Letter to our Students from Colleagues at the Faculty of Education Reply

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,

Steve Alsop,
Sarah Barrett
Warren Crichlow
Roopa Desai Trilokekar
Mario DiPaolantonio
Nombuso Dlamini
Lisa Farley
Jen Jenson
Joy Mannette
Aparna Mishra Tarc
Naomi Norquay
Gillian Parekh
Tina Rapke
Theresa Shanahan
Kurt Thumlert
Laura Wiseman

On the Matter of “Open” Searches, Academic Excellence, and Student Success: A Radical Proposal Reply

April 2, 2018

On the Matter of “Open” Searches, Academic Excellence, and Student Success: A Radical Proposal

A Discussion Paper

Lykke de la Cour
Department of Social Science
York University

The “Open” search process for academic appointments is heralded in the university community as a central pillar, if not the flagship marker, that undergirds the achievement of research and teaching excellence at universities  – and indeed so it should be … in an ideal world.

Data repeatedly demonstrates, however, that despite decades of equity initiatives,  academic “open” searches regularly re/produce structural inequalities linked to gender, race, class, sexual identity and disability, evidenced by the fact that these groups remain under-represented among tenured faculty and, when appointed to tenure-track positions, they tend to be disproportionately concentrated in lower ranks of the profession, are often paid less than their peers, and are only marginally included in programs such as Canada Research Chairs.[1] What this suggests is that academic appointment processes are not, in all instances, as impartial, objective, or unbiased as the term “open” suggests. Instead, all too frequently hiring practices replicate particular forms of power and privilege, with attendant knowledge production and pedagogic practices, styling this as a demonstration of academic “excellence.” “Open” academic searches, hence, are not as unfettered as sometimes implied.

Similarly, exhortations around the importance of “open” searches are neither unencumbered nor innocent when raised in the midst of a labour disruption that centers on the problem of precarious academic employment. In such moments, refrains around the inviolable principle of “open” academic searches become deeply political, chiefly deployed to reinforce divisions between tenured and contractualized faculty, while perpetuating a stigmatized association with appointment processes connected with contractual academic work.

Just look at how many times in the current labour disruption at York the administration has deployed references to “open” searches in its communications relating to Unit 2’s job security proposals. Each message from the administration, including letters from the President and the Interim Provost to OCUFA, etc., have repeatedly underscored “open” hiring practices as a “hallmark” of academic appointment processes that absolutely cannot be breached by permitting greater numbers of conversions at York. In the administration’s most recent March 27th communication on a supervised (forced ratification) vote, they make this point even more fully:

We have made every effort to reach a fair and equitable agreement with CUPE 3903 while preserving and protecting:

  • Academic excellence,
  • Student success, and
  • The vitally important role of open searches for full-time tenure stream faculty.

What are the issues?

We have offered CUPE 3903 the best pay and benefits package of any university in Ontario, but there are two key non-monetary issues on which we can’t compromise:

  1. The number of tenure stream positions that will be given to CUPE 3903 members without an open search: York is committed to the principle that in all but exceptional cases, full-time tenure stream appointments must be made through open searches as they are at all other Canadian universities. To balance this principle with CUPE 3903’s interests, York is offering six tenure stream positions for contract faculty over the life of the new collective agreement. This is being done through the conversion program, which is unprecedented in the country … [2]

Count the number of times that the phrased “open” search is referred to in this statement. Apparently, over the past several months, the administration has also devoted considerable time informing departmental chairs and other tenured faculty at York that any promises around potential new hires would, of course, be mitigated by the number of conversions negotiated CUPE 3903. Talk about playing the two faculty groups off one another.

But let’s unpack the administration’s statement even further.

First, it presents yet another misrepresentation, this time not about the number of conversions offered as being “not concessionary,” but about the process surrounding conversion appointments. In their statement, the administration writes that tenure stream positions “will be given” to CUPE 3903 Unit 2 members. Will be “given”?

At York, contract faculty have always had to participate in a competitive selection process to get a conversion appointment and, if fortunate enough to be selected, what they are actually then “given” is a probationary tenure stream position whereby they will be required to fulfill the same criteria for tenure and promotion as any new hire. Tenured positions are not being benevolently doled out here – and let’s be clear, any modicum of meaningful job security provision (including conversions) that Unit 2 has managed to obtain over the years has not been “given” to them. These have been hard fought for gains, often only attained by going on strike.

The second problem with the administration’s statement concerns the association constructed between “open” searches, academic excellence, and student success. Again, the logic is not clear here.

In the context of a rapidly collapsing faculty infrastructure, where new tenure-stream hires are not keeping apace with TT faculty “departures” – and haven’t been for quite a while, despite enrollment growth[3] – how on earth will a handful of new hires selected through “open” searches be able to achieve the goals of academic excellence and student success?  The university is either going to have to dramatically increase class sizes and introduce other pedagogic innovations in order to cope with enrollment growth in a setting where TT faculty attrition is significant. Or York is going to have to continue to rely on a large cadre of precariously employed contractualized academic staff. Neither of these options is optimal for academic excellence or student success … and, in either case, it leaves a diminished proportion of TT faculty responsible for fulfilling the university’s required service obligations.

In her recent article in The Globe and Mail, Simona Chiose notes:

After hovering between 55 and 60 hires for the past several years, next year York plans to hire 88 tenure-stream professors, according to numbers provided by the university, renewing just under 6 per cent of its total permanent faculty ranks.[4]

Where did these numbers come from?

According to York’s Multi Year Budget Plan 2017-18 to 2019-20, the administration is projecting only 65 new hires for next year. When faculty departures are taken into account, this will yield an overall increase of 33 faculty to the TT complement. The figures are roughly the same for the following year, 2019-20.  The overall ‘in-year’ increase/decrease to YUFA faculty ranks, however, is 27 and 28 when the reduction of 19 and 23 CLAs, respectively, over 2018/19 and 2019/20, is taken into account.[5]


Screen Shot 2018-04-05 at 12.07.32 PM.png

Source: Finance Department, York University, “Budget Highlights,” Multi Year Budget Plan 2017-18 to 2019-20

What this chart doesn’t capture is that an increase of 33 faculty to the TT complement still leaves faculty numbers below what they were in 2008/9 (1,424) – and faculty FTEs were already significantly depleted even by 2008/9. As “A Sixteen-Year Snapshot of York University” demonstrates, undergraduate and graduate enrollments at York grew 36% to 38% respectively over the course of the 2000s, but tenure stream faculty increased by only 20%.[6] Data suggests that the TT faculty collapse at York dates at least to the mid-1990s.[7] The above chart also obscures the fact that, in recent years, York has relied on an unprecedented number of contractual positions (CLAs) to artificially boost tenure-stream faculty numbers.  As the table below indicates, CLA positions have increased significantly over the past four years, but not the number of TT faculty. The increase in CLAs has simply facilitated a ‘smoke and mirrors’ game,[8] giving an overall impression of TT faculty complement growth when in fact, since 2008/9, there has been none:

2008/9 1424 104 1528
2009/10 1379 86 1465
2010/11 1364 102 1466
2011/12 1368 107 1475
2012/13 1382 98 1480
2013/14 1389 134 1523
2014/15 1373 155 1505
2015/16 1362 186 1548
2016/17 1381 183 1564


Source: York University Fact Book 2015-16 and York University Quick Facts 2016-17

The Report on Appointments, Tenure and Promotion, presented last October to the Board of Governors by the Chair of the Academic Resources Committee, paints a worrisome picture as well.[9] In this document, the Appendix D chart on “Changes in Tenure Stream Complement 2009-10 to 2017-18” indicates a total of 65 appointments made or in progress for 2017-18 (not the 98 projected hires cited in the Multi Year Budget Plan). Eighteen searches (beyond the 65) are listed as “Failed/Deplayed/Cancelled Searches” [sic], which does bring the total number of authorized new hires up to 83, but still not 98. However, these 65 new appointments pale when weighed against confirmed departures, which for 2017-18 are reportedly 45.[10] So 65 – 45 = 20 additions to the faculty complement for 2017-18. Add 20 to the total number of TT in 2016/17 and you get 1401 – still below the TT complement numbers in 2008/9.

