Response to Student Class Boycott
The CUPFA Executive thanks the membership for their continued support for our students in their struggle with the anticipated government tuition increases. The Association can never support a policy or any legislation that would lead to greater student debt and the denial of the fundamental right to an education.
The ongoing student actions to protest the Charest government’s plans to raise tuition fees enter a new phase this coming week, as both the CSU and GSA plan to hold General Assemblies to vote on a “student strike.” At the present time, some individual departments (Geography, Simone de Beauvoir) and the Faculty of Fine Arts have already voted to take action. The CSU and GSA will be holding their vote this coming Wednesday March 7.
If a “strike” is called, what does this mean for CUPFA members?
While the students have called their protest a “strike,” it is in fact a “boycott.” Only labour unions can legally go on strike. CUPFA has publicly stated its support for the students in this action, but our support must be expressed properly. Complicating things is the fact that the plans of student groups are in flux. Different units have set a variety of strike dates and different strike durations, with the potential that the strike could go on for a considerable period of time.
CUPFA will monitor developments on an on-going basis and provide updates (see CUPFA’s web page for news).
How should you respond?
First – Go To Class, if the students do go out, CUPFA members must be prudent in their response. As a part-time faculty member you are presently under contract and therefore not in a position to withdraw your labour. You have an obligation to report for work as usual. Go your classes.
Second – Dealing with Picket-lines if, when you go to teach your class, there is a student “picket line,” you should calmly tell the students there that you are legally obliged to report to your class. We have asked the CSU and the GSA to inform students that CUPFA members will report for work. They should let you pass. If students attempt to prevent you from entering the building, you must not force your way in. CUPFA will not be responsible for precipitating in an “incident” between students and the University. Under no circumstances should you call Security. We do not wish to create any incidents on the curb which may deteriorate relations between students and the University, could incite violence, or a situation that could place your own life and the life of students in peril. And while the University as an employer is bound to provide a safe environment for its faculty, staff, and students, we are also aware of the abuses by security or police in handling peaceful assemblies. Often heavy enforcement is the cause of escalating violent confrontations.
Third – Some or No Students in Class? When you report to your classroom, if you find that no students are present, the Association recommends you remain in class for 15 minutes. At the end of this period of time, if no students have shown up for class, it is reasonable for you to then leave. If your class has its usual complement of students or near-about its normal complement, you must teach your class as usual. If your class has only a few students (i.e. clearly more than the majority of students are absent), you must use your best judgment when considering how to proceed.
Fourth – Incidents If you are involved in any incident during the “strike” with “picket lines” or need to cancel your class please first report it immediately to the Association. We cannot advise you if we are unaware of what you need. Our email is firstname.lastname@example.org and our phone 514.848.2424 ext. is 3691.
While you cannot support the student action by withdrawing your labour and not teaching your class, you can support them by others means. You have the discretion to shift assignment dates so as to avoid penalizing students who are out. The CSU and the GSA has provided a Pledge for faculty who wish to express their support. This is one way you can make your voice heard.
Finally, while the next few weeks will present some challenges for all of us, we must do our best to carry on. The University is a community and when one constituency is under stress, we all feel this. The Students are exercising their democratic rights, and we will respect their rights. When this protest is concluded, we will all return to the classroom together. It is therefore imperative to maintain lines of communications and good relations with all parties.
Dr. David Douglas,
Chair of Communications,