Thursday, February 05, 2009

The York University Strike

I posted this on the York University Education bulletin board here in Toronto. The responses were surprisngly positive (despite the leftist bias that exists)...I believe it can apply to many a North American university in one form or another....

York University is the epitome of a bloated institution. It has grown rapidly into Canada’s third largest university by admitting students who would ordinarily never even be considered for admission by Canada’s more prestigious bastions of higher learning: U of T, Waterloo, McMaster etc. The chief reason behind such an admission policy was/is to increase revenue while at the same time elevating the university as a power bloc within Canada’s world of higher education. However this has come at a price. With only a limited amount of tenured spots and other regular full-time positions the university has become more reliant on contract workers and teaching assistants whose numbers have reached a critical mass.

Place this in the context of an environment that fosters entitlement (especially such out dated notions as job security…) and labour dispute are an obvious outcome. This of course puts the university into a bind.

It can downsize, eliminate courses and throttle back admissions….. but it won’t…it loves the student revenue for one. Also if it had to cut back on courses - and contract workers as a consequence - this would most likely manifest itself in the humanities and social science fields where the university is particularly well stocked.

However no university official would dare touch the myriad of cultural study courses and ideologically derived re-education workshops that dominate the Humanities/Social Science (where much of the ‘bloat’ resides) for fear of being labeled with the stigma of racism, sexism, homophobia etc…….. the all too powerful smear tool of the political left that seems to dominate campus politics at York.

Restricting admission to the science, business and professional (SBP) study spheres are a no-go as well. The university has to its credit made considerable effort to grow these areas (for one the new President himself is eager to establish a Medical School at York) and their success is most directly linked to the status of the university as an academic institution. Besides private sector donations (which are critical for research funding) are largely associated with the SBP programs. These would likely dry up if it appeared that the university was backtracking on such initiatives.
However the system is not sustainable. Something has to give.

I personally believe that the university should downsize, cut the fat and go with a policy of less is more…

Who then is to blame for this particular strike? Answer both sides. The university for failing to exercise the tough love that would alleviate the deleterious consequences of its ongoing policies and the union for only thinking about its own personal consequences….Who then are the victims? Answer: The thousands of students who lost 11 weeks of education.
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