If this is the end result when the university says that hiring plans hovered around 50 to 60 new hires the past few years, what will happen in 2018-19 and 2019-20 when budget projections forecast, respectively, only 27 and 26 new hires?

What further complicates the situation around the TT faculty complement, of course, is student enrollments. While TT faculty numbers have declined significantly at York since 2008/9, both undergraduate and graduate enrollments have remained fairly stable – 46,079 undergraduates in 2008/9 versus 46,320 in 2016/17 (an increase of .5% over the period)[11] and 5,837 graduate students in 2008/9 as opposed to 5,798 in 2016/17, a decline of 39 graduate enrollments.[12] No doubt contractual faculty, both within CUPE 3903 Unit 2 and YUFA CLAs, have been deployed to fill the gaps in undergraduate teaching created by the constriction of TT faculty over these years. But it is when we look towards the future – indeed not even the too distant future – that the picture becomes even more fraught if we are truly concerned about academic excellence and student success at York.

As noted above, there are no major plans to increase the number of TT faculty at the university over the next few years. Yet, York’s administration is projecting significant enrollment increases, at least with respect to undergraduate and MA enrollments. It is anticipated that enrollments in each category will rise 12% by 2019/20.  Only a 1% increase in PhD graduate enrollments is predicted by 2020, however.[13] There is also, of course, the opening of the Markham campus in 2021, with an enrollment target of 4,200 students. Advertising for the new campus states that “400+” jobs will created at Markham, but it is not clear how many of these positions will be academic.[14] Similarly, the children of the “echo boomers” (i.e. the grandchildren of the baby boomers) are set to begin enrolling at universities in Ontario in the early 2020s.[15]

So who is going to teach all these students?

Here is where we get to the crux of the CUPE 3903 strike, especially with respect to Unit 2 job security proposals: the administration’s utterly inflexible position on conversions, in my estimation, is fundamentally about the erosion of tenure through a simultaneous process of atrophying new TT hires (precisely in a period where both student enrollments and TT faculty departures linked to retirements are expected to grow) while inhibiting mechanisms through which contractualized faculty can be shifted into tenure-track positions.

In addition to misrepresenting conversions as something benevolently granted to contract faculty and, ultimately, antithetical to academic excellence and student success, the other recurrent theme in the administration’s messaging around Unit 2’s conversion program is about the uniqueness of this program, calling it “unprecedented in the country.” However, the only aspect of CUPE 3903’s conversion program that differentiates it from similar programs at other universities (such as Queen’s University Faculty Association’s collective agreement provisions around Continuing Adjunct Appointments[16]) is that the CUPE 3903 program transfers successful applicants into probationary tenure-stream positions, thereby bolstering tenure-track ranks. In this sense, yes, the CUPE 3903 Conversion Program does stand out as exceptional. But this extraordinariness does not mean that the program should be dispensed with. Rather, isn’t this a program all university faculty unions should embrace in response to the growing problem of precarious academic labour? Could this, perhaps, be the real reason that the province is not intervening and pushing York University to resolve the strike?

The route that many universities in Ontario have followed to deal with the tenure-track “faculty crisis” is to create non-tenured teaching-stream positions. Half of the twenty publically-funded universities operating in the province have done so, variously designating these positions as “Instructor Employees,” “Teaching-Focused Faculty,” “Continuing Lecturer,” “Professional Teaching Positions” and, in York’s case, “Alternate Stream.”[17] Of the ten universities that have a specially designated teaching stream, only three have established these streams within the tenure-track faculty complement: Lakehead, Wilfred Laurier, and York.[18] In each of these instances, the teaching stream mirrors professorial appointments with respect to collective agreement rights and protections, such as sabbaticals, PTR, benefits, etc. The main differences are a somewhat lower salary and a higher teaching load, which fluctuates between a 4.0 course workload at Lakehead, 3.5 at York, and 3.0 at Wilfred Laurier. At York and Laurier teaching-stream faculty can also engage in scholarly academic (not just pedagogic) research for tenure and promotion reviews and other professional assessments. Article 15.7.5(c) of the Wilfrid Laurier University Faculty Association Collective Agreement 2017-20 states:

Any assessment of the scholarly activity of a Member with a PTP shall recognize the Member’s additional teaching beyond the teaching load norms and variations prescribed under 18.2.1 for Members not holding a PTP. A demonstrated record of excellence in teaching, or teaching and service, may be used to lessen the standards required in scholarly and/or professional activity.

Something unique to York, however, is Article 12.13 in the YUFA Collective Agreement which permits faculty transfers from the Alternate Stream to the Professorial Stream in “exceptional circumstances.”

This past January, OCUFA submitted a pre-budget report to the Ontario government, Time for renewal: Investing in the future of Ontario’s universities. This report comes at an opportune time as we ponder how to effectively resolve the strike at York. While the overall thrust of the document is to call for a reinvestment of public funding in Ontario’s college and university system, the theme of faculty renewal stands critically at the center of this report as the only way to really improve the quality of post-secondary education in the province. Its recommendations for reviving Ontario’s faculty complement, however, emphasize not only a reinvestment in new tenure-track hires, but also the creation of “pathways” to full-time secure positions for contract faculty at Ontario universities:

Universities should acknowledge their ongoing reliance on contract work by creating pathways for contract faculty to secure full-time faculty position [at their institutions] …reducing the reliance on contract faculty in the system as a whole.[19]

In the context of the current labour disruption, we have a moment here at York to do exactly what OCUFA is recommending. CUPE 3903 has two specific Unit 2 bargaining proposals on the table that are essentially the “pathways” that OCUFA recommends – and the good news is that neither of these pathways has to be “created” at York, they already exist: the CUPE Conversion Program and the SRC Program (Special Renewable Contracts).[20] With respect to the latter, all that needs to be changed are the dates under Article 12.32 in the YUFA collective agreement. But as both CUPE 3903 and YUFA have repeatedly stated, these dates can only be changed with the agreement of YUFA and by bringing YUFA and CUPE 3903 Unit 2 together into formal tripartite negotiations as part of current round of negotiations. Both unions are willing to do this, but the employer has steadfastly refused.

The “version” of SRCs that the employer has proposed to CUPE 3903 in this round of bargaining, represents a degraded variation of the old SRC program. It is this version which YUFA will never accept. However, the SRC program that YUFA did accept, back in the late 1990s, was very different and had considerable more integrity than what York is now forcing Unit 2 to vote on.

