Volume 94, Issue 54

Tuesday, December 5, 2000


Editorial Board 2000-2001

Squeaky wheels get the grease

Editorial Cartoon

Squeaky wheels get the grease

"If you can't beat 'em, sue 'em," seems to be the logic at work behind a recent announcement from students at Toronto's York University.

The York Federation of Students is currently investigating various legal avenues against the university on behalf of the student body. The YFS is demanding that administration refund students' tuition for classes that have been delayed for six weeks as a result of striking TAs, graduate assistants and contract faculty. The YFS also want administration to provide financial retribution for the personal damages incurred during the strike period.

In their defence, York's administration says the school will not refund students' tuition money because plans are currently in place to ensure that all delayed classes will eventually occur. Still, the university administrators admit the school year might last longer than originally planned, so as to ensure the missed classes will be made up.

If this case ever sees the light of day in a court of law, it will certainly set a precedent. Students most definitely have the right to sue their foundation of higher learning, but they should know what they're getting themselves into. In this case, the message may be far more crucial than the outcome.

As it pertains to the ongoing strike at York, it seems students have remained quiet long enough. If they continue to remain passive in the face of this arduous interruption in their academic year, administration will undoubtedly interpret that as a sign students are willing to sit back and take it.

A degree is timely in nature and this current labour strike (the second in five years) is a major inconvenience to students who have plans in place for their future. Furthermore, by pushing the academic year into the summer months, students will lose valuable time they desperately need in order to pay for the following year's tuition.

However, if students sue and administration gives in, where will York get the money to issue refunds? The revenue generated from students' tuition has already been spent on operating costs, salaries and other costly university endeavours. If administration gives in, it may send a dangerous signal to the union, telling them they can do anything they want, providing them with considerable unchecked power.

To this end, a victory for undergraduate students will ultimately allow TAs to attain their goal and York will be forced to pay out more money to their TAs, many of whom are amongst the highest paid TAs in Ontario. Higher incomes for them would quickly translate into higher tuition rates for students, who, in the end, will be the ones who suffer most from suing their oppressors.

Is this lawsuit prudent? Maybe not. But is it necessary? Definitely. Perhaps it will finally force York's administration to hear the voices of all students; voices silenced since the day this strike began.

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