A Student from Kingston

In reference to my “Open Letter to Students”, a student wrote:

Okay, I’ve read your arguments. I’m not at all impressed. I’m a student with three children of my own. I rely on my children being in school in order for me to attend college. If this strike happens and continues for more than three weeks, either the “fluff” as I’ve heard the professors call it, will be removed from the curriculum in order to finish by the end of the scheduled term or the term will be extending into the summer. Should the term be extended, I will not be able to attend. If the material is crammed into tighter time, that is not providing us quality education that you say you are trying to achieve through this strike. If the powers that decides on this strike genuinely cared, they would find a way to get their point across without disturbing the education of the students. Many students had to climb huge mountains to get here…I am one of them. and I feel like the rug is literally being pulled out from underneath me. This is more than the frustration you are dismissing ! When parents divorce and they go to court to fight custody, the court will not allow the children to be used as bargaining tools…the court expects the parents to act like adults and work things out with a mediator without affecting the children. OPSEU, management and the professors are using the students as bargaining tools. There is no fairness here at all. We are the ones suffering and not for our betterment as you have TRIED to state. I am more than happy with the quality of education I am getting. If professors had the right to make the decisions you believe need to be made, we might not meet provincial standards…profs are very capable of making really bad decisions too. And in my program, I hear all the time how our program is better than that from another college because we are taught a different way, so that tells me the profs definitely have a hand in what and how material is being taught. My Aunt is a college professor in BC and her words were “it’s all crazy. We get paid enough money and we provide an education that is to the best of our ability and yet every time contracts come up everyone decides they suddenly want more money and more control.” And I’m really angry that you feel that you should receive more money than highschool teachers. But you make more money than the average police officers who put their life on the line every day !!!!! There is something very very wrong with that !

As I understand it, you have four main objections to the notion of a strike:

  1. It will inconvenience students’ education
  2. The quality of college education is currently adequate, and a strike is therefore unnecessary
  3. Profs currently have enough academic freedom
  4. Profs already make enough (or too much) money

Let me respond to these individually:

1. Yes, a strike may inconvenience students’ education, but that is the responsibility of the colleges (who have the right to hire replacement faculty during a strike).  The colleges have chosen to begin a semester without signing their employees to a contract, and yes, the students may suffer from that choice.

You state that “If the powers that decides on this strike genuinely cared, they would find a way to get their point across without disturbing the education of the students”, and I think that you fail to realize that the union has spent months trying to negotiate a new contract “without disturbing the students”.  The college management’s team has walked away from the bargaining table twice, and the union is left with only one option.

2. You claim, “I am more than happy with the quality of education I am getting.”  I’m glad that you’re happy with the quality of education that you’re getting.  Remember that you’re getting it because of passionate and committed professors.  Remember also that you don’t know about the quality of education that other students in other programs or colleges are getting.  Here, I give some examples where education at colleges is being sacrificed for financial concerns.

3. You argue against academic freedom, stating “If professors had the right to make the decisions you believe need to be made, we might not meet provincial standards…profs are very capable of making really bad decisions too.”   Firstly, the union is only requesting academic freedom “subject to the requirements of any legitimate external accrediting bodies” to whom the colleges are responsible, and the deans would remain responsible for ensuring compliance.  Secondly, yes, profs can make bad decisions, but somehow academic freedom hasn’t hurt the reputation of Ontario’s universities at all; it has only enhanced their reputation.  As well, even the colleges’ representative on the Workload Task Force agreed that “collegiality [and] academic freedom . . . are important objectives in any college system”.

As evidence that profs do not need more academic freedom, you point out that colleges may differ in their approaches.  However, that fact may only indicate that different colleges have different managers; it doesn’t prove that “profs definitely have a hand in what and how material is being taught” (and “a hand in” something doesn’t necessarily “equal influence over”)

Your other piece of evidence that Ontario profs do not need more academic freedom is the fact that your aunt in British Columbia feels that profs have enough control.  Page 60 of this document, however, suggests that your aunt has academic freedom.  There would be no issue (and perhaps no strike vote), if Ontario profs were able to enjoy the freedoms that your aunt enjoys.

4. You state, “I’m really angry that you feel that you should receive more money than highschool teachers”.  You’re welcome to be angry, but it’s a general principle that jobs that require more education, experience, and training typically provide higher salaries.  The high salaries justify the extra costs of the years spent studying, for example (during which we paid tuition and didn’t make a salary).  That’s why high school teachers, for example, make more than day-care workers: You need more education to teach high school.  On this page I note that a currently-advertised college position is looking for a person who would have approximately 17 years of education and work experience.  If you feel that person deserves to make less than a high-school teacher, then we disagree on this issue.  Since one needs as few as four years of postsecondary education or training to be a high-school teacher, save your anger until after you count how many of the jobs advertised on this page require as few as four years of postsecondary education or training.

As for police? well, according to the CBC, a first-class constable makes $81,249 annually;  in 2008, the median step on the professors’ pay scale was . . . $76,129 .  As well, to become a police officer, you only need a grade 12 education.  That means you can collect a salary for over 40 years, while most profs are hired much later in life (due the the required education and training), and therefore have a much shorter career duration —  hence the higher annual salaries.

Long story short, I strongly suspect that the career income of the average high school teacher and the average police officer is considerably higher than that of the average college professor who pursued a life in academia.

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