Negotiated in 1999, the SRC program was developed for Unit 2 AA pool members with fifteen or more years of teaching contributions to the university, who had taught at an intensity of at least 2.5 courses over the previous five years. These were contractual appointments, not tenure stream positions within YUFA. The initial term of the contract was five years, with a renewal option for one additional five year term and then a final further three year term. All SRCs were entitled to one sabbatical over the duration of the thirteen years. Faculty appointed to SRC positions had a teaching workload of three courses per year, with the same expectations around university service as required of TT faculty. SRC salaries were negotiable and, thus, comparable to YUFA members’ wages. All other provisions of the YUFA collective agreement, with respect to protections, rights, benefits, and opportunities, applied to SRC faculty.[21] From 1999 to 2004, approximately forty Unit 2 members were transferred to SRC positions in YUFA.[22]

In 2002, CUPE 3903 agreed to suspend the program to allow the remaining members in the pool to transfer into YUFA. A letter of understanding was drawn up at this time that indicated that the employer would examine alternative job security programs over the course of 2002-2005. This never materialized. Then in CUPE 3903’s 2008/9 negotiations, when Unit 2 proposed re-establishing the SRC program, the employer came back with a horribly corrupted TSA proposal (Teaching-Stream Appointments). These were to be 10 new full-time five-year renewable appointments (overall) within YUFA, with a 4.0 course load for $60,000 a year, and no progress-through-the-ranks (PTR) adjustments, no sabbaticals, etc. Only five of these positions were earmarked for members with ten years of more of teaching service. In the forced ratification vote of January 2009,  Unit 2 resoundingly and rightly rejected the employer’s TSA proposal.[23] YUFA similarly rejected the TSAs at an SGMM in 2010 when the employer inserted this proposal into the union’s side-bared workload negotiations.

And so here we are, years later, really no further ahead, with a low number of conversions being offered to CUPE 3903 Unit 2 and yet another butchered version of the old SRC program on the table. Only one  thing has changed over this period: there now are 220 Unit 2 members in the AA Pool, while there were only 83 in 2008/9.[24]

In the current round of negotiations, CUPE 3903 originally proposed 20 conversions and 10 SRC appointments per year over the next three years. That adds up to a total 90 Unit 2 members who could be transferred into YUFA – 60 through conversions to either professorial or alternate stream tenure-track appointments and 30 into five to thirteen-year contractual SRC positions.[25] That’s nearly half of CUPE’s AA pool.

But could we perhaps even be bolder here? Why not bring the whole AA pool into YUFA?

While this suggestion indubitably may seem radical to some, it is nevertheless worth considering given the situation we find ourselves in at York.  First, shifting the Unit 2 AA pool would inflate YUFA faculty numbers overnight and put us in line with other universities in the province where members of the full-time faculty association outnumber academic staff working on eight- and four-month contracts. As well, think about all the service work that this experience pool of faculty could begin to undertake as YUFA members.

Second, dealing in a meaningful way with CUPE 3903’s AA pool and Unit 2 job security demands would most certainly result in greater labour stability at York University. We’ve had three strikes in less than ten years. In each of these strikes, conversions and SRCs have figured centrally in Unit 2’s aspirations during contract negotiations. Each time that Unit 2 has gone out on strike it has been when the employer’s proposed offer does not deal with the matter of precarious employment in a serious manner. While the administration obviously thinks it can bully CUPE 3903 into some sort of submission with this round of negotiations, given the way the employer has handled bargaining and the strike, my sense is that CUPE 3903 is a union that is not so easily intimidated. We are only going to face more labour unrest at York if we don’t start to deal with the problem of precarious academic employment in a significant and meaningful way.

Shifting the Unit 2 AA pool into YUFA would be a good first step in correcting the gross historic wrong that has occurred here at York and the university’s unprecedented over-reliance on contractual academic faculty compared to other universities in Ontario.[26] It would begin to restore our reputation and image as a university that is committed – not just in rhetoric but in practice – to social justice. It conveys to the public and students that social justice is not just something we say, but something we actually do.

Can York afford to do this?

In their budget plan report, last June, the Board of Governors’ Finance and Audit Committee highlighted “the significantly improved financial status of the University over recent years,” emphasizing a $1.1 million in-year surplus and a “positive” in-year variance to the 2016-17 budget of $20.2 million.[27] The university’s statements on revenues and expenses have registered healthy surpluses for the past four years, $36.4 million (2017), $23.3million (2016), $19.9 million (2015) and$4.3 million (2014). Expenses have not outpaced revenues since 2013.[28] Where did monies come from? According to the committee’s report, from increased  tuition  fees  and  higher  international  enrolments, which “provided  some  additional operating income overall,” and the fact that “[c]ost  pressures  largely associated with salaries and benefits declined due to lower compensation settlements.”[29] So, in other words, students, faculty and staff have largely funded these surpluses. Should we not then have a say as to how these monies are spent?

In responding to CUPE 3903 on the matter of budget surpluses, the administration noted that the University “remains committed to allocating any such one-time surplus amounts to its Strategic Investment Fund, used to support the University’s key priorities of excellence in teaching and research and providing an enhanced student experience, as embodied in the University Academic Plan and related strategic planning documents.”[30] This fund, known as the Academic Strategic Investment Contingency Fund, was established in 2014/15 to transfer excess monies from internally restricted net assets to pay for academic and strategic initiatives at the university.[31] Since 2014/15, $75.91 million has been transferred into this fund. In 2016/7, $500,000 of these monies were directed to York’s Branding Campaign. $300,000 was devoted to the Presidential Search (spread out over 2015/16 and 2016/17) and $25 million has gone towards the SHARP Implementation.[32]

It is from this fund that monies were allocated towards the costs associated with the higher number of CUPE 3903 conversions over 2014-2017. In 2015, 2016, and 2017, $270,000 was allocated each year to cover the expenditures associated with CUPE conversions. In total, $810,000 was paid out of the Academic Strategic Investment Contingency Fund to cover 24 conversions. You can do the math here – but basically converting even the whole AA pool would amount to about a third of what has been allocated towards the implementation of the SHARP  budget model plan and less than a fifth of the total projected cumulative ending balance by 2019 ($40.41 million). York can afford to do this – and what better way is there, really, to support one of the university’s key priority areas of enhancing student experience?

We have the “pathways” here at York for dealing with the academic employment precarity that faculty organizations, such as OCUFA, are urging Ontario universities to create. The rationale for doing so is not just about “doing the right thing” with respect to contractualized faculty, but it is also about recognizing that divided neither contract nor tenured faculty are winning much here in the era of the corporatized university. Working together we will all be that much stronger, and together we cannot be so easily played off one another.


[1] Mary Fox,Carolyn Fonseca,Jinghui Bao. “Work and family conflict in academic science: Patterns and predictors among women and men in research universities,” Social Studies of Science (2011) Volume 41, No. 5, 715-735; L.A. Renzulli, L. Grant, S. Kathuria. “Race, gender, and the wage gap: Comparing faculty salaries in predominately white and historically black colleges and universities,” Gender & Society (2006) Volume 20.  No. 4, 491-510; Judith S. White. “Pipeline to pathways: new directions for improving the status of women on campus ,” Liberal Education Volume 91, No. 1 (2005), 22-27;  Yonghong Jade Xu. “Gender Disparity in STEM Disciplines: A Study of Faculty Attrition and Turnover Intentions,” Research in Higher Education (2008) Volume 49, No. 7, 607–624; Katherine Side and Wendy Robbins. “Institutionalizing inequalities in Canadian universities: the Canada Research Chairs Program,” NWSA Journal (2007) Volume 19, No. 3, 163-181; Frances Henry, Enakshi Dua, Carl E. James, Audrey Kobayashi, Peter Li, Howard Ramos, Malinda S. Smith. The equity myth : racialization and indigeneity at Canadian universities  Vancouver ; Toronto : UBC Press, 2017.

