Editorial Board 1999-2000
Striking out Mac students
Striking out Mac students
McMaster university is currently the site of an epic staring contest between the university's administration and its Teaching Assistants.
The main sticking points in contract negotiations concern a tuition rebate, as well as TA benefits to cover students in the fifth year of PhD studies. Despite negotiations which have been taking place since July, neither side has been able to come to a compromise. As a result, the TAs hit the picket lines last Friday.
So which side is wrong in this case? Should administration give in? Are the TAs asking too much?
McMaster TAs are presently the lowest paid in the country. Given the fact they do the professors' dirty work, have to mark assignments before worrying about their own and have to deal with endless complaints from students who disagree with the way their assignments have been graded you'd think McMaster's admin would have tried to give a bit and offer some kind of solution.
Of course, Mac's administration aren't the only ones at fault. Surely, the TAs could have foreseen the problems involved with striking. Across the country, students are preparing for the pressures of exam time. One of the most difficult times of the year has been made all the more challenging by the absence of these assistants.
Students who have questions about upcoming exams will have to wait in line outside their prof's door, because the TAs won't be eagerly waiting to help. Aside from their absenteeism from marking assignments, TAs will also be absent from proctoring exams, which means students who have questions while writing exams will have to wait even longer to have their inquiries answered.
The university is supposed to be an institute of higher learning designed to educate and enlighten. Eager students willingly shell out thousands of dollars each year to be taught by the finest faculty and receive generous help from motivated TAs. At least this is how it's supposed to work.
Sadly, situations such as this are becoming all too common. University administrations, faculty and TA associations are choosing to pursue self-interests while foregoing the best interests of students.
The strike, of course, is being masked by the defence that TAs only pursue higher standards and better working conditions which will in turn benefit students. This may seem admirable, but if these people truly wanted only the best for students, they would avoid such circumstances as strikes or work stoppages. In very few cases are such results unavoidable.
Administration and the TAs should take the moral high ground and choose to avoid harming students at all costs. Most importantly, they should even sacrifice their own pride, in light of their higher calling to educate and benefit the lives of students.