Letter to the Editor: A Student's Perspective on the Possible Strike at U of G
Wednesday, February 20, 200814 Comments
The first thing that came to mind when I heard about the strike, "Whoa, I didn't know that!" might seem redundant, but I believe it captures a lot of students' reactions to this situation.
The first notice of this strike that I came across, came in the form of the Facebook group "University of Guelph Strike! Beware!", and initially just contained some student opinions and gossip, with a few copied and pasted letters from teachers posted as discussion topics. Next, the first formal statement made to the students that i was aware of was made on the same Facebook group by Nathan Lachowsky on February the 6th, and shortly following that, the CSA posted the same message on its site on the 7th.
While I wouldn't go as far to say that the students have absolutely been kept in the dark in terms of this situation, I will agree with a fellow student that the short notice from the CSA preluding the vote by the UGFA on the 15th does come across more as damage control than upfront and honest communication with the students.
It then seems that the both sides of this dispute are keeping the students on a "need to know basis", and it truly feels like the concerns of students aren't being taken as legitimate. True, as the CSA points out, these sorts of measures have been taken by other Teacher's Unions at other Universities without a strike actually. However, as a student, that sentiment isn't very comforting, as our time, money and education is on the line here. With so much at stake for students, it makes sense to err on the side of caution, and make a legitimate effort to address the student body preemptively to the situation being this far in development. However, this has not been the case and it is disappointing.
Also disappointing is that the key issues of disagreement haven't been made explicitly known to students, and this has left the door open for a lot of guess work for the students, and it shows, especially in the Facebook group. Obviously money is on the agenda, but what are the particulars, where are the hang ups, and what's next? However, i should make clear that i do not think this is to the fault of the CSA, as it seems they are also on a "need to know" basis. On the other hand, the UGFA has also surprisingly limited coverage of the situation on their website, and individual teachers have added their two-cents (and sob stories)both here on thecannon.ca, and the facebook group as well. Meanwhile, other than CSA involvement, the University Administration hasn't formally said much.
A large part of me finds the situation rather ironic given the skewed nature of this problem. (My disclaimer: don't read any longer unless you want a more biased opinion.) The teacher's at the University of Guelph are butting heads with the administration, and although specifics aren't well known, money is certainly involved. What should first be mentioned here, is that the lowest average salary by age group at the University is $74,475, the average overall is $96,069, and the highest average is 113,095 (UFGA website). In short--the teachers aren't exactly "hard done by" in terms of money making. But should they strike and demand more money, where would this money come from: didn't Guelph already suffer a tuition raise that was close to the maximum (if not dead on) allowed at an institution? Perhaps the most interesting and perplexing part of this situation is just the nature of where the students lie in all of this. The teachers want more money (and other things). Teachers teach. Teaching requires students to teach. Therefore, teachers should have a fundamental obligation to the students, who they require to do their jobs. Irony: The students would be figuratively held hostage by the teachers should a strike occur. I realize this is just the most effective way to get their demands met, i just find it fundamentally crooked given their profession, and given the amount of money they are currently making, and that we are paying as students.
That being said, the main issue was, and still is a communication one. Students, teachers and administration have a business relationship with one another, and surely one professor in the UGFA, or one administrator in the University understands that communication is needed for a relationship to be successful and healthy. Why then are student interests being put on hold in terms of keeping them involved and in the know?
My final sad thought, is that I don't imagine that a student strike would garner very much respect or urgent response in reaction to this situation. The current teacher vs. administration debacle has communicated one thing fairly clearly: student concerns and needs come secondary to administrative/union concerns, and students are only kept in the loop in the limited ways that they are to keep them complacent.