OPINION: York University strikes reminder that students should support their teachers

Andrew Jeffrey

The 2017-18 school year has been a difficult one for Ontario’s post-secondary students.

Toronto students were disrupted by a faculty strike for the second time this year when around 3,000 York University contract faculty and teaching assistants went on strike earlier this week. This came months after a faculty strike eliminated five weeks of school for more than 500,000 Ontario college students across the province.

Disrupting studies at York is a familiar situation for these students, after teaching assistants and contract staff went on strike in 2015. It’s frustrating for students to have their studies disrupted, but as teaching assistants and other faculty members struggle to improve their working situations, students should support an improved working environment for their instructors.

The striking staff’s main points to negotiate before returning to work are improved job security for contract faculty, funding for TAs, reversing job cuts to around 800 positions since 2016, and prioritizing equity, anti-racism and anti-sexual violence on campus.

The striking staff members are represented by CUPE 3903, who argued on their Facebook page that York’s TA wages are “under the poverty line after tuition,” and “contract faculty work is underpaid and often unpredictable.”

Any classes unaffected by striking faculty are continuing to run, but roughly 60 per cent of teaching at York is done by the contract faculty members and TAs who are now on strike. As much as it would help students to feel as little disruption as possible to their education, in the long run, it’s better for present and future students to have a teaching staff working in less precarious situations.

These working conditions should matter to students because there’s a clear connection between job security for faculty and an improved education.

A swift end to this strike would get students back in the classroom, but if York management doesn’t faculty demands seriously, it’ll miss an opportunity to improve the quality of the education these students receive.

Students can see how this ended the Ontario colleges strike last fall. Back-to-work legislation brought students back into the classroom, but there’s little evidence since the strike ended in November to show that the five-week stoppage resulted in any improvements to college faculty working conditions.

A long strike this year will have a negative impact on students’ education this year, but students should support the faculty’s requests during the work stoppage. The points which striking faculty members and their union are fighting for will only help students in their education in the long run.

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One Thought to “OPINION: York University strikes reminder that students should support their teachers”

  1. Kirk Rintoul

    Students should not unconditionally support teachers merely because their union claims they are “for quality education.” Teachers’ unions support teachers who pay their dues, not students who don’t.

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