I have spent a fair amount of time listening over the last eleven weeks. I think this remains a time for everyone to listen hard and reflect. Of course, it may be that people do not actually say what it is they think. Public faces and private thoughts. It is also hard to find a safe time and place to say whatever comes to mind - to share your fears and hopes. Still, all people involved should listen and all people involved should be heard.
I want to write out some of the basic concerns I have been listening to - concerns which will be around us whether the strike is over with a vote in early January, or it moves on into an unknown stage.
Recently, when I described some of the concerns of strikers in Unit I and III, a long time retiree from York posed the question:
"What has changed?"
It is true that the basic patterns of support, and non-support, for TAs and GAs has not changed much over the decade. However, listening to the stories of folk, I do hear about basic changes.
Whatever the details of actual settlement of this strike, it would be the height of irresponsibility to assume the issues are resolved and that the university can return to business as usual in the graduate program. That would be squandering the concern, energy and focus which this strike has to offer us on these issues. That would be burying the conflicting expectations and paying another, future price for the illusion of business as usual.
I hope and believe that there will be a wide variety of positive initiatives proposed over the next weeks. These will include proposals to assist the community at large, and individual graduate students at local levels to analyze the situation in a broader context and propose alternatives for the future. These may range from credit courses on issues in the university (I took such courses as a graduate student), through summer GAs which generate studies and information for the community on such issues, to series of events or even single events which bring together people from across the university and across southern Ontario. We are (or should be) an intellectual community. The power of the intellect should be applied to our issues.
It will be important that all who are in a position to make many of those real will offer ways to move forward rather than reasons to do less. That may make all the difference to how York moves through the post-strike period and into the future.Walter Whiteley