by Zach Ruiter
CUPE 3902 held a solidarity rally in front of Convocation Hall to loudly mark their presence as UofT President David Naylor met with the Governing Council somewhere inside.
CUPE 3902 has been in negotiations for eight months since their contract expired April 30th 2011.
“Our last contract was good for three years and during that time the administration of the University of Toronto found a technical loop-hole in that contract which allows them to reduce the amount of funding they can give per student” says James Nugent, spokesperson for CUPE 3902.
The trade union of education workers has set a February 24th strike date.
The university administration has reduced graduate student research money by an average of three thousand dollars per graduate student per year. Senior students in their fifth and sixth year have not only lost funding but pay many thousands in tuition at the same time as the administration has cancelled tuition relief for upper year grad students.
A common theme at the rally for 3902 members, faculty, and undergraduate supporters, was tutorial size. "Tutorials are getting too big", according to Nugent, “over twenty-five percent of tutorials have more than fifty students, over forty percent have more than thirty-five students”.
“It is a sad state of affairs when asking for any form of tutorial caps ends up being this much of a fight” says Ashleigh Ingle, who is part of the 3902 negotiating team. In between chants, Ingle told the crowd “it is completely ridiculous to ask that our funding package, which has not gone up since 2008, only go up with inflation, the fact that is being treated as a demand that they cannot meet is pathetic”
A group calling themselves ‘Undergrads for 3902’ was well represented, a blue-haired and bright eyed undergrad, Jiayi Zhou, believes “the struggles of TA’s [teaching assistants] and other members of the union are intertwined with the quality of education at this university”
Sandy Hudson of the Canadian Federation of Students, CFS, proclaimed “we have students who come to us with stories of having their classes cut short because their sessional lecturers have to leave to go their next job because you need to have more than one in order to afford to eat”. For Hudson it is a problem of “how little attention we are actually paying to the people of this society and what the people in this society need”.
'Undergrads for 3902' successfully entered the Council of Governors meeting to present a letter and petition with more than 1000 signatures in support of CUPE 3902. According to one undergrad who chose not to reveal her name, “after the letter was read out, President Naylor and the people on Governing Council didn’t really react to the letter, they just moved on to the next comment and next question of other matters”.
The student said “its disappointing and disillusioning that the administration doesn’t care about the concerns of students at their university”.
In other University of Toronto News, The Star reports the university will stop research on live monkeys. This comes after the university disregarded students' pleas to let the last two remaining monkeys retire in a sanctuary, instead they were euthanized and the professor involved will now conduct live experimentation on monkeys via a university in Chicago. It remains to be seen if this monkey killing university will show more compassion to its union of contract teching assistants.