|This essay is an updated version of an article, also by James Beaton, originally published this summer in CUPE's Organize.
1. Through its strike actions CUPE 3903 is resisting the corporate mindset of
York management. The new corporate model of the university is characterized
by job insecurity, pressure to reduce wages and benefits and privatization.
2. Some trends of the corporate university are as follows:
- An increased reliance on contract faculty. Tenure track jobs are in
decline while at the same time student enrollment continues to increase.
Contract faculty are increasingly being utilized as a "flexible" labour
force that can be expanded or contracted at the will of university management.
- As a result of initial government cutbacks and strategic spending policy,
university administrations are redirecting their research and teaching to
"industry relevant" programs. Many university administrations want to
increase funds or recoup lost revenues by making themselves attractive to
the state and industry by prioritizing technology and business oriented
programs. For example, a recent strategic plan for York University argues
that as a result of government policy, York administration will be
redistributing resources from Arts and Social Sciences to programs such as
technology and business (Michael Stevenson, York University, May 1999).
Through the Ontario Superbuild Growth Fund, the Ontario government has
recently announced the creation of 57,719 student spaces through an
investment of $660 million of public funds and $737.9 million in private
funds (Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, February 22, 2000).
None of the approved projects were specifically designed to expand Liberal
Arts programs and are in fact focused on expanding spaces in applied
science, engineering, technology and business programs. Current federal and
provincial government spending policies for research also make conditional
the formation of university-private sector partnerships before any
government money is granted to the university.
- Privatization of universities means that students face higher tuition and
debt-loads. The tuition price index for Ontario by Statistics Canada shows
that between 1990 and 1999 students experienced approximately a 145%
increase in their tuition. In many universities and programs student fees
provide between 35-50% of the operating revenues. Graduate and professional
school fees are deregulated in Ontario. The budgets for the research
granting bodies such as SSHRC for graduate students have been essentially
frozen over the past few years following initial reductions. York tuition
has increased during this time period. The most significant increase was
the introduction of summer fees meaning that graduate students essentially
pay the same tuition during the summer as they do during the regular
academic year. During the summer, graduate student funding decreases so
that students are basically working just to pay their tuition. Graduate
summer funding is insufficient to meet the basic living requirements such
as rent and food so many graduate students must take part-time employment
in addition to their employment responsibilities to the university. As a
result of this they have less time to research and publish--activities
that are essential for future academic employment. The summer is a time
when classes have ended and graduate students could make progress on their
own research but instead are working so many hours just to pay tuition and
living expenses that they are unable to do so, thus lengthening their
- The introduction of technology into the university may be used by
administration to replace faculty, control their work or increase the use
of "virtual" classrooms. As universities seek to lower costs, they may
begin to replace university faculty and the "classroom interaction" with
televisions, computer screens and web-based courses. Acadia University
already requires many of its students to purchase laptop computers to
submit their assignments. York is increasingly emphasizing the importance
of "technology enhanced" learning. As Ontario universities attempt to
compete with private technologically based universities such as the
University of Phoenix this provides pressure to lower labour costs and
emphasize the introduction of technology. Ironically, the introduction and
maintenance of the computer systems, software and infrastructure is likely
to be of considerable cost.
3. CUPE 3903 rejects the privatized corporate model of the university and
through bargaining seeks to improve the working life of its members as well
as the overall quality of education at York. As a response to corporatization and privatization CUPE 3903's demands include:
- Wage increases for the membership.
- Protection from tuition increases for current and incoming graduate
- Increased number of conversions of contract faculty to tenure stream.
- Multi-year contracts for long serving contract faculty.
- Reduction of class size.
- Protection from technological replacement of labour.
- A fair first contract for graduate assistants.
4. While CUPE is currently walking the picket lines, the York
administration has adopted a hard-line corporate management approach to
bargaining. CUPE's proposals seek to ensure some level of accessible
graduate education and improved security for its contract faculty while
York administration is only concerned with reducing people to dollar
figures. With an $18 million surplus York remains intransigent in refusing
to provide a fair and reasonable offer to the lowest paid educational
workers on campus.
5. The York administration is offering a wage increase below the rate of
inflation, threatening to take away tuition protection from future graduate
students, attacking job security provisions for contract faculty and
offering next to nothing for newly unionized graduate assistants. Clearly
the corporate oriented management wants to build a university that is
commodified, emphasizes private interests rather than the public good and
relies upon cheap and insecure labour. Through bargaining CUPE 3903 is
resisting these trends and building a better university at York.
James Beaton, York University
|Students face higher tuition and debt-loads. The tuition price index for Ontario shows that between 1990 and 1999 students experienced a 145% increase.... Graduate students pay tuition during the summer as well as the regular academic year. The students are basically working just to pay their
|Administrations are redirecting their research and teaching to "industry relevant" programs.... Grant money is now conditional upon the formation of university-private sector partnerships.