University protests around the world: a fight against commercialisation: York University, Canada

We continue with extracts from the article by  at the Guardian looking at how students around the world are fighting back against the commercialisation of University education.

York University, Canada

What’s happening? Teaching assistants, graduate assistants and contract faculty at York University have been on strike since 3 March.

What prompted the strike? Staff and students participating in the strike have a number of demands including: more funding for graduate and research assistants and better employment rights for LGBTQ workers. They also want to “strengthen the tuition indexation language”, which means that any rises in tuition for graduate students will be met with a rise in their funding.

Jessica Lee is a fourth-year PhD student in the humanities and Darren Patrick is a fourth-year PhD student in environmental studies and the York University.

Once considered a radical institution, York now pursues aggressive divide-and-conquer strike-breaking tactics. On March 9, the university made a ‘final offer’ that largely appealed to senior contract faculty, a clear attempt to split the union. Teaching assistants and graduate assistants rejected the offer and remain on legal strike.

York is now reconvening courses despite the strike, putting students in a position to cross increasingly tense picket lines to get to class, and has even invited striking workers to scab. Despite these moves, both faculty and undergraduate solidarity is growing, with many exercising their right not to cross pickets.

As PhD candidates, we are not only tuition-paying students, but also frontline teachers. In short, we pay for the ‘privilege’ of our precarious jobs. We couldn’t pursue our careers without full funding.

What does this mean for student-workers? One international student recently tweeted a Kafkaesque image of a pay cheque from the university for C$0.00, all that remained of their funding after paying international tuition. At the university, we call this “getting York’d”.

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