From: news and announcements for members of CUPE local 3903

[3903NEWS@YorkU.CA] on behalf of Michelle Lowry [mlowry@YorkU.CA]

Sent: November 15, 2000 9:22 AM


Subject: solidarity - Letter to President Marsden re: CUPE 3903 Strike



---------- Forwarded message ----------

President Marsden,


I wish to express my support for the striking workers of CUPE 3903 and to

express my grave concern as a faculty member working in the Ontario

university system at the actions taken by the administration of York

University which have led to this most recent job action.


As many others who have written to you over the past three weeks have

expressed, the administration's treatment of the TAs and Lecturers at

York is deplorable for a

number of reasons. Your administration failed to begin bargaining with the

union in a timely fashion, resulting in a situation in which the entire

academic term might be jeopardized for both graduate and undergraduate

students. The attempt of your administration to rollback the indexation of

the tuition rebate on future tuition fee increases  (and, for that matter,

to maintain full post-residency fees and to charge full fees over the

summer!) has the effect of making graduate students

take on further amounts of unsupportable debt, while at the same time

making the (financial) conditions of graduate research as difficult as

possible. Finally, the entire position adopted by the York administration

seems to contravene in a fundamental way the educational mission of the

university as a whole. If the aim of the university is to provide the

highest level of teaching and training possible, while also maintaining a

productive environment for research and for the generation of new ideas, I

cannot imagine a more illogical way of expressing this than by trying to

squeeze as many dollars as possible out of those that can least afford

it--the TAs and lecturers responsible for 40% of the teaching at your

university. But then you've probably heard all this before.


As a faculty member at a neighbouring university, I'd like to give you a

slightly different perspective on the strike. York University has long

been known for its innovative graduate programs in the Social Sciences and

the Humanities (the areas that I know best) and has attracted some of the

best young minds from around the world to study in programs like Social

and Political Thought and new programs like the one in Communication and

Culture. The success of these programs is the result of a great deal of

work on the part of faculty members, lecturers and the graduate students

involved in them. Many of my very best undergraduate students have

expressed an interest in attending York University as graduate

students. In the past, I would have had no difficulty in encouraging them

to do so. In the present circumstances, I can in all good conscience no

longer recommend York to my students given the administration's treatment

of its graduate students and its attitude towards contract labour more

generally. I'm sure that I am not the only faculty member in Ontario and

in Canada to feel this way. It seems clear to me that the actions of your

administration over the past three weeks (and its inaction over the past

several months) will damage your graduate programs for years to come and

will jeopardize programs that many people have worked long and hard to

establish as nationally and internationally renowned sites for teaching

and research.


It also seems clear to me that this strike will have a direct effect on

faculty morale and on your ability to recruit a new generation of faculty

members (some of whom are already employed by you as Contract Faculty) who

will be responsible for leading York in the twentieth-first century.  For

many years, universities have been in a position in which the supply of

highly qualified graduates of doctoral programs has been greater than the

number of available faculty positions. This is changing in a major

way: universities, especially Canadian universities, are likely to find it

difficult to fill all the positions that will open up over the next decade

and are likely to be at a disadvantage in the global competition for the

very best faculty members. Given this fact, it seems completely reasonable

that the university would encourage the promotion of its dedicated and

talented contract faculty to at least some of these full time

positions. By not doing this, and by poisoning the atmosphere of

collegiality at the university through its actions toward the union, it is

hard to imagine that the university expects that it will

be able to recruit strong new faculty--new faculty who increasingly

will have the option of taking up positions at any number of universities,

including positions at some that genuinely value the labour of all of

those engaged in the fundamental work of the university as teachers,

instructors and researchers.


President Marsden, I urge you to bargain in good faith with the members of

CUPE 3903 and to sign a collective agreement that compensates them fairly

for the work they do. If you want to make York a better university, this

is the way to do it.



Professor Imre Szeman

Department of English/Institute on Globalization and the Human Condition

McMaster University

Winner of the John C. Polanyi Prize for Literature, 2000




Imre Szeman

Assistant Professor

Department of English/Institute on Globalization and the Human Condition

McMaster University

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Hamilton, Ontario  L8S 4L9


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