[2] York University Requests a Supervised Vote  http://labour.yorku.ca/2018/03/27/york-supervised-vote/

[3] 43,235 in 2000/1 to 53,347 in 2016/17

[4] Simona Chiose. “York University, contract professors no closer to ending strike which could impact graduation for thousands,” The Globle and Mail, March 25, 2018.

[5] Finance Department, York University, “Budget Highlights,” Multi Year Budget Plan 2017-18 to 2019-2, p. 98.

[6] Craig Heron, updated by Murray Cooke, CUPE 3903, “A Sixteen-Year Snapshot of York University,” 2000-16.

[7] Full Time Academic Staff 1976/77 Through 2015/16, York Fact Book  2015-16, p181.

[8] For another interesting example of ‘smoke and mirrors’, see QS World University Rankings where York lists its Academic Faculty Staff at 2,357. https://www.topuniversities.com/universities/york-university#sub

[9] Henry Wu,  Chair, Academic Resources Committee,  October 2017 Report on Appointments, Tenure and Promotion, ,memorandum to Board of Governors, October, 3, 2017.

[10] Ibid., Appendix D.

[11] There have been a few notable surges in enrollments, however, over this period. From 2010 to 2014, the number of undergraduates enrolled at York increased by roughly 2,000. Students Registered At York, York Fact Book 2015-16.

[12] York Fact Book 2015-16; York University Quick Facts, 2016-17.

[13] Finance Department, York University, “Fiscal Context,” Multi Year Budget Plan 2017-18 to 2019-2, p. 102.

[14] http://markham.yorku.ca/quick-facts/

[15] Louise Brown, “Ontario university enrolment down for first time in 15 years.” The Toronto Star Sept. 22, 2014.https://www.thestar.com/yourtoronto/education/2014/09/22/ontario_university_enrolment_down_for_first_time_in_15_years.html

[16] Article, 2015-2019 Queen’s University – QUFA Collective Agreement.

[17] I have drawn this information from the various collective agreements of faculty associations across the province.

[18] Ryerson does not have a teaching stream but two levels of teaching intensity within faculty ranks.

[19] OCUFA. Time for renewal: Investing in the future of Ontario’s universities, January 2018: 17, and 20-21.

[20] For details on the conversion program, please refer to my March 20, 2018 discussion paper, “To Convert or Not To Convert, That is the Question: The CUPE 3903 Strike and Precarious Academic Labour.”

[21] See Article 12.32 in York University Faculty Association Collective Agreement.

[22] CUPE 3903 Unit 2 Chronicle, January 2009, p. 3.

[23] Cupe 3903. “Key Outstanding Issues of the Strike,” January 2009; Tyler Shipley, “Demanding the Impossible: Struggles for the Future of Post-Secondary Education,” Socialist Project  (May 10, 2009), https://socialistproject.ca/2009/05/b215/

[24]Academic Employee Relations, Summary of AA Pool, December 22, 2008.  CUPE 3903 Conversion List 2015-16

[25] https://3903.cupe.ca/files/2017/02/CUPE-3903-Bargaining-Proposal-Package-2017-Oct-16.docx.pdf

[26] This is really what has been “unprecedented” in the sector, but the employer’s communications never cite this precedence.

[27] Finance and Audit Committee, Budget Plan and Financial Statements, Minutes, York University Board of Governors, 27 June, 2017

[28] York University, Financial Statements,  April 30, 2017, p. 5

[29] Ibid., p. 2

[30] http://labour.yorku.ca/just-the-facts/one-time-budget-surplus-significantly-less-than-cupe-3903-claims/

[31] http://www.yorku.ca/finance/documents/Financial_Statements_April_30_2015.pdf

[32] Chair, Finance and Audit Committee, Update to the Multi-Year Budget Plan for 2016  -17, Memorandum to Board of Governors, June 28 , 2016 , p. 77.

VOTE NO! YUGSA Recommends Its CUPE Members Reject York’s Latest Offer Reply

March 30, 2018

CUPE 3903 members have entered a new phase of the strike: this week, York University requested that the Ministry of Labour supervise a forced vote by the CUPE 3903 membership on York’s latest offer. Through their request, the York administration continues to reject the process of bargaining constructively with CUPE 3903.

We agree with the CUPE 3903 Bargaining Team’s recommendation that the membership vote to REJECT this offer. The BT has explained in more detail why all units should reject this offer. Overall, York’s offer is the worst deal the membership will see. If members reject it, York may be forced to table a better deal out of fear of risking the income from the summer semester. The BT stresses to members that it is better to negotiate a deal through collective bargaining. In addition, York’s offer contains no back-to-work protocol, meaning that there is absolutely no guarantee that members will get paid for the work they do to wrap up the term after the strike is over. The only way to guarantee this back pay is to settle this dispute at the bargaining table, where in the wake of previous strikes CUPE has been successful in ensuring its members receive between 85 – 100% of their pay upon returning to work.

YUGSA is particularly disturbed that the York administration stated in their supervised vote request: “Our graduate students strongly support our Fellowship model.” As a body representing graduate students, we have heard overwhelmingly from our members that they want GAs to be restored. York’s cut to GAs means that hundreds of students do not have access to CUPE 3903’s benefits package, nor the health care plan and support funds that they offer, including their Extended Health Benefits Fund, Trans Fund, Ways and Means Fund, Child Care Fund, Sexual Assault Survivor Support Fund, etc.. It also means that the work previously done by GAs has been downloaded onto unpaid internships for undergraduate students, or, to YUFA members now robbed of their valuable GAs.

These are some of the reasons why CUPE 3903 members ought to reject York’s current offer. What York has done to GAs they are trying now to do to TAs by using the fellowship model of funding to detach funding language from the collective agreement, thereby loosening the union’s ability to bargain over TA funding. This loss will have serious consequences for the York graduate community.

YUGSA Condemns Violence at the Senate Chamber

YUGSA condemns York University’s response to students and workers outside and inside of Senate Chamber on Thursday, March 22, 2018. Seeing the widespread desire for students to enter the Chamber, the York administration had two viable options, which were both ignored:

1) They could have followed the Rules of Senate, which state (in Article I. Principles, 2.) that, “Senate is open to the University community unless it duly resolves to move into closed session.”

2) If the Senate Chamber was filled beyond fire code capacity, they could have resolved to move the meeting to a larger space to accommodate students, which they ought to do going forward.

Instead of pursuing these options, York put members of CUPE 3903, various undergraduate student groups, and members of CUPE 1356 into direct conflict, instructing security guards to keep students out of the chamber. The result was horrific. Senator Devin Clancy was put into a headlock by a security guard upon attempting to enter the chamber; the YUGSA senator was on the receiving end of aggressive remarks and even at one point, physical force by the secretary of senate for protesting the senate executive’s actions and for insistence on remaining at the senate chamber entrance to bear witness to how students and members were being treated. We also heard reports that members of 1356 were injured in the process. There was no security challenge to justify such actions. The students and supporters who were in the hallway, some of them members of the Senate, presented no physical danger to anyone. This highly securitized approach is not welcoming and accommodating — fundamentally, it is not what a university should be about.

Such actions revealed York’s administration goal: for the sake of political expediency, and to forge the strike in their interest, they are willing to put any and all students and workers at risk. They want to pit the members of community against each other: unions against unions, brothers and sisters against brothers and sisters, students against workers, etc. It is only by uniting that we can win our differing but interrelated demands for fair wages and working conditions, collegial governance, the abolition of tuition fees, and more.

