A Seasoned GTA Prof Writes

One of the things that I found as soon as I got involved in academic labour issues is that my sense of time changed, and I started looking at change in terms of different time frames. For example, the degree to which our class sizes are impacted by a decision that someone made in 1985, or the fact that both teams are already writing potential recommendations for the next round of bargaining into this round’s Collective Agreement (in a nutshell, the faculty team’s proposal provides for mechanisms that would guarantee such recommendations; the CEC team’s proposal would let the Employer prevent recommendations from being put forwards).

So you start to think of it as something like a chess game, only there’s a gap of years between each move. (The metaphor breaks down when you consider that arbitrator’s rulings can redefine the meaning of negotiated language, in between rounds of bargaining.)

And in the last round of bargaining, I think that I e-mailed the bargaining team’s chair and vice-chair, when I thought that the Employer was proposing a reasonably innocuous bit of language that could end up having problematic effects about a decade later, if specific other things were to happen in the meantime.

All of which is to say that you start to value institutional memory. Right now, for example, in the face of the Employer’s ability to unilaterally Impose Terms & Conditions of Employment (16 days from now), many of our members experienced the Imposition of 2009; many did not.

So it’s in that spirit that I welcomed the following letter from a professor who leads with their experience. I have redacted any identifying information:

I started work as a full time faculty [in the late eighties]. I’ve been through the 2006 strike, the 2009 imposed terms & conditions, and the 2017 strike. After 32 years  as a faculty member, I am more than frustrated with the College Employer Council – their actions, their communication mistruths, and their callous disregard for both students and faculty. 
Given the CEC behaviour in the past, I am not surprised – but I am frustrated for everyone who has poured their heart and soul into doing their best for students during the pandemic. Doing their best for students has often been at the expense of faculty well-being and more so since March 2020. Working in a [Centre for Teaching & Learning], I’ve noted how tired faculty have become but the past 18 months, it’s been beyond tired. It’s an exhaustion that goes bone-deep. What an unfortunate time for our employer to take this adversarial stance.
It strikes me as absurd – working in a [CTL] and talking to faculty about learner-centred education, UDL [Universal Design for Learning], pedagogies of care, humanizing learning – and, especially authentic assessment – knowing full well that implementing any of these things is often beyond the scope of what SWFs allow–if, in fact, the people I’m working with are lucky enough to have a SWF. 
New faculty don’t know what they don’t know. They’re afraid–as are many faculty–of where we are heading if there is a strike. After 32 years, I’m afraid of what will happen if we don’t take a strong stance. What will happen to those new faculty? What will happen to future faculty? Will Apprenticeship and Academic Upgrading faculty be treated differently? 
In closing, let me say how much I appreciate your insightful emails and your podcast. Thank you.

In return, thank you for the kind words and also for the questions at the end, which will hopefully give me material for an upcoming post. As ever, readers are welcome to reach me at ontariocollegeprof@yahoo.com — all letters will be kept strictly anonymous.

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