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

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

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)