How to Engage in Solidarity Actions with CUPE 3903

YUGSA sees three ways that the York community can engage in solidarity actions with CUPE 3903:

1) Sign the petition now to President Lenton and York administration to bargain a fair deal! (CLICK HERE)

2) Join the Cross-Campus Alliance (CCA), comprised of labour and student unions on campus, for their weekly solidarity visit to the picket lines. The next visit will be on Wednesday, April 4 from 12:00 – 2:00 pm on Main Gate (Keele St. and York Blvd.) in conjunction with the Fight for $15 and Fairness’ Day of Action for Equal Pay for Equal Work (RSVP HERE).

3) If you’re interested in organizing further solidarity actions, feel free to connect with us (e-mail campaigns@yugsa.ca), or get in touch with undergraduate students who have been occupying the Senate Chamber since March 22, which has quickly become a 24/7 organizing space around the demands that York negotiate a fair deal with CUPE 3903. The occupation shows how some students are increasingly frustrated by the York administration’s actions, particularly in disrupting the democratic and collegial governance processes at the Senate. These students are demanding that York be held accountable for their incompetence by immediately refunding the semester’s tuition for all students. York’s move to hire private security to constantly surveil picketers has also been applied to the occupiers, who are being intimidated by over-securitization on campus. You can get in touch with them via studentsforcupe3903@gmail.com, or by going to their Facebook page (click here).

Statement by YUGSA: York must bargain a fair deal with all units of CUPE 3903 Reply

Statement from the School of Human Resource Management Reply

March 20, 2018

Statement from the School of Human Resource Management on York University and CUPE 3903 Bargaining and Strike

The School of Human Resource Management (SHRM) affirms our commitment to our CUPE colleagues and supports their right to engage in collective bargaining and to strike. We encourage the University to return to bargaining and for both parties to bargain in good faith and reach a collective agreement that is fair and equitable as quickly as possible.

SHRM recognizes that the strike and the decision to continue some but not most courses has created confusion and caused stress for students and faculty. SHRM supports students’ rights guaranteed under the York University Senate Policy not to participate in academic activities during a work stoppage. This includes their right to refuse to cross an actual or virtual picket line without being penalized in any manner for their choice.

Consistent with statements by many other units, SHRM also supports the historical role played by Senate and Senate Executive over matters related to the academic integrity of courses, including decisions about whether classes should be suspended during a work stoppage for reasons of academic integrity.

Open Letter to Minister Hunter 2

March 19, 2018

Honourable Mitzie Hunter
Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Development
Government of Ontario

Dear Minister Hunter,

The Ministry should be aware that the present Board of Governors of York University is operating outside its By-laws and the York University Act. To all intents and purposes, a small group of people exclusively from the banking and big business sector have taken over control of the Board, usurped powers granted to the Senate under the York University Act, and are seeking to impose their own views and agenda at the expense of York University’s legitimate educational goals and responsibilities as a publicly-funded institution.

It is clear that the current Board of Governors does not have the legitimacy and credibility to carry out its functions of oversight with respect to York University. Dominated by big business and big finance to the exclusion of vast segments of our society, it has adopted a brutal corporate-driven managerialism that is impervious to the educational needs of York’s students, including the fundamental right to safety on campus, and dismissive of the vital role of a university to contribute to the conservation, communication and creation of knowledge.

Rather than nurture students, staff and faculty in a dynamic, forward-looking educational process, this Board has demonstrated a persistent underlying anti-intellectualism and hostility to women and other equity-seeking groups that is preventing York University from realizing its full potential in program development and innovation. Quite literally, by its outmoded macho authoritarianism, it is choking the creative forces of York University.

I have been a professor at York University for almost 28 years. I came to York University in 1990, after teaching 10 years at Queen’s University. During the academic year 1993-1994 I served as Chair of the Selection Committee for a New Principal of Glendon College. I also chaired the Glendon Policy and Planning Committee from 1993 to 1995, as well as the School of Translation.  I am a full professor with an excellent record of external research grants, an active international research profile, and an exemplary teaching record. My student evaluations are routinely above 4.7 on a scale of 5, and last year, students in a fourth-year course even gave me a perfect score of 5.

I have also had the great privilege of holding the Seagram Chair in Canadian Studies at McGill University, and the bilingual Joint Chair in Women’s Studies at Carleton University and the University of Ottawa, and being a visiting professor at the University of Bologna and the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz. I have served as President for two mandates of the Canadian Association for Translation Studies. I founded and direct a respected international peer-reviewed publication series, Vita Traductiva.

York University is the second largest university in Ontario and the third largest university in Canada. According to the statistics given on its website, York University has 46,400 undergraduate students and 5,900 graduate students, and 7,000 faculty and staff (http://about.yorku.ca/). It is an important institution of higher education, funded in large part by the government of Ontario.

It is extremely distressing for me to witness York University being hijacked by private interests to the detriment of its students, staff and faculty, and its amazing potential to make a dynamic and productive contribution to the future of our society.

  1. The Board’s composition does not respect the broad community representation set out in its By-laws

Ontario universities have a moral and legal obligation to be accountable to the public and to work for the collective good. Boards of Governors fulfil an essential function in ensuring the public accountability of a university but to do so, they must represent a broad cross-section of citizens who can bring to the University a rich and diverse range of perspectives.

This is far from the case at York University. The York University Board is comprised of 29 members, including three ex officio members (the President, Chancellor and University Secretary), six members from York University (two students, two staff and two faculty members) and 20 external members.

External members clearly dominate the Board, but these external members are exclusively from big business and big banking. There are no external representatives from the non-profit sector, no representatives from blue and white collar unions across the province, no members from the small business sector, no representatives from the health and social services sector, no social workers, no nurses, no teachers, no fire workers, no representatives from seniors’ associations, in other words, no representation from the community at large.

Yet this very principle of community diversity is enshrined in the By-laws governing the composition of the external members of the Board of Governors at York University:

The Governance and Human Resources Committee will have the responsibility of proposing candidates for election to the Board as external members who will best serve the needs and interests of the University and who broadly represent the public community. Without limiting the generality of the foregoing such candidates shall be reflective of the Arts, Business, Industry, Labour, Professions, Sciences and the community at large. (Article VII, 1(c) ii at http://secretariat.info.yorku.ca/board-of-governors/board-by-laws/)

Already in November 2016 during the Presidential Search I advised the York University Board of Governors that the Board’s composition was far from complying with its By-laws.

At that time, based on the biographies of Board members presented on the York University website (http://secretariat.info.yorku.ca/board-of-governors/), all 21 external Board members came from the world of big finance (57%) and big business (43%).

In fact, 18 (86%) members of the Board were at the time or previously, Presidents or CEOs, and of the remaining three (14%), one was a senior partner in a corporate law firm, one a senior Vice-President of a financial institution, and one the spouse of a CEO in a pharmaceutical company.

This appalling situation is not representative of Canadian university Boards. While under-funding has led universities to search for financing in the private sector and generally increased big business representation on their Boards disproportionately, a 2016 study by Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) found that the ‘business world make up 49.1% of the membership of the boards of governors at Canada’s 15 research universities.’ (http://www.caut.ca/bulletin/articles/2016/09/do-you-know-who-sits-on-your-board). At York University, it is 100%.

Furthermore, the gender gap on the Board boggles the mind. Of the 21 external Board positions filled at that time, incomprehensively only 6 (28%) were held by women and 15 (72%) or almost three-quarters by men. In the 21st century, such an imbalance is highly suggestive of gender bias within the Board. The Board is responsible for safety policy on campus. Certainly, this male-dominated Board has repeatedly failed to engage fully to prevent the frequent and persistent incidents of violence against women (including rapes and armed assaults) on campus, for many of which the aggressor has never been identified or punished.

