Time is up at York U, says Star

There will be students protesting on the front lawn of Queen’s Park today instead of learning in their classrooms and labs at York University where they belong, wrote the Toronto Star Dec. 2 in an editorial.

It’s been nearly four weeks since 3,340 teaching assistants and contract faculty walked off the job – leading the administration to shut down classes at Canada’s third-largest university.

This strike has gone on long enough. As the protesting students put it: "We cannot afford to wait for these negotiations."

There aren’t even any negotiations to be hopeful about. The mediator has twice ended talks for lack of progress.

Some 50,000 students are already losing the quality of their education, and soon enough, their university year will be in jeopardy. Only so many days of missed classes can be made up by cutting school breaks and extending the year.

Given that the University and the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 3903 have proven incapable of settling their differences, the province needs to enact back-to-work legislation, with binding arbitration to settle the dispute.

That hasn’t been done for an Ontario university before, but it has for schools. Given the importance of a postsecondary education, it’s no less important to protect York students.

There doesn’t seem to be much hope of a negotiated settlement. The University says it’s gone as far as it can go in offering a 9.25 per cent wage increase over three years, improved benefits and more job security. The union chair says "it doesn’t come close to what we need."

The York students who are descending on Queen’s Park today to ask the government to enact back-to-work legislation will also be talking about how the strike has affected them.

Undoubtedly, some will express anger about how their expensive tuition is going down the drain and fears about how they’ll be able to get the work done once classes do resume. For many, talk of extending the school year creates a crisis of its own, with apartment leases ending and jobs lined up to pay for next year’s tuition.

Clearly, it’s time for the province to step in.

  • No talks are scheduled between York University and its striking teaching staff in the dispute that has cancelled classes for nearly 50,000 students since Nov. 6, wrote the Toronto Star Dec. 2.

Negotiations between York and the Canadian Union of Public Employees 3903 were suspended this weekend in the strike over benefits, job security and wages for 3,340 teaching assistants, contract faculty and graduate assistants. A student rally is planned today at Queen’s Park to push the province to order an end to the strike.

  • Following the latest round of failed talks, the University accused the union of making “unrealistic” demands, wrote The Canadian Press Dec. 1. The union accused the University of “holding up an agreement” and distributing “confusing information” about the talks. 
  • As a faculty member, I am distressed by the debilitating effects on students of the avoidable labour dispute and lockout between management and contract faculty/tutorial assistants at York University, wrote Gregory Malszecki, professor in York’s School of Kinesiology & Health Science, Faculty of Health, in a letter to the Toronto Star Dec. 2.
    Contributing to this labour dispute is this decade’s unmistakable shift to yet more corporate interests at Canadian universities, which demand considerable research investment. Recent decisions by Ontario universities to expand greatly their grad spaces as part of this exponential growth in research made this conflict foreseeable.
    The union seems to be engaged in a sustained attempt to address the long history of social injustice to contract faculty and grad student educational workers (everywhere) as casual labour. I support the union’s aims in general because they expose the disconnect between the University’s agendas and quality of education.
    Research growth also occurs on the backs of undergrads who have had to accommodate density in classrooms and libraries, degraded services and remote contact with their professors in huge classes. One of my students said, "I feel like a dollar sign with boots on when I come on campus."

Entering a recession economy with a degree and debt requires courage and confidence, so let York’s administrators and Board of Governors decide to fortify their 50,000 students by ending the lockout and negotiating fairly so undergrads can reach at least the destination of graduation with some of the quality education they hoped for at York recoverable. Let classes begin!

Forgiveness is complex, says York graduate student of Obama/Clinton

Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton’s battle for the US Democratic party’s presidential nomination was an epic slugfest. But now that the dust has settled, the two have kissed and made up, wrote the Toronto Star Dec. 2 , in a story that featured comments from relationship experts on Clinton’s appointment to Obama’s cabinet.

Catalina Woldarsky Meneses, PhD candidate in psychology at York University, specializing in betrayals in couples, was one of the commentators.

