Volume 96, Issue 79
Wednesday, February 19, 2003

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Side with the students

At tonight's University Students' Council meeting, council will be considering a motion to support the University of Western Ontario Faculty Association during their current negotiations with Western administration.

In most situations, we would applaud the USC for taking a decisive stance, but if they opt to lend their support to the UWOFA, it could be a grave mistake.

Backing UWOFA may send the message that the current, uncompromising situation between the faculty's union and administration are acceptable.

If the UWOFA negotiating team has the support of students in their back pocket, they could feel validated to pursue all of their demands, and feel much more justified if they chose to take a strike position. If the USC decided to support Western's administration, their actions would have the same effect.

One of the most problematic issues with the motion to support the faculty is that it emerged almost immediately after faculty association president Paul Handford presented UWOFA's side to council – and before administration had their chance to do so. Administration will present their position tonight, but the motion should have been delayed nonetheless.

The USC needs to be aware that third parties – especially third parties as important as students – will only be used as pawns in the kind of ugly game Western faculty and administration are currently playing with each other. Student support would only amount to a trump card for one side to play on the other.

If the USC truly wants to represent students, driving a wedge between the two parties with a one-sided action is probably not the best way to go about it. Instead, council should forcefully address both sides and push them towards eventual compromise.

Another factor that can not be disregarded is that, just because the USC might choose to support the faculty now, doesn't mean they will continue to do so. What if the UWOFA's demands become unreasonable after the USC jumps on the faculty bandwagon? It seems highly unlikely that they would put forth another motion to retract their support and place themselves back on neutral ground.

A stance against a potential strike or academic disruption of any kind is the stance the USC should be taking. A stance supporting one party, which in all likelihood could push one of the headstrong groups towards a work stoppage, is one that all councillors who vote on tomorrow's motion should fear.

The USC should worry less about who is right or wrong and place their full resources and political weight behind pressuring both sides to reach a compromise in the current contract impasse. Such a resolution is the highest priority of the student body the USC serves.

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