We represent some of the 600 course instructors in CUPE 3902 Unit 1 who are entering the fourth week of our strike. We are also tuition-paying graduate students and postdoctoral fellows at the University of Toronto whose research and achievements contribute to the prestige of this institution.
This past weekend, our members voted to reject the Tentative Agreement put forward by the University of Toronto. We did so because we firmly believe in our struggle to improve the working and learning conditions in this university. This cannot be accomplished by one-time financial funds that must be fought over each time a contract expires. We need lasting structural change accompanied by language in our Collective Agreement that ensures that our members receive guaranteed funding and tuition relief. These structural changes mean more security for all of us and would begin to move the most vulnerable of us above the poverty line.
In spite of what communications from the University may have you believe, this has not been business as usual especially for those of us who teach one or more courses independently. We feel a deep and abiding commitment to our students, which has made this strike particularly difficult for us. For many of us, this is our initial experience doing what we love best: teaching undergraduates, sharing our research with them, and providing some of the most innovative thinking that this university will see.
We are at the frontlines of your education at the university. We have spent countless hours, often above and beyond our contractual ones, designing syllabi and assignments, writing lectures and class plans, grading assignments, and meeting with our students to provide one-on-one assistance with their work. We perform numerous unpaid duties such as providing reference letters for our students and mentoring support. We teach courses that range from large introductory lectures to small senior undergraduate seminars, providing the foundations of learning in each discipline and exposing students to the most recent developments in our fields.
We call on the University Administration to acknowledge our work and to dignify it by negotiating in good faith. We demand that the Administration not sacrifice the integrity of our courses by implementing “academic continuity” — a policy that would force syllabus changes onto our courses and weaken their pedagogical goals. We ask our students to come talk to us on the picket lines, and further to email the administration to express their views at firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org. We continue to be on strike for our students for this university and for the future of higher education in this country.
Yours, in solidarity
Tamer Abdulazim, Department of Civil Engineering
Khalid Ahmed, African Studies
Yadira Álvarez López, Department of Spanish and Portuguese
Yasmin Aly, Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures
Tanya Battersby, Department of Spanish and Portuguese
Raluca Bejan, Faculty of Social Work
Brigidda Bell, Department for the Study of Religion
Ximena Berecochea, Department of Spanish and Portuguese
Justin A. Blum, Centre for Drama, Theatre, and Performance Studies
Christin Bohnke, Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures
Agnes Bolinska, Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology
Ian Brown, Department for the Study of Religion
Mike Callaghan, Department of Anthropology and Health Studies, UTSC
Sandy Carpenter, Department of History
Joanna Chociej, Department of Linguistics
Jessica Copley, Centre for Comparative Literature
Willie Costello, Department of Philosophy
Ailis Cournane, Department of Linguistics
Alex Cushing, Department of Historical and Cultural Studies, UTSC
Nicole Daniel, Department of Historical and Cultural Studies, UTSC
Philip Dickinson, Department of English
L. Elizabeth Doyle, Department of Anthropology
Yaniv Feller, Department for the Study of Religion
This election will mark the tenth year of incumbency for the regime at UTSU. Despite their strategy of choosing a new name to appear distinct, students will now have suffered through a decades worth of radical and mediocre governance.
Nepotism has destroyed the vitality and potential the union. No slate name, including stealing ours, can hide their record of failure. They are not us, far from it.
Consider their self-proclaimed list of victories. Many of these came about because of the participation of student groups outside their influence and factors outside their control.
The overturning of Flat Fee’s, for example, cannot be claimed as a victory of their leadership and lobbying. All the college and faculty unions, ASSU, and GC reps made significant efforts towards reversing it. They’re not capable of accomplishing anything ambitious. They lack popular support or credibility with the administration.
UTSU has alienated virtually the entire student population. They have presided over the largest decline in student participation in the university’s history. At no point, ever, has the student body been as apathetic. Voter turnout during elections ranks the lowest in the country.
Want more proof? Their attempt to restructure the Board of Directors would disenfranchise the majority of students. The reforms would introduce representation based on perpetuating marginalization, race divisions and gender barriers.
Their failed leadership has destroyed campus life. Your experience will suffer if you’re not lucky enough to participate in your college, faculty, or join a club. The union continues to consume itself in programming that should be left to clubs, notably ones falling under the equity and social action portfolio.
Given the trends and the growing number of scandals, it’s likely that the situation will continue to get worse. Is this the kind of Change you want? Probably not.
It is commonly understood that the UTSU executive director is responsible for approving the incumbents campaign. Their involvement includes approving the candidates, platform, and campaign strategy. Taking all this into account, I’m disappointed that Sandy Hudson approved of them stealing our name.
When our team chose the name in the fall of 2008, we hoped to capture the tide of optimism occurring at the time. Our party was built on the principles of inclusivity, efficiency and professionalism. Our candidates were selected based on merit, not patronage. We valued the student experience and wanted to make that our priority – a significant difference from the other party.
In this coming election I wish Team Brighter U of T all the best and applaud them for continuing the fight to retake the union. Over the next two weeks they will face a number of challenges; students from other universities interfering in the campaign, dubious election violations, slander and harassment, and the deplorable tactic of building coalitions of support based on racial scare mongering.
I commend them for taking the time out of their busy schedules to try and make a difference. Regardless of the results, they are the Change the students at this great university deserve.
— James Finlay, former candidate for vp external for the Change U of T Party during the 2009 and 2010 elections.