"It sounds simple, but forgiveness is very complex. Ultimately, it is the shift from seeing the other as a monster or evil to a multi-dimensional being. It’s no longer just the person who took your job or the insensitive person who cut you off. Sometimes it is important, as the loser, to appreciate and understand that this person is better qualified. I’m sure it would have been a setback (for Clinton to lose) and not easy to swallow. But, if she recognizes she has a lot of good in her life, she can accept the position with no bitterness."

Transportation planning in Ontario a cynic’s delight

Now that our visionary local leaders have drawn up a grand plan to bring about rapid-transit nirvana in the Toronto region, with new light- and heavy-rail lines running every which way, it’s time to get back to business as usual: building superhighways, wrote columnist John Barber in The Globe and Mail Dec. 2.

But neither of the two imminent projects [extending highways 404 and 407] have anything to do with goods movement. They were designed to abet sprawl and, once built, will obviously succeed. "They take us in precisely the direction that Places to Grow and other plans say we don’t want to go, which is to encourage all kinds of auto-dependent growth at the urban periphery," says Mark Winfield, professor in York’s Faculty of Environmental Studies. "We’re talking about scarce infrastructure dollars and every dollar that goes into the 407 extension is one that doesn’t go into the transit improvements."

Background studies done by Metrolinx showed that, if built, the highway extensions currently under study will cancel out any reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions achieved as a result of the 25-year plan, according to Winfield.

A case of ‘aquatic osteoporosis’

Researchers from Queen’s and York University studied historic calcium levels in more than 700 lakes in Ontario, northern New York state and Nova Scotia to find out how the chemistry in lakes affected the ecosystem, wrote The Kingston Whig-Standard Dec. 2.

The study focused on a water flea known as Daphnia, which is a key link in the food chain in many lakes. The water flea eats tiny organisms and plants, known as algae, and absorbs the calcium from the plants. The plants receive calcium from the soil.

Larger animals in an aquatic ecosystem feed on the water flea and receive calcium. Some creatures, like crayfish, mollusks and fish, have high calcium demands and rely on the water flea to receive their daily calcium needs.

Former minor hockey players find their real future at York

An international automaker these days has a commercial that features a kid in a hockey rink, wrote The Toronto Sun Dec. 2 in a story about the realities of minor hockey. The images flow through the years and he imagines himself in the NHL. He envisions his jersey rising to the rafters. It celebrates a hockey tradition in this country: chasing the NHL dream. In actuality, it is more the corporate perpetuation of a myth.

Jordan Weinberg, 23, is completing his business degree at York University. His brother Bryan Weinberg, 18, is the only one of four boys in the family still playing competitive hockey and is studying kinesiology in York’s Faculty of Health. That doesn’t get a person on “Hockey Night In Canada” but, on the scoreboard of real life, it looks pretty good.

Former Lions player interviews for job as a CFL head coach

The Edmonton Eskimos have been granted permission to speak to BC Lions defensive coordinator and former York Lions player Mike Benevides (1990-1995) about filling the head-coaching job vacated by Danny Maciocia last week, wrote The Leader-Post ( Regina, Sask.) Dec. 2. Benevides also interviewed in Toronto last week with the Argonauts. Benevides started as a linebackers coach and special-teams co-ordinator with the Lions in 2003, having moved west with Wally Buono.

On air

  • Ian Greene, political science professor in York’s Faculty of Arts, spoke about the proposed federal coalition government, on Vancouver’s CKNW Radio Dec. 1.
  • Allan C. Hutchinson, professor in York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, spoke about the proposed federal coalition government on CP24-TV’s “Legal Briefs” Dec. 1.
  • Paul Hoffert, professor at York’s CulTech Research Centre, spoke about music pirating and his new company Noank Media Inc., on BNN-TV’s “SqueezePlay” Dec. 1.
  • Stanislav Kirschbaum, professor of international studies at York’s Glendon College, spoke about tensions between India and Pakistan, on TFO-TV’s “Panorama” Dec. 1.