Monday, January 26, 2009

Ending the York U strike

A last-ditch effort to speed up legislation aimed at ending a long strike at Toronto's York University was stymied this afternoon, leaving frustrated students in limbo for at least another few days.

Now that the Ontario government has made the decision to legislate York U contract profs and TA's back to work, it's time to suspend the debate and get the students into some classes. I respect NDP leader Howard Hampton's right to vote against the legislation, but he should simply make his point and stop the delay. It's over. He isn't going stop the legislation.

There is no doubt that for a young teacher in the university system, the prospects for job security are poor. There was a time in my life when I thought teaching in a university would be a good way to go. Ultimately, I rejected it because the people I knew working in the system were teaching session-to-session, and I know some very qualified teachers who were not always able to get work. It was the early 80s when I was looking into this and obviously the problems have not gone away. To make matters worse, our universities are not in the best financial shape now either.

Still, I have difficulty thinking of professors as "education workers". I think of them as professionals, and I have a hard time with professionals out on the picket line. I also have a difficult time accepting the idea that it's OK to disrupt and possibly destroy a university student's school year. Some of these kids are going to end up doing their year over, and that can mean escalating student loans, or worse yet, some may pack in the university system all together.

I don't know how to solve the obvious problems that led to this strike. I think they're tough complex problems. However, I don't think making the students wait another four or five days so Mr. Hampton can make a point is the right thing to do.


Candy Minx said...

Well, no one is going to like what I have to say so I probably shouldn't bother...but

I will likely always take the side of teachers and students against profiteering mafia corporate universities.

I say in the best interest of the students...techers (whether we call them profs or ed workers, whatever) should get good pay. I think public schools should have outrageous paychecques. Universities, a decen t one...and part of strikes at university are because there are workers who do most of the work and only a few get the glory.

It's kind of like nurses.

I blame management in these cases, it's not..a.gain rocket science. Give teachers, the support workers (part timers, grad students, casuals who aactually teach and mark students more than "profs"...lots of money.

We make nurses and teachers...of all levels of education well paid and we show how much we respect the apprenticeship.

Fuck the univerities, they can go to hell...they should drop their profiteering and pay teachers. Same as the public school boards. And administration in hospitals.

I believe university tuition should be free, and supported by corporations and government and taxes.

Sorry...I will always take the side of students and teachers over administration and profit.

The Preacherman said...

Spot on Candy!!!! It's the managers to blame!!!! Up the Union!!! ;-)

mister anchovy said...

I wonder who is on the side of the students at York this year who borrowed $15,000 or $20,000 or $30,000 and just want the education they paid for.

I'd like to see a world in which teachers and grad students earned more money, and more to the point of the current dispute, some decent job security. Like it or not, the current job action is not going bring about those changes.

Right now, we have a situation where students are not getting the education they paid for. The Ontario government has taken the decision to legislate an end to the current dispute. Whether or not you may agree or disagree with the government's action, it is coming down and the strike will end.

Mr. Hampton has made his point. Forcing debate for another few days does nothing. The strike is over. Let the students go back to school.


Candy has made the point that universities are "profiteering mafia corporate" institutions. Is she right? I don't know enough about university balance sheets to be able to comment about this intelligently. Do our universities really make big profits? If so, what are they doing with their money?

I think job security is a legitimate issue at our universities. I don't know what grad student teaching assistants get paid, but I don't think it was a primary issue in the current dispute, as the union has apparently withdrawn their wage demands and tried to refocus discussion on the job security issue.

Candy Minx said...

I believe I am speaking in defense of the students when I say I will take their side first. Students depend on relationships and apprenticeships with their teachers.

Let me say it this way then...I say give teachers (profs, education workers, whatever) great big paycheques.

I suggest that administrators take on the pay and security issues that have previously been applied to staff and workers.

Instead of teachers and nurses and cops and such going on strike...we let administrators work out their job security and pay scale.

I promise you, if adminstrators...and not teachers (or nurses or cops) had to work out their own job security and pay...we'd see the smoothest running operations, heh heh. Let the suits worry about their paycheques for a change. Not nurses or teachers etc.

Students will catch up on their work at school. The crime is that the owners and administrators just should have been decent and worked out the details so the students didn't have to miss any classes.

I also believe that university and trade schools should be paid for by the taxpayers and government.

Candy Minx said...

p.s. If students are being stiffed in any way in this's the long con of so-called specialized education.

Let's face it, we want young people to go to school for as long as possible...that way they aren't competing with older people for work.

Ina perfect world kids would have already been learning everything they need to work by the time they get out of high school. We've worked on specializing almost everything and so much of university courses are there to extend the process.

Most people don't even work in the feilds they studied in university.

School is designed so people can prove they can jump through hoops.

No one is gonna punish them for the weeks they missed during the strike.

Candy Minx said...

Here is an article that might be interesting...

mister anchovy said...

hmmm. I consider my time in university to be well spent. It left me a richer person in so many ways. I feel privileged to have been able to have that experience, an education that wasn't just geared to job training.

Candy Minx said...

Yes, that is what the article is supporting...that a school USED to be a place to become a richer person and build character...rather than job training.

When we don't support the relationship between students and profs we are saying that schools are for job training. Thats what I'm saying.

University and trade schools USED to be places to develop as a person and with skills.

It's not just in the U.S. that universities have been packaging up courses and programs like they are something that can be qualified as "products". York and Uof T have been doing this for years too.

When we become a society that is focused on using profit as a means to measure value we will see administrators clamping down on teachers/profs...we will see schools focusing on presenting "products".

sp said...

It might be a little late to weigh in, but having gone through the last 11 week strike at York when I was a graduate student taught me a lot about how little management cared for the amount of work we put into our jobs for so very little. I was a teaching assistant and the result of that strike eventually led to those jobs being cut the following year. Teaching assistant positions, that greatly benefit the undergraduate student, were diminished to something that looked more like babysitting than teaching. Interacting with the students went from engaging with the material being studied to something that looked like an optional free period from high school. What kind of education is that? Contract faculty no longer had TA support as they did before and this has led to overworked contract faculty.
From a student perspective, the money I made as a teaching assistant helped greatly in funding my education.
When the teaching staff suffers all the students suffer.