decided that all courses in POLS will be suspended for the duration of the strike: the clarity provided by suspending all classes for the duration of the strike safeguards academic integrity and promotes student safety and student and faculty mental health.

Glendon Faculty Council passed two motions (disponibles en anglais seulement pour le moment):

For reasons set out in the rationale below, it is the opinion of Council that classes should not be held in the event of a CUPE 3903 strike.

Rationale: Holding classes during a strike will compromise the academic integrity of our programmes. Safety and security of our students is a paramount concern. Uncertainty generates student and faculty anxiety and negatively impacts mental health. Therefore, the clarity provided by suspending all classes for the duration of the strike safeguards academic integrity, and promotes student safety and student and faculty mental health.

That Senate Executive suspend all classes on the Glendon Campus in the event of and for the duration of a CUPE 3903 strike, based on the previous motion.

Il semble que l’administration n’a pas encore informé les étudiants de ces motions, mais en attendant vous avez des droits / It seems that the administration has not yet informed students of these motions, but in the meantime you have rights [Senate policy link]:

Students who do not participate in academic activities because:
a) they are unable to do so owing to a Disruption, or
b) they choose not to participate in academic activities owing to a strike or lock-out on campus
are entitled to immunity from penalty, to reasonable alternative access to materials covered in their absence, to reasonable extensions of deadlines and to such other remedy as Senate deems necessary and consistent with the principle of academic integrity.

La meilleure source d’informations sur vos cours reste vos professeurs / The best source of information about your courses remains your professors.

Si vous avez des problèmes pour obtenir l’immunité de pénalité, des prolongations raisonnables des délais, etc. svp faites le moi savoir / If you have any problems obtaining immunity from penalty, reasonable extensions of deadlines, etc, please let me know.

Willem Maas
Directeur/Chair, Glendon POLS

Two motions by the Glendon Faculty Council 1

March 2, 2018

Glendon Faculty Council motions

Motion: For reasons set out in the rationale below, it is the opinion of Council that classes should not be held in the event of a CUPE 3903 strike.

Rationale: Holding classes during a strike will compromise the academic integrity of our programmes. Safety and security of our students is a paramount concern. Uncertainty generates student and faculty anxiety and negatively impacts mental health. Therefore, the clarity provided by suspending all classes for the duration of the strike safeguards academic integrity, and promotes student safety and student and faculty mental health.


Motion: That Senate Executive suspend all classes on the Glendon Campus in the event of and for the duration of a CUPE 3903 strike, based on the previous motion.

York Board of Governors appears ready to appoint Rhonda Lenton as president despite overwhelming rejection from cross-campus constituencies -Statement to the York Community Reply

A successful presidential search celebrates the appointment of an individual who inspires, motivates and brings together a diverse university community. In contrast, appointing the wrong individual can elicit apathy, demoralization, entrenched divisions, greater labour strife, and ensuing reputational loss for the institution. That the Board of Governors appears to be ready to appoint a president who has been publicly rejected by wide sectors of the university constitutes an unprecedented crisis of governance at York. More…

Important links to the presidential search Reply

York University site on presidential search – Official documents and links

Urgent call for action: Say no to Rhonda Lenton as the next president of York University – 10 November 2016

Statements regarding the consideration of Provost Rhonda Lenton for President – 14 November 2016

Letter from Prof. Agnes Whitfield to the Presidential Search Committee – 14 November 2016

York profs slam presidential search in open letter – 18 November 2016, Excalibur

Follow-up letter from Prof Agnes Whitfield regarding the presidential search – 20 November 2016

YUFA poll results on presidential search – 22 November 2016. Detailed poll results are here.

York University urged to make search for new president more transparent – 22 November 2016, Globe and Mail

YUFA statement on the presidential search – 23 November 2016

YUGSA Statement on York’s Presidential Search – 23 November 2016

York Cross-Campus Alliance – Joint-statement about presidential search – 25 November 2016

York community members decry university corporatization – 26 November 2016, Excalibur

GHSA statement on presidential search – 29 November 2016

Open Statement to the York University Community on the Flawed Integrity of the Presidential Search Process – 14 December 2016

York Cross-Campus Alliance response to Board of Governors’ statement on York’s presidential search – 10 January 2017

York Board of Governors appears ready to appoint Rhonda Lenton as president despite overwhelming rejection from cross-campus constituencies -Statement to the York Community – 23 February 2017