Tuesday, January 13, 2009

CUPE's vision of the university: Part 1 of an occasional series [UPDATED]

UPDATE: CUPE National president Paul Moist opposes the OUWCC motion.

(Original post follows ...)

Referring to CUPE's coordinated bargaining strategy, CUPE executive Dan Crow writes (emphasis mine):
This is a struggle the broadest Left should support as one more element in the growing struggles to overturn neoliberalism, and to begin to imagine again what a university might be in a post-neoliberal social order.
If CUPE's goal is to impose a "post-neoliberal" vision on Ontario universities, it is fair to ask what exactly that vision entails. Within the past few weeks, we have had a bracing introduction to that vision, as the OUWCC (the organization within CUPE to support the 2010 initiative) expressed its intention to present the a motion boycotting academic collaboration with Israeli universities* at their next annual meeting in February. The text of this motion is in flux, but we read at the link (emphasis mine):

A resolution could include calling on Ontario universities and university workers to:

  • Refuse to participate in academic cooperation, collaboration or joint projects with Israeli universities, such as participating in conferences in Israel, refereeing or editing articles for Israeli journals, evaluating research proposals for Israeli institutions
  • Advocate a boycott of Israeli universities, including suspension of all forms of funding and subsidies ...
Elsewhere we read:
[CUPE] said it will seek to prohibit Israeli academics from speaking, teaching or researching at Ontario universities.
At this point, let me point out that I do not fully support either side in the current Israeli-Gaza conflict; in my opinion, both sides have committed terrible acts. Neither do I think that CUPE should remain silent on political matters -- CUPE has previously enacted resolutions calling for economic sanctions and boycotts against Israel, and I think they are well within their rights to do so.

What concerns me is the attempt to influence speech at universities. For an organization of academics to impose some sort of ideological purity test as a precondition for collaborating or speaking at Ontario universities, is appalling. What's especially alarming here is the attempt by a group of academics to use their collective power to try to force other academics to think in a certain way, and to ban their voices if they do not. Let us be completely clear that forceful protest is fine, and resolutions calling for economic sanctions are fine, but this attempt to stifle speech runs directly counter to the free exchange of ideas that is the foundation of the modern university.

It bears pointing out that Mr. Crow is directly involved in drafting this resolution, so this effort is, quite clearly, part of his "post-neoliberal" vision. You should be asking yourself whether you also support the imposition of ideological conditions on speech. If the answer is "yes", you should have no problem also supporting his drive for coordinated bargaining. Naturally, I take a different view.

*document_id=666. Heh.


djn said...

Hm. Interesting blog. Have you considered examining the coordinated bargaining practices exercised by the university administrations through the COU? Or OPSEU's coordinated bargaining through colleges? Or coordinating bargaining in BC's education sector? Just curious to know if you've explored any of these things when keeping a watch on CUPE.

CUPE Watch 2010 said...

Thanks for the comment -- your suggestions are excellent. Since this blog is a long-term project (until at least 2010), I'll start looking at these a few months down the road -- the issues are complex and require research. For now, the York and impending U of T strikes are generating plenty of material.