The 2011 census shows that women outnumber men in Ontario, by a ratio of 95.1 men for every 100 women overall.

Statistics available on the Common University Data Ontario (CUDO) website show that from 2006 to 2015, women consistently composed more than 55% of university students (http://cudo.info.yorku.ca/report/2015-a-general-information-2/).

In 2015, women constituted 58% and men 42% of full-time undergraduate students at York University (http://cudo.info.yorku.ca/report/2015-a-general-information-2/).

How can the Board of a university predominantly frequented by women justify that almost three-quarters of its Board members are men?

  1. The Board stubbornly refuses to bring its composition into compliance with its By-laws and Ontario legislation on gender equity

To my knowledge, the Board has not taken any action since 2016 to change its composition to comply with its By-laws.

An analysis of the current composition of the Board based on information on its website shows appallingly that all of the now 20 external members of the Board continue to come from the big finance (40%) and big business (60%) sectors.

In terms of professional rank, 17 (85%) hold President, CEO or senior executive positions, and the remaining senior partner positions in the corporate law sector. Such a Board can in no way be seen to “broadly represent the public community.”

Moreover, despite current Ontario legislation to improve gender equality on corporate boards, the Board’s gender gap is still unacceptable. Of the 20 external Board members, 14 (65%) are men and only 7 (35%) are women.

In reality, women are even more under-represented on the Board than this already unacceptable statistic would suggest.

The Board has seven committees, only one of which, the External Relations Committee, responsible for fund-raising and out-reach, is chaired by a woman. Seen from this committee perspective, men control 86% of the Board’s activities.

The key committees of Governance and Human Resources, Academic Resources, Finance and Audit, Land and Property, Investment, are all controlled by men. Since the Executive Committee is composed of the Chairs of the other committees, it has only one woman memberWomen constitute only 14% of the Executive Committee.

In other words, at the second-largest university in Ontario where your government is working so hard to prevent violence against women and to promote gender equality, York University’s Executive Committee, arguably the most important committee of the Board since it can act for the Board as a whole, is 86% composed of men.

The Board is responsible for appointing its members and is therefore directly responsible for this non-respect of its own By-laws. The closed, internal nature of this process allows an unscrupulous Board, in defiance of its own By-laws, to define and perpetuate itself through controlled co-optation. It is clearly an old boy’s closed shop.

Current Board members must be aware of Board By-laws, but they have chosen nonetheless to co-opt members from a very narrow range of professional networks, and they have done this in defiance of a basic rule of university governance: the need to respect the By-laws set up to ensure that the university be accountable, not just to a small elite, but to the community as a whole.

  1. The Board’s composition skewed to favour of faculties representing only 5% of undergraduate student enrollments

But this is not all. The Board is out of kilter in other ways that also gravely undermine its legitimacy.

Of the 20 external members of the Board, 10 (8 men and 2 women) hold MBAs (one holds an equivalent business management degree) and 7 (6 men and 1 woman) LLBs. Of these 15 Board members (two hold both an MBA and an LLB), 12 hold one or other of these degrees from York University.

In other words, 75% of Board members are coming from an MBA or LLB background and 60% are graduates of only two of the 11 faculties at York University: Osgoode Hall Law Faculty and the Schulich School of Business.

Indeed, five (25%) Board members sit concurrently on advisory Boards of Schulich, including the Chair of the Board and the chairs of three important committees: the Executive Committee, the Investment Committee and the Land and Property Committee.

These unacceptable incestuous links between the Board and one York faculty mean that one faculty can unduly the influence the Board and unfairly advance its perspective and needs at the expense of the other 10 faculties at the university.

This imbalance aggravates the serious infringement of the By-laws calling for a broad public representation on the Board. Seen in the context of student enrollments at York University, however, it is even more troubling.

Statistics on enrollments by faculty at York University are not easy to obtain. The most recent statistics I found on the university website come from a White Paper produced by then Vice-President Academic Patrick Monaghan. That paper shows that for the year 2009-2010, and there is no reason to think that the general situation has varied substantially since then, undergraduate enrollments at Schulich and Osgoode Hall represented only 2.64% and 2.22% of all undergraduate student enrolments at York.

In other words, while 75% of external Board members come from law and business degrees, these two faculties account for less than 5% of the 46,400 undergraduate student enrollments at the University.

Nor is this disproportion attenuated by York alumni representation on the Board.

The Board’s website does not indicate clearly which members are serving as representatives of York alumni. Nonetheless the biographies of Board members show that two hold executive positions in the York Alumni Association. Not surprisingly one is a graduate of Schulich and the other of Osgoode.

While the Board website provides guidelines for the election of student, staff and faculty members to the Board (together these categories only represent 6 internal Board members), there is no indication that the Alumni Association provides for an election.

Finally, the narrow composition of the Board is exacerbated by other examples of undue professional concentrations. One can ask:

Why on such as small Board there should be two members who were senior executives at the same financial institution (Scotia Bank);

Why three out of 20 (15%) Board members have connections to the Ontario energy sector;

Why of the four members of the Board with a science background, three were trained as engineers (In 2015, engineering accounted for 499 or 1% of overall full-time undergraduate enrolments at York University and of these 499 engineering students only 79 or 15%, were women; http://cudo.info.yorku.ca/report/2015-a-general-information-2/); and

Why one of these engineer Board members should serve concurrently on the Board and on the family Foundation whose donation led to the creation of the School of Engineering at York University, allowing a university donor to exert undue influence over the university.

  1. A Board in defiance of its By-laws does not have the legitimacy and credibility to oversee the well-being of York University as an institution of higher learning

According to the York University Act, the Ontario legislation that created York University, the “objects and purposes of York University are

(a) the advancement of learning and the dissemination of knowledge; and

(b) the intellectual, spiritual, social, moral and physical development of its members and the betterment of society.” (http://secretariat.info.yorku.ca/governance-documents/york-university-act-1965/)

It is evident that the present Board is in no position to ensure, and indeed has shown no interest in ensuring that these objects and purposes are not only respected but nurtured.

A Board that represents the professional and educational interests of less than 6% of the York University’s undergraduate students cannot make informed decisions affecting the academic needs of the other over 94% of York’s 46,400 undergraduate students and the programs, research, staff and faculty upon which they depend.

The vision of such an imbalanced Board is inevitably skewed by the interests of two (or three if engineering is counted) faculties accounting for less than 6% of undergraduate student enrollments, and by the attitudes and practices from the business and banking world that are inappropriate in the context of a public institution of higher learning.

York University cannot present itself as a progressive institution respectful of diversity, as it does on its website, when its own Board comes exclusively from big business and big finance and only 35% of its members are women, relegated to secondary roles.

The Board has direct oversight on a number of issues with important gender implications, including questions of safety, the prevention of sexual violence.

Given the gender imbalance in the composition of its Board, it is not surprising that York University has an abysmal record in terms of the prevention of violence against women.

But the gender imbalance of the Board has other far-reaching consequences.

Women still hold only 40% of faculty positions at Canadian universities  (https://www.univcan.ca/media-room/media-releases/percentage-female-faculty-canadian-universities-growing-statistics-canada/). If the Board is not even committed to having equal numbers of women and men among its members, how can it contribute to reducing the gender gap among faculty?

