Open Letter to Undergraduates from CUPE 3902
Many of you have sent me emails asking about your academic rights. University of Toronto policy mandates the following as your rights:
changes to course syllabi MUST be endorsed by a vote in class (in some faculties, such as Arts & Science, there are additional policies requiring that students be given adequate notice of such a vote occurring)
changes to course syllabi can ONLY take effect if a simple majority of the class vote in favour (in some faculties, there are additional policies that increase this threshold)
Following a message sent from the Dean of Arts & Science yesterday, I received the following open letter to all undergraduate students from CUPE 3902:
We continue to appreciate that CUPE 3902 has been forthcoming with information.
Report your strike experiences
It’s been over two weeks since the strike began but the University administration still hasn’t met with CUPE 3902 to negotiate an agreement to put it to an end (www.isuoftbargainingyet.com). Meanwhile, hundreds of courses are cancelled, in addition to most labs and tutorials.
In addition to this, we’ve heard troubling reports from many students about the impact on their courses and overall quality of their education. In some cases, students are being asked to write tests and complete assignments despite lectures, tutorials and office hours being cancelled. In other cases, students have been asked to hold their own tutorials. We’ve also heard about students being hired to run tutorials with minimal to no training. Some professors and other academic staff who are not on strike have also spoken about being pressured to take over the work of their teaching assistants.
Labs, tutorials, lectures and office hours are crucial to our learning, as is the work of our lecturers, teaching assistants, lab instructors and other academic staff. We are concerned that the University is trying to downplay the impact of the strike, communicating to students, the media and the general public that operations are generally continuing as usual. Meanwhile, we are not getting the academic support that we need.
For these reasons, we are asking students to use this form to report any cases in which your courses, labs and tutorials are not being run as they should.
Let us know if you are being asked to facilitate your own tutorials, if you’re expected to complete coursework without adequate support, or any other examples you can think of. Information about specific courses or instructors will not be shared with CUPE 3902 or any external organization, but will be used to gauge the true impact of the strike on undergrads and pressure the University to put it to an end. The form also asks you to identify whether you are comfortable speaking to the media about how the strike has affected you personally, and provide contact information in that case. It is otherwise completely anonymous.
We need to change the narrative around the strike and pressure the University to put it to an end. If you agree, please also take a minute to join over a thousand students in signing this petition demanding that we be compensated for the loss of the courses, labs and tutorials that we pay for with our tuition fees.
If you have any questions, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
– Yolen Bollo-Kamara, President
CUPE 3902 strike information
Unit 1 of CUPE 3902 – which includes TAs, lab assistants, exam invigilators and part-time lecturers – is on strike as of February 28 evening.
For more information, please read the FAQs released by CUPE 3902 (http://www.weareuoft.ca/faqs/) and by the University administration (http://www.provost.utoronto.ca/office/2015strikeupdates.htm). CUPE 3902 is also communicating regularly with students via the Students for CUPE 3902 page.
At this point, we don’t know how long the strike will last, or the extent to which it could affect your course work this term. We will continue to provide updates as they become available.
You should be aware that in order for changes to be made to your course syllabi, a majority of students must vote in favour in a vote conducted in class.
The position of the UTSU Executive is as follows:
We want to see the strike end as soon as possible. We implore the University to negotiate in good faith with CUPE 3902 and offer reasonable compensation for the work its members do. Currently, the minimum funding package for graduate students is $15,000. This is $8,000, or 35% below the poverty line. (Compare this to the number of U of T administrators and professors on the Sunshine List of public sector employees making over $100,000 – www.thesunshinelist.com). At the same time, the University is projecting a surplus of approximately $200 million for this year.
We believe that people should be fairly compensated for their work. Some undergraduate students work as TAs and are members of CUPE 3902, and many more of us intend to pursue graduate degrees and will do so in the future. As we advocate for lower tuition fees and a more accessible postsecondary education system, we cannot support the exploitation of those who teach us. Members of CUPE 3902 do 60% of teaching at the University of Toronto but their salaries account for only 3.5% of the University’s annual operating budget.
We recognize that the working conditions of our TAs and instructors are our learning conditions. Extremely large class sizes are part of the reason that the University relies so heavily on TAs, but their contracts often include minimal to no time for directly communicating with students and very little time for marking our work. This directly impacts their ability to facilitate our learning.
We believe that the best way to end this strike is to pressure the University to negotiate in good faith and offer fair contracts to members of CUPE 3902. Pitting students against those who facilitate our learning is wrong and counterproductive.
We appreciate that CUPE 3902 has been forthcoming with information. They have been attempting to communicate with undergraduate students for weeks, via townhalls, social media and email. We only received an update from the University a few days ago.
If you have any questions, please email email@example.com.
Click here to read UTSU’s letter to Angela Hildyard, Vice-President, Human Resources and Equity, University of Toronto.
For more information on CUPE 3902’s position visit www.weareuoft.ca.
Information will also be posted at the Facebook page Students for CUPE 3902: https://www.facebook.com/StudentsForCupe3902.
For strike updates from the University visit http://www.provost.utoronto.ca/office/2015strikeupdates.htm.