---------- Forwarded message ----------
November 7, 2000.
Dr. Lorna Marsden
Dear President Marsden:
Faculty members in the School of Social Sciences in the Atkinson Faculty
of Liberal and Professional Studies met on Monday, November 6, to discuss
the impact of the current strike on our undergraduate programme and on the
graduate programmes in which we teach.
Like other academic units throughout York, the School of Social Sciences
benefits from the dedicated and conscientious contribution that contract
course directors and teaching assistants make as teachers in our
undergraduate programme. Many of us benefit from the research and other
support of graduate assistants. Our faculty members also teach in several
graduate programmes and supervise graduate students.
We fear that a prolonged strike will have a strongly negative impact on
courses in this academic year and will cause lasting damage to York's
reputation as a place to pursue an education, whether graduate or
undergraduate. Two possible sources of a prolonged strike concern us
particularly. The first is the administration's response to CUPE's
position on the indexation of tuition fees; the second is possible
external influence on York negotiations.
On the "Frequently Asked Questions" page of the York website, the
administration takes the position on indexation that "we must not confuse
employment compensation with student financial assistance". This
statement appears to ignore the realities of the dual relationship of
teaching assistants to the University, as essential members of the
teaching staff and as fees-paying graduate students. While teaching
salaries and tuition may appear as separate items in the University's
budget, they converge rather starkly in the life of a teaching assistant.
The deregulation of tuition means that the administration will have a
great deal of discretion over future tuition increases. This could create
a situation at York oddly reminiscent of the old-time company town where
the wages an employee received in his/her wage packet were immediately
lost through the purchase of the necessities of life at the company store.
No group of employees has ever considered such an arrangement just, and no
union could find it acceptable. We believe that a failure on the part of
the administration to recognize the crucial importance to current and
future teaching assistants of the relationship between salaries and
tuition fees will lead to a long strike.
Our second concern arises from the widely discussed suggestion that the
administration is under pressure from the provincial government and other
university administrations to refuse to agree to a settlement that
maintains and builds on the existing CUPE contract. We hope this
suggestion is ill founded. If not, the strike will needlessly be prolonged
by the priorities of others.
We share the view already expressed by other academic units that the
existing collective agreement is a source of strength for both the
graduate and undergraduate programmes at York University. Its provisions
respond to the particular York situation where contract faculty and
teaching assistants play a very significant role in the undergraduate
teaching programme and where large numbers of graduate students rely on
employment as teaching and graduate assistants as the main way they
finance their graduate education. We believe a "made for York" settlement
that responds fairly to the legitimate concerns of members of CUPE 3903
around salaries and benefits, protection of earnings against erosion by
inflation and tuition increases, and job security is the only way to bring
about a fair and speedy settlement.
On behalf of the School of Social Sciences,
Co-ordinator, Geography & Urban Studies
Co-ordinator, Political Science
Co-ordinator, Social Science
Tania Das Gupta
Dean Ron Bordessa
Bob Drummond, Chair, Senate
Louise Ripley, Chair, Atkinson Faculty Council
York University Faculty Association
Canadian Union of Public Employees, local 3903.