Statistics compiled by the Ontario Confederation of Faculty Associations (OCUFA) for the Ontario Gender Wage Gap Steering Committee show that there has been an increasing trend to precarious academic jobs and that women far more than men are trapped in such low-paying and insecure academic work:

“59.5% of contract faculty respondents were female, compared with 33.3% men (the remainder chose not to indicate their gender). Moreover, women were more likely to be among the ranks of precarious contract faculty (i.e. contract faculty who earn their main income from sessional instruction and aspire to have a full-time academic career) than

men, whereas men were more likely to find themselves among the ranks of classic contract faculty (i.e. retirees and professionals who engage in sessional instruction as a supplement to a separate career)” (https://ocufa.on.ca/assets/OCUFA-Submission-on-the-Gender-Wage-Gap-FINAL.pdf). Again, how can a Board that is not even to committed to ensuring its own gender balance equity be committed to reducing the gender gap caused by the precarization of academic work?

Finally and of great concern, the exclusively corporate background of Board members has led to sustained pressures to change the administrative culture at York University from the open, transparent and democratic culture required for public accountability to a narrow, opaque and outdated authoritarian culture not even effective anymore in business contexts. The Board is seeking to control the University as though it were the CEO, and the university, its company.

This is approach is leading to other important infringements of the York University Act. In the last Presidential Search, the Board usurped the power granted to the Senate under Article 12 of the York University Act to “make recommendations as to the appointment of the Chancellor and the President.”

Instead, it carried out a closed search, with little input from students, staff and faculty, under a Search Committee inappropriately chaired by the Board Chair, and unilaterally imposed the appointment of a candidate garnishing only 11% support from York’s faculty members (https://www.yufa.ca/yufa-poll-results-on-presidential-search/)

  1. Should the Ministry consider placing York University under supervision?

I do not believe that a public institution of higher learning such as a university should be run like a profit-making business, all the more so in the present context where businesses too often put short-term profit goals ahead of responsible citizenship.

A university has broad responsibilities to society to support a vibrant democracy and to ensure the development of a lively and diverse range of knowledge, responsibilities that cannot be contained in a profit-based perspective.

Universities offer students an environment for personal and professional growth, beyond the contents of specific courses.

University professors fulfil, on a voluntary basis, important social functions through informed comments in the public space on topics of public interest and concern, through key contributions to professional associations that regulate professional accreditation in the interest of the public, and through the public dissemination of scientific knowledge.

The current Board has persisted in its defiance of the By-laws requiring a broad community representation. It has not diminished its ruthless and unscrupulous efforts to impose an authoritarian control over the York University at the expense of recognised general social goals, such as gender equity and women’s safety, and in contravention of the York University Act. It is clearly unwilling and unable to commit to any significant reform.

For that reason, I see no other option than to request that your ministry consider placing York University temporarily under government supervision, disbanding the current illegitimate Board of Governors, annulling its appointment of Dr. Rhonda Lenton as President, and appointing an interim Chairperson of the Board of Governors.

The first tasked of the interim Chair should be to oversee a transparent process for the appointment of a new Board respectful of the rules set out in the York University Act (1965) and the By-laws of the Board of Governors. The first task of the new, duly constituted Board should be the conduct of an open search for a new President.

Your government has undertaken important measures to prevent violence against women, to improve gender equity and to assist Ontario universities to develop their excellence. I hope that the present plea will be well received.For ease of reading, I have also attached a PDF version.

Yours respectfully,
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
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


Statement by the faculty of Cinema and Media Arts 1

March 18, 2018

The YUFA members of the Department of Cinema and Media Arts have considerable concerns around the academic integrity of courses during a labour disruption. We will respect the picket line and are suspending all classes during the CUPE 3903 strike.

We have taken this decision collectively on March 3, 2018  for the following reasons:

The academic integrity of our undergraduate and graduate programs would be compromised if courses were not to be suspended, because some students will attend while others will not, because teaching assistants are integral to many of our courses, and because CUPE course directors offer essential teaching services in the Department.

•       Many of our CUPE colleagues are also our students who face constantly increasing costs, eroding living conditions and uncertain futures.  Forcing them to cross their own picket lines is senseless.

•       Past and very recent experiences on the picket lines suggest that inconsistencies about which courses are resuming contribute to dangerous incidents.

•       The brunt of the work resulting from having some classes operate while others do not falls disproportionately to our YUSA colleagues, who must deal with questions, concerns, frustrations, and anger in ways that undermine the quality of their workplace.

We recognize that the strike has put students in a difficult situation, creating uncertainty for many.  We believe that by suspending courses, we can create clarity for students in our department.  We also believe that this will create a space for CUPE and the employer to focus on arriving at a fair and equitable settlement to this strike as rapidly as possible.  We are committed to a fair and equitable process of remediation after the strike.

Barbara Evans
Associate Professor and Chair
Department of Cinema and Media Arts

FES faculty members statement concerning GAs (CUPE 3903 Unit 3) 1

March 15, 2018

We, faculty members of FES, support CUPE 3903’s demands, and specifically want to emphasize the importance of their demand to restore the eight hundred (800) Unit 3 Graduate Assistantships, which York cut two years ago. Historically, Graduate Assistants have played a critical role in the Faculty of Environmental Studies where experiential learning is a key principle behind our pedagogy. Students are attracted to FES precisely because of its commitment to experiential learning. Our graduate program is one of the largest at York and our graduate students gained valuable educational experiences as Graduate Assistants by taking creative and administrative roles in facilities within the Faculty. Apart from assisting with tasks such as conference coordination for our planning program and seminar series, students worked as curators of our two arts spaces. They were active in program design for all our resource centres (media, arts workshop, organic garden). They offered skills-based workshops for our media centre; wrote, edited and published our student journal, collected data and created and monitored websites for research projects, worked with community organisations on collaborative research projects and offered curricular opportunities for community/university connections. They assisted with providing accommodations for students with special needs. They assisted with research applications, learning how SSHRC application and other processes work and they also assisted and collaborated on research publications.

In sum, the loss of GAs has undermined the unique and highly respected experiential component of student learning, and the collective pedagogical model employed, in our MES program. It has compromised our own ability as university teachers to build equitable connections with community-based partner organizations into graduate education. The withdrawal of the GAships reduces direct participation of students in research projects and has undermined the competitiveness of our TriCouncil grant applications, in which GA support and training formed a key part of the Faculty’s contribution. GA involvement was in fact a central feature of our research activities and research creation.

The creation of the new funding model has had a significant, negative impact on the research and pedagogical system at the university and should not have been undertaken without faculty consultation and consensus. Instead, there was no notice or academic discussion. The decision to largely do away with the GA funding model was taken and implemented with minimal notice and in a process that actively debilitated the collegial decision-making process. Indeed, in a university that prioritizes research excellence, this shift in graduate funding makes no logical sense. It is comprehensible only as a union-busting manoeuvre. We therefore support CUPE 3903’s position in defense of GAships and against what is a drastic change in the terms and conditions of our work, and reduction in support for our work.

Anna Zalik
Traci Warkentin
Peter Timmerman
Laura Taylor
Martha Stiegmann
Luisa Sotomayor
Anders Sandberg
Cate Sandilands
Ray Rogers
Justin Podur
Ellie Perkins
Lisa Myers
Felipe Montoya
Ute Lehrer
Abidin Kusno
Stefan Kipfer
Roger Keil
Ilan Kapoor
Christina Hoicka
Jin Haritaworn
Liette Gilbert
Gail Fraser
Jenny Foster
Honor Ford-Smith
Sarah Flicker
Sheila Colla

Open letter from STS graduate students and alumni 1

March 14, 2018

Re: Current labour disruptions and the need to suspend classes

Dear professors:

As current and former students of the Department of Science and Technology Studies, we are writing to ask that classes within the STS Graduate Program, STS Undergraduate Program, and Division of Natural Sciences (NATS) be suspended for the duration of the current CUPE 3903 labour disruption, following the example of numerous other academic departments across campus.

