Howard A. Doughty
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As a York graduate twice over (Bachelor of Arts, 1967, and Master’s of Political Science, 1982), I was pleased to read your excellent front-page reporting of the current college strike.
Having been an active member of OPSEU Local 560 since college teachers first organized in the early 1970s and an outspoken advocate of faculty unionization at York in the late 1970s, I have seen questions of academic integrity, academic freedom, and the need for authentic faculty participation in post-secondary institutional governance from several related perspectives.
Although a faculty strike involving Seneca College, which occupies a small space on the York campus, might not seem immediately and materially important to York students and faculty—there are significant differences between the two—they are both caught in a similar evolutionary pattern.
Across North America and increasingly around the world, higher learning is becoming corporatized. Curriculum is commodified, research is commercialized, students are redefined as “customers,” and collegial relations among faculty are being reconstructed on the discount department store model—with associate professors being redefined as the academic equivalent of Walmart associates.
Throughout, intellectual inquiry is being replaced by crude vocationalism, as graduates are being fitted for a labour market that is much more precarious, but without the critical awareness that is rather desperately needed in a society with potentially catastrophic ecological, economic, and ethical challenges—not the least of which is our collusion in a seeming state of permanent war.
The college teacher’s strike is about academic freedom, employee equity, a collegial workplace, and the critical education we must provide if we are to be morally and politically responsible.
Our struggle is also your struggle, and pressure must be placed upon the College Employer Council through your local representatives at Queen’s Park to stop stonewalling and bargain in good faith.