More On McGill TA Strike and Related Issues.

Marc Bousquet reports on the on-going TA strike at McGill and anonymous commenters provide more information about the situation on the ground:

Some background: the Administration has been on a campaign for a few years now to fight student autonomy and representation on campus, from forcing referenda on the campus-and-comunity CKUT radio station, undergrad The Daily newspaper, to attempting to shut-down student-run food services, such as the Architecture Cafe (and attempting to centralise all food services under the international conglomerate, Chartwell’s), to disempowering the SSMU undergrad student union (for example, by charging students for access to campus for events), to ignoring the demands of the PGSS grad student union, to banning all rallies and protest on campus. The campus itself has become a security zone, with rent-a-cops on every corner, ready to quash everything from a stray protest sign (or even a bit of protest clothing, as I have discovered) to forcing cyclists to dismount while giving priority to car traffic (all this security is all under the Columbine pretense). Quite simply, McGill is on lockdown as a security state. […]

The University has forced faculty to scab; this has infuriated many Professors. The University has divided grad students against each other, and so PGSS has supported the strike and condemned the University’s actions. The University Administration truly stands alone in its actions. The question is whether they ultimately have the power to not only beat the strike, but reform the entire project of the University as it stands. If they win, this will not only mean a lost strike, but the clear message that students of all stripes and faculty of all kinds are expendable to the clean functioning of a corporate “university”.

The most disturbing thing here is the fact that the university is able to exploit its power in ways that are avaiable to any other institutions – firing students from non-union jobs, forcing junior faculty to scar while implying that their tenure could be in question, refusing to negotiate and basically use its administrative power to repress. It is one thing to argue about the demands or try to negotiate a deal that would satisfy both TAs and the administrators, but it’s a completely different thing to act as a bully and basically attempt to run the university as if students and faculty are just grocery shoppers and cashier clerks. “Outrageous sense of executive license” indeed. Where is McGill’s tenured faculty? Another striker comments:

But what has been most disheartening has been the reaction of the professors. Their official body (MAUT, McGill Association of University Teachers) has released statements, which are concerned almost exclusively with the burdens this strike has placed on them. I’m afraid that if the TAs here do not receive the active support of the professors they will not be able to win. It is clear that McGill plans to let this go on until the TAs cave in, through the fall semester if necessary (faculty have been told to be prepared to teach in the fall without TAs). Why MAUT will tolerate this, I don’t know. This sort of bullying, lying, and fear-mongering is in violation of every liberal principle necessary to the modern university. But apparently MAUT is OK with that. They profess neutrality, but in this case to be neutral is to sell out the TAs, is to condone the administration’s bullying tactics. I don’t see this ending well, and the faculty will have a great deal of the blame if they do nothing in the face of this threat to the university.

But then again, if my own job was at stake, would I not be a sort of the coward that I am currently and self-righteously denouncing?

2 thoughts on “More On McGill TA Strike and Related Issues.

  1. Hi, I am the “striker” quoted above; I’m not a striker but a course lecturer, which puts me just below graduate students on the university totem pole. I would just like to clarify: TENURED professors could respond to this without losing their jobs; MAUT could have acted collectively and many tenured professors were in a position to act individually without fear of job loss. That they did not do so bodes ill for McGill, and probably for the “university” in the abstract. This is, I’m sure, part of the reason university teaching is more and more done by adjuncts: realistically it is only tenured faculty who can stand up to administrations. An administration that can fire anybody at anytime can behave as thuggishly as it pleases.

  2. Thanks for clarification, Giotto, I think this was our position as well – isn’t it the purpose of tenure-system to begin with? to be able to express one’s views without the fear of being fired? when did tenure become just a really cool perk and a job-security issue? I realize the situation is probably more complex, but it would be nice to hear some voices from tenured faculty members, although in many cases administrators are tenured faculty members themselves so it’s sort of a difficult position, I suppose.

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