We are disheartened by the lack of public support expressed by the Departmental and Graduate Program Executives and the conscious decision to allow classes to continue to be held. Inaction in this circumstance does not reflect a position of neutrality, but instead displays an alignment not with your CUPE 3903 colleagues and students, but with the York University senior administration. Allowing classes to continue causes both graduate and undergraduate students to feel unfairly pressured to cross both electronic and physical picket lines, putting them in compromising situations as students and as TAs. This pressure has exacerbated the chaos and frustration felt by the broader York community, which directly affects those of us on the picket lines, as we are confronted by verbal and physical violence on a daily basis. Therefore, in the interest of safety, the academic integrity of all STS and NATS courses, the minimization of chaos, and the facilitation of remediation once the labour disruption is resolved, it is essential that all classes within the Department of Science and Technology Studies be suspended immediately.

The Division of Natural Science, which provides general education courses to undergraduate students that embody the supposed interdisciplinary and liberal arts mandate of York University, depend on the labour of STS graduate students in order to function. Our research and pedagogical expertise, which dwell at the intersection of science, technology, and medicine on one hand, and the social sciences and humanities on the other, ensure that our undergraduate students and peers enjoy a robust and contemporarily relevant education. Whether it is at incoming student orientations, meetings of the program executive, end-of-year program retreats, or Faculty of Graduate Studies (FGS) council meetings, graduate students are regularly reminded that we are the largest body of researchers and educational workers on campus, and those that interact closest with undergraduate students. Yet, together with contract faculty, those of us who provide 60% of the teaching labour at York have been forced to withdraw our labour and collectively fight for increased job security, predictable and protected graduate funding, the restoration of over 800 graduate assistant positions, and greater support for victims of sexual violence and racial discrimination.

In taking the decision to suspend classes, you will be following the lead of the Schools of Social Work and Translation (Glendon) and the Departments of Sociology; Politics; Politics (Glendon); Equity Studies; Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies; Anthropology; Social Sciences; Cinema and Media Studies; and Communication Studies. Such academic departments have 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” and 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.” In addition, the Liberal Arts and Professional Studies (LA&PS) Faculty Council has recently passed a motion calling on the York University Senate to suspend all courses across the University without delay in order to preserve academic integrity. Such concerns must also exist within the Departmental and Graduate Programs Executives and the only means through which to remedy this is through the suspension of all classes.

Lastly, this academic year has proven unique in the history of STS at York. In light of the recent Cyclical Program Review (CPR), graduate students displayed that their united voice was capable of spurring on structural reforms and changes within York’s institutional framework. We did this, not solely for ourselves, but due to our shared belief in the strength and value of our (inter)discipline within York University and the greater academy. Where we saw flaws and injustice, whether directed at graduate students or faculty members, we demanded change. Our current labour disruption mirrors our attempts to renew our program, ensuring that future graduate students enjoy a program and University greater than we can even now envision and absent of disciplinary divisions. Thus, as we stood shoulder to shoulder with faculty members who felt disillusioned and alienated by recent structural changes, we ask that they stand with us and support our current struggle. So, again, we ask that you suspend all STS and NATS classes, join the growing collective voice currently petitioning the York University Senate to suspend classes university-wide for the duration of the labour disruption, and encourage York University to return to the bargaining table.

In solidarity with CUPE 3903 and academic workers worldwide,

Michael Laurentius, Graduate Student (President, STSGSA)
Erin Grosjean, Graduate Student (Secretary-Treasurer, STSGSA; PhD Rep. STS Exec)
Callum C. J. Sutherland, Graduate Student
André Williams, Graduate Student
Aadita Chaudhury, Graduate Student
Nancy Guo, Graduate Student
Peggy Chiappetta, Graduate Student
Steven Umbrello, Graduate Student
Josh Lalonde, Graduate Student
Sabrina Scott, Graduate Student
Cath Duchastel de Montrouge, Graduate Student
Melissa Banyard, Graduate Student
Alex Gatien, Alumni
Nox Dineen-Porter, Graduate Student
Jason Grier, Graduate Student
Angela Cope, Graduate Student
Muddassir Younus, Alumni
Drew Danielle Belsky, Graduate Student
Madelaine Khan, Alumni
Eleanor Louson, Graduate Student
Travis Hnidan, Graduate Student
Yana Boeva, Graduate Student
Madelaine Ley, Graduate Student
Aftab Mirzaei, Graduate Student
Merle Davis, Graduate Student
Tyler Hnatuk, Graduate Student
Jeffrey Wajsberg, Graduate Student
Lina Pinto García, Graduate Student
Ryan Collis, Undergraduate Student
Paul Toro, Graduate Student
Mariam Hassan, Alumni
Roula Faraj, Alumni
Matthew Burns, Graduate Student
Anna Artyushina, Graduate Student
Serena Naim, Alumni
Mustafa Ebrahem, Alumni
Yousif Hassan, Graduate Student
Lindsay Small, Alumni
Kasey Coholan, Graduate Student
Raymond Huynh, Alumni
Kelly Ladd, Graduate Student
Einar Engström, Graduate Student
Elyse Watkins, Alumni
Anita Buragohain, Graduate Student
Emily Simmonds, Graduate Student
Bernard Isopp, Graduate Student
Julia Gruson-Wood, Graduate Student
Ben Mitchell, Alumni & Sessional Faculty
Bretton Fosbrook, Alumni


Two motions from the Department of Humanities 1

The Department of Humanities held an emergency department meeting on Wednesday, March 14, 2018, to discuss the CUPE strike and its impact. Below are the Department statement on the strike and a motion to the Senate Executive, both of which passed unanimously at the meeting:

1. Department Statement

The Department of Humanities supports the motion passed at LA&PS Faculty Council on March 12, 2014:

Be it resolved that

The Faculty of Liberal Arts and Professional Studies take the decision to call upon Senate to suspend all classes within LAPS for the duration of the CUPE 3903 Strike without delay.

We reaffirm our commitment to our CUPE colleagues and recognize their indispensable contributions to teaching in Humanities. TAs and CUPE instructors are integral to our programs and without their contribution, the integrity of our courses cannot be maintained. Like other departments have done, we encourage the university to work with CUPE 3903 to arrive at a fair and equitable agreement as quickly as possible.

We also support our students  rights, under York University Senate Policy, not to participate in academic activities, including their right to refuse to cross a virtual or actual picket line without being penalized for whatever reason. In addition, we recognize that many of our CUPE colleagues are also our students who face constantly increasing costs, eroding living conditions and uncertain futures.

As our CUPE colleagues state in their March 11 letter to the Department: the strike has put students in a difficult situation, creating uncertainty for many. Suspending classes would help create some clarity for students. Suspending classes will also facilitate CUPE and the employer to focus on arriving at a fair and equitable settlement to this strike as quickly as possible.

2. Motion to Senate Executive

The Department also unanimously approved the following motion to the Senate Executive:

Following the outcome of the March 8 Senate meeting, the Department of Humanities protests the Senate executive current interpretation of the York Act. In its written presentation to that meeting and in subsequent statements, Senate executive states that decisions regarding the business and affairs of the University are vested in the Board even where they may have an impact on academic policy.

The Department of Humanities asks the Senate Executive to assume its proper authority in all academic matters including the decision to suspend classes for the duration of the CUPE strike.