Wednesday, March 11, 2009

CUPE's vision of the university: Part 2 of an occasional series

From a source at York, disturbing news of possible reprisals against professors who spoke out against CUPE 3903's strike action. Background and full details are below. If you ever wondered why I remain anonymous, this is why!

I intended (and still intend) for my "series" on CUPE's vision of the university to discuss more philosophical concerns. However, as long as outrageous stunts like this (and the earlier Israel motion fiasco [1, 2]) continue to happen, I will obligingly post them.

First some background: During the York strike, two letters were signed by York tenure-track professors opposing the 3903 strike. The first letter, signed by around 150 faculty, was addressed to the faculty union leadership, asking them to remain neutral in the dispute. The second letter, signed by around 250 faculty, was addressed to CUPE members, and encouraged them to accept the university's offer.

Earlier, a group called YorkIsUs posted this page, apparently encouraging the anonymous email harassment of the signatories of the first letter. This group, while independent of CUPE, is sufficiently supported and encouraged by CUPE 3903 to have been prominently mentioned on their official strike web site (also with a link from the home page, under "links").

And now we have this. It is a resolution from the York Sociology Graduate Association (YSGA), again not directly affiliated with CUPE. However, it is certainly being circulated by CUPE members: the signature block, which I have removed, indicated that the message was forwarded by a senior 3903 executive. (One can speculate that the 3903 executive was forwarding the message to drum up opposition against it, but this seems unlikely.) Read it in all its ludicrously over-the-top glory:

Forced Ratification Open Letter Signatories
-A few Sociology faculty members signed the open letter that urged students to accept the employers offer during the forced ratification vote.
-[Redacted] put forth a motion to respond to this issue. [Redacted] put forth alternative language to amend the motion.
-After much discussion and debate, the following amended motion was passed, based on an omnibus vote:
YSGA Motion on Sociology Faculty Open Letter Signatories
WHEREAS: During the lead up to the forced ratification vote, a group of faculty members circulated an open letter appealing to CUPE 3903 members to accept the employer's offer,
AND WHEREAS: Some of the signatories to the letter were associated with the Department of Sociology,
AND WHEREAS: The letter was not only a misrepresentation and misinterpretation of the demands for which CUPE 3903 was striking,
AND WHEREAS: The signatories also abused their power as teachers, academic committee members, and supervisors of CUPE 3903 members,
AND WHEREAS: In abusing their power, these signatories undermined the collegiality and respect required for a department and a scholarly discipline to function,
BIRT: The YSGA, comprised of graduate students, CUPE 3903 members, and future faculty members, stand in opposition to this letter and its signatories.
BIFRT: In order to do this, we shall:
1) Issue a formal and public statement indicating that, because of their gross breach of collegiality, we the YSGA no longer recognize those persons affiliated with our department who signed the open letter to be members of our Department or our discipline,
2) Circulate this statement to other department-level GSAs to encourage them to pass similar resolutions in their own departments,
3) Never organize, promote, or attend an event at which these signatories are scheduled to speak or present their work,
4) Never enroll in a course these signatories are instructing or approach them to serve on a committee,
5) Make plain, as a matter of policy, our reasons for doing the above so that all incoming YSGA members will know how to act and the important reasons for doing so.
6) Call upon the Department of Sociology, and the Graduate Program in Sociology, to formally acknowledge the implicit and explicit power relations, authority and standards of collegiality involved in student/faculty relationships, and institute guidelines prohibiting such abuses in the future.
BIFRT: The YSGA will support its members in finding appropriate substitutes should they choose, for reasons outlined in the preamble to this motion, to drop a signatory to the open letter from an already constituted academic committee.

For junior faculty members, teaching courses, speaking at academic meetings, and serving on committees are key requirements to achieve tenure and obtain promotion. So make no mistake that this is a reprisal, and the movers of the motion are seeking to damage careers for the crime of disagreeing with CUPE.

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