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The Continued Struggle for Educational Access by the Afrikan Community: In Solidarity with the Transitional Year Programme!

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The Continued Struggle for Educational Access by the Afrikan Community: In Solidarity with the Transitional Year Programme!

by the Network for Pan-Afrikan Solidarity (Toronto)*

The Network for Pan-Afrikan Solidarity (NPAS) stands firmly in solidarity with the Transitional Year Programme (TYP) and the Transitional Year Programme Preservation Alliance (TYPPA). The University of Toronto - especially the university's Provost Cheryl Misak - has been imposing conditions on the TYP that are not beneficial to the success of the program or the wellbeing of the students the program serves. We call on people of good conscience to support the TYP in resisting a restructuring plan that would dilute or destroy the culture and practice of equity and excellence in education that the TYP has carefully built over the last 43 years!

We recognize that the TYP emerged from the struggle for educational access by the Afrikan community, and we unequivocally endorse the current struggle against forces that would do anything but increase support, funding, and facilitate the autonomous expansion of TYP. This struggle is part of the legacy of Afrikan and all oppressed people - we have inherited a tradition and moral imperative of anti-oppressive struggle. The fight to gain access to educational resources that colonial/capitalist higher education institutions appropriate and hoard, away from the oppressed masses whose labour and knowledge are stolen to create such resources, is part of this tradition. The fight for equitable access to the University of Toronto is one of the many fronts of the broad battle for access to educational opportunities, and the faculty and students and supporters of TYP stand firmly on this front.

The TYP's founding in Toronto, Ontario and Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1969 and the early 1970s happened concurrently with, or on the heels of worldwide Afrikan-led mass movements including civil rights, Black Power, Black Consciousness and Afrikan national independence movements. The TYP began as a summer program for Afrikan students, and soon after its founding, "was put under much surveillance and evaluation [while] media readily reported any problems in the program in its embryonic stage, but the Black community rallied around it, giving TYP the much needed support, and thereby giving it a chance to "prove" itself"[1]. As described in a press release in defense of the TYP issued in April 2013[2], in "1976 the then-Provost unilaterally suspended the program because the already established bridging program didn’t like the new TYP and labelled them as neo-Marxists." The TYP has been under attack since its founding by the Afrikan communities in Toronto and Halifax. The Afrikan community has rallied behind and defended TYP since its beginning, and we ought to offer our support now.

In 2013, we know that the TYP has become a robust program that - with increasingly limited resources imposed by the University of Toronto - creates space for members of the working-class, racialized groups, women, indigenous people, LGBTQ students, people with disabilities, sole-support parents (and other folks who face disproportional barriers to education) to access an education that may lead to them being catalysts for change in society. It is up to all members of all marginalized and oppressed groups for whose access to education the TYP fights, and all people willing to take a principled anti-oppressive stance on equity in education, to rally behind and defend the TYP.

University of Toronto's Provost, Cheryl Misak, has effectively demanded that the TYP be absorbed by Woodsworth College (whose Bridging Program does not appear to have as robust or effective programming as TYP). Provost Misak’s proposed course of action would eliminate the bit of autonomy the TYP currently has - an independence that no doubt goes a long way in allowing the TYP to retain its anti-oppressive values within a more colonial/imperial and capitalist university context. When the TYP refused to accept this disadvantageous merger, Misak (acting on behalf of the University of Toronto, as is a provost's duty) imposed cuts that resulted in two faculty members being cut.

After the TYP, not swayed by strong-arm tactics, refused the merger again, the provost imposed more cuts that will result in the removal of over half of the TYP's current faculty in 2013-2014. The University of Toronto's abrasive tactics have gone even further than imposing programmatic dilutions and budget and faculty cuts. In one instance, while students were in the TYP building, several folks in suits walked in unannounced, took up the students' space, and discussed aloud which walls would be knocked down.

The members of the Network for Pan-Afrikan Solidarity recognize that such cuts and authoritarian tactics are disproportionately used by oppressive forces against those who seek equity and access to resources hoarded by privileged bodies in a white supremacist, patriarchal, ableist, heteronormative, capitalist state, and we condemn anybody within the University of Toronto who works on behalf of such oppressive forces. We reject as unjust any actions of the University of Toronto that do not contribute to the provision of whatever resources the TYP needs to duly expand its programmes and maintain or increase its autonomy. We demand:

  1. The expansion in the number of people accepted into the TYP
  2. That the University of Toronto and its representatives cease any actions and retract any demands that the TYP and its representatives deem disadvantageous to the effective and improved operation of its programmes
  3. Increase the operational funding base of the TYP

To support the TYP, we request that all readers of this letter:

  • Actively resist, in any ways you are able, Provost Cheryl Misak's and the University of Toronto's attack on those who struggle for equitable access to education within the university
  • Contact the TYPPA at typ.actionplan@gmail.com to be added to their email list, for information about how you can assist or provide resources to support the preservation and defense of the TYP
  • Write and send letters to the editor of the Toronto Star (lettertoed@thestar.ca), The Globe and Mail (letters@globeandmail.com), the National Post (letters@nationalpost.com) as well as community-based publications and express your opposition to the undermining of the integrity of the TYP. Write and send letters and emails, and make phone calls, condemning the assault on the TYP. You  may send your correspondence to:

 

Professor Cheryl Misak

Vice-President and Provost

Simcoe Hall, 27 Kings College Circle, room 225

Toronto, ON M5S 1A1 Canada.

Tel:416 -978-2122

cheryl.misak@utoronto.ca

provost@utoronto.ca

 

Professor Meric Gertler

Office of the President

University of Toronto

27 King’s College Circle, Room 206

Toronto, ON M5S 1A1 Canada

president@utoronto.ca

The University of Toronto's impositions on the TYP entail a blatant disregard for the struggles of the Afrikan community that founded TYP and all oppressed people who struggle(d) for TYP and continue to fight for access and equity in higher education. The Network for Pan-Afrikan Solidarity asserts that critical education is the basis on which oppressed people will forge their liberation! University-educated people or folks with access to high-quality educational resources and knowledge figure prominently in modern struggles for liberation, and the extent to which programmes like the TYP play a role in the provision of critical education and access to educational resources for oppressed people is the extent to which we ought to support those programs.

 * The Network for Pan-Afrikan Solidarity (NPAS) is a Toronto-based progressive, anti-oppression organization that is committed to working for the liberation of Afrikan people. The organization is dedicated to the principle of the people being the architect of History and their own emancipation. NPAS may be reached at network4panafrikansolidarity@gmail.com and you are encouraged to visit its Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Network-for-Pan-Afrikan-Solidarity-Toronto/132641920163259.

___________________________________________________________________________

[1] Ruramisai Charumbira, "'I am Definitely not Leaving without a Degree': A View from the Crossroads of Informal and Formal Learning - The Transitional Year Program at the University of Toronto", New Approaches to Lifelong Learning, 2003: http://www.nall.ca/res/72charumbira.pdf

[2] Justin Panos, "Varsity blues: U of T Provost gets big raise while dismantling program for unprivileged," Rabble, 24, Apr. 2013: http://rabble.ca/blogs/bloggers/campus-notes/2013/04/varsity-blues-u-t-provost-gets-big-raise-while-dismantling-progr

 


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