Editorial Board 2000-2001
For the third time in recent years the students at York University are being short-changed by a work stoppage, this time by a teaching assistant strike.
Approximately 40-50 per cent of classes have been stopped because of the walkout. Students waiting around to see if classes would resume and run simultaneously with exams between the period of Dec. 5-21 have been told that is not going to happen, much to their collective relief.
The TAs are singing a familiar tune more money, better benefits the cornerstone of any good old-fashioned strike. Another constant theme in these stand-offs is who gets victimized.
You guessed it the students.
York students stand to take a tremendous hit in the wallet even if the strike, now into its fifth week, is resolved in the near future. Many students who have laid out their exam schedules to employers prior to the strike will probably not be getting those shifts back.
One potential solution could be to extend the school year into the summer. This throws a major wrench into any potential summer employment opportunities that the majority of students depend on to fund their education. Losing a month of income in the summer would be a critical blow to anybody's bank account. Students' living arrangements are also lying perilously on the edge, as leases that expire in April will leave many homeless, even though classes could most likely still be in session.
Tuition is always a contentious topic among students. Many York attendees have demanded that the money they paid for an education they are not receiving be returned. The school has decided to hold onto all tuition funds with the reasoning that eventually the topic will be resolved. But how different is this than buying a car and having the dealer tell you, "We'll get it out to you eventually, just sit tight"?
TAs represent a unique group because they straddle both sides of the educational fence. On one hand, they are students paying tuition to attend a centre of higher learning, while at the same time getting economic benefits in return for their teaching services. Finding TAs a clearly defined identity would help resolve future incidence of this nature.
A strike such as this sets a very dangerous precedent. If the union or administration can bring the day-to-day business of education at university to a grinding halt every time they feel they are underpaid, there could be a lot of idle post-secondary students across this country in coming years.
The fact that this winter is the third time administration and the union have been unable to find common ground represents a major communication breakdown that has once again left students out in the cold.
York could learn from their home town Blue Jays, three strikes and you're out.