Lorna Marsden, President

York University

November 5, 2000.


Dear Lorna:


I urge you to use the powers of your office as President, and your own

personal authority and influence, to settle the CUPE strike as soon as

possible during this coming week. I know that the administration is only one

of the two sides that must agree to a settlement. But I truly believe that a

quick settlement is within reach that will satisfy concerns on both sides,

and that the best and perhaps only means of ensuring that this settlement is

achieved before irreparable damage is done to the 2000-2001 academic year

are your own initiative and determination to make it happen.


That York has entered into yet another labour dispute that threatens to

undermine the educational mission of our university is deeply discouraging

and demoralising for all of us. Whatever the differences in the way we

perceive and seek to achieve this mission, we are all educators in the first

instance who place the intellectual development and respectful treatment of

our students as our highest priority. Continuing this dispute one day

longer, when ways of bridging the differences are so clearly in view and can

benefit the interests of both sides, would signal a deep moral failure and,

I believe, would not reflect the good intentions of either side.


I do not wish to present myself as highly knowledgeable on the issues that

led to the breakdown of these negotiations. Having been on YUFAıs

negotiating team many times in the past, I know that the obstacles to a

settlement are often more complex than can be fully conveyed in the midst of

a dispute. However, with regard to one major obstacle to settling this

dispute, the indexing of tuition fees for incoming graduate students, I urge

you to consider that your own concerns for the future of York University are

not jeopardised, but rather supported, by satisfying the concerns that CUPE

has put forward.


How can it not be in the interest of York University to be able to attract

the best and most suitable students to our graduate programmes?  Having been

a graduate director in the past, I know that many students who see York as

their preferred place of study, often accept the offers of other graduate

schools in the end because the financial incentives to do so are too great

to resist. Universities such as U. of T., McMaster, Queens,  McGill and UBC

have routinely snatched the best students from us simply because they have

been able to provide better scholarships and bursary supports. Particularly

in recent years as tuition has been deregulated and steadily increased, the

fact that the York-CUPE collective agreement has provided countervailing

benefits to our graduate students through tuition indexing and better rates



remuneration for the incredibly important work they do as teaching

assistants, is a tribute to the forward thinking efforts of the

administration and the union in the past. Moreover, since York and other

universities have increasingly relied upon contract and part-time faculty

members to maintain high quality teaching programmes in the context of

underfunding, it is to Yorkıs credit and advantage that our scales of

remuneration and employee benefits are at a level that comparable academic

employees at other institutions envy. Providing these colleagues with the

security of their jobs as recompense for the exceptional and sustained

service they have provided is not only a fair and just exchange but also a

means of retaining for York the high value of skills that these colleagues

have honed over many years.


In the language of the times, these aspects of York-CUPE contracts are

Yorkıs competitive edge. It is not at all surprising that administrators of

other universities would want to reduce this edge. Continuing to support

them gives substance to your stated intention to preserve and enhance Yorkıs

longstanding effort to provide the highest quality education to our

students, particularly in the face of government funding policies that have

disadvantaged us relative to other universities, many of which have had

greater financial resources to draw upon in the first place.


Lorna, this term I have two of the best classes of students that I have had

in several years. I and my teaching assistant were just beginning to feel

the engagement of our students with us, with each other and with the course

material. I feel utterly dejected that this disruption has taken place,

especially at this time in the academic year.  As you know from your own

teaching experience, it becomes almost impossible to accomplish later on in

the term, the coming together of a class and the movement toward learning

that begins to take shape at this stage.  I know other teaching colleagues

in YUFA and in CUPE who feel the same way and who also feel that nothing is

to be gained that is in the interest of the students of York University

‹both present and future‹ by a prolonged strike or by a failure to quickly

reach a fair and just accommodation of the outstanding issues that remain

unresolved in this dispute.


Thank you in advance for giving your attention to what I have said.



Professor Janice Newson,

Department of Sociology
York University,

4700 Keele St.,

North York, Ontario

M3J 1P3