So it’s a strike.
Although negotiations continue in earnest between part-time faculty and the university, union leaders admit privately that they feel the negotiations are deadlocked.
While students prepare for another semester of exams and homework, both the university and the teachers’ union have begun preparing for the possibility of a strike likely to disrupt classes this semester.
Last year, when teachers began a half-hearted strike, few students noticed or cared about the people walking up and down the picket-line. This year, when the strike comes, it will be hard for students to pretend-away the reality of stopped classes, lost credits and voided exams. Students will be forced to take sides between teachers and the university, and it will be important for them to think critically about their choices.
It’s important to realize that there are no truly malicious interests in this conflict. The university, on the one hand, is fighting a crushing structural deficit that forces serious cuts to its operating budget. On the other, the union, has had no contract for the last seven years, and cannot be expected to ignore reality as wages at other universities rise along with market levels.
But if the two parties’ positions are understandable, if unpalatable, the position of our own student government borders on an insult to intelligence.
Each time a strike threat has hung over Concordia in recent years, the CSU have fallen over themselves to show their support for labour’s demands for more money, smaller classes, and greater job security.
Yet those students supporting the teachers’ demands (and, consequently, the university’s increased expenses) are incensed at each and every suggestion that they should be asked to pay for it.
Student leaders seem to possess the ineffable wisdom of the Buddha, whereby they can argue two opposed positions with no apparent shame. Notwithstanding the CSU’s protestations of solidarity and goodwill, people might naturally be skeptical of leaders who talks out of both sides of their mouth.
While our student “leaders” will mouth pleasantries at the union, real students will be forced to recognize the plain fact that the part-time faculty will not be striking against the university – they will be striking against us – against our classes, our exams and our grade-point-averages.
It is not enough for students to empathize passively with our professors in the hope that the problem will never materialize. If students want to support teachers’ demands, they must be willing to pay for it.
Noah Stewart, students’ representative on the board of governors, wrote in these pages last week that Concordia is suffering a crisis of governance. He argued that corporate interests and financial calculations are displacing students’ rights to be heard. But how can students expect to be taken seriously when their response to every problem is a reflexive demand that the government throw yet another bag of money at it?
So it’s a strike.