Reader’s Reactions to Stifled Speech at Seneca

So, I’ve had the pleasure of receiving several responses to yesterday’s post about my curious challenges in communicating with students at my college.  I’ll devote today’s post to them.

Let me start by saying that I don’t agree with all the sentiments below — some I disagree with rather strenuously, but since the topic of the day would concern free speech, I’m not in the mood to play censor. Perhaps events in upcoming weeks (or your own responses) might let me revisit some of these ideas, and offer alternative perspectives.

A union Local officer in a Southeast Ontario college wrote:

I read your blog on twitter this morning and I thought I was reading something from another planet!  I can’t believe how your local has been treated.

Apparently the story made the rounds, because another prof from the same college wrote, simply:

Sounds like fascism.

Another professor from the same region discerned a guilty conscience in Seneca management’s handling of its elimination of hundreds of Partial-Load positions:

You can see that it is unethical because it does not pass the “after morning test”. If the head of Seneca college thinks this new model is such a breakthrough in education then why is he not shouting it from the roof tops, asking a city newspaper to extol the virtues of the new model? If the idea is so great it could stand on its own merits. It also fails another test – “in the other guy’s/gal’s shoes” – if the government was to come in and cut the President’s wage in half would he still think its such a great idea and would best serve education for students. One example of poorer education is already happening. As wages are cut teachers are motivated to spend less time giving valuable, quality feedback and instead race through the marking to get done so they can go and work their second job. I would like to know how much money was spent on the people and the vehicle that was following you around all day.

Three other readers connected Seneca management’s behaviour to our new Collective Agreement.

The first — from the GTA — presents the point with an impressive punctuation-to-word ratio:

My question is WHY did 61% vote in favour!!!!  Something stinks!!!!

The second, from Southwest Ontario, sets things out in stark terms:

Welcome to tomorrow, faculty who voted to accept a collective agreement that suspended the right to grieve the article pertaining to hiring full time positions. And those that DIDN’T vote, may they be de-skilled by e-learning, canned, and reduced to security jobs policing the few (finally active) union members. Sigh. Feeling apocalyptic this morning. But thank you for your work and communicatin’….

And if the prospect of future employment as security guards wasn’t dismal enough, another contributor introduces a theory that the interests of full-time and partial-load faculty are incompatible:

Metaphorically speaking (in case security is monitoring this), rage is what I feel inside. An ugly beast, ready to tear into whatever lay before me, ceasing only when the opposition has choked on its last gasping breath. And it sickens me … but he’s who takes care of me when reason and logic fail.

Thankfully, however, my faith in reason is strong.

The problem you have laid out if two-fold … and the biggest “fold” is neglected to be analyzed. It is the union that binds its contract members in impotence.

As I see it, as long as management keeps “the haves” (the full timers) happy, and as long as these voting members occupy a significant portion if not the majority of the contract votes (partly due to the inopportune times PL Faculty are asked to vote), the PL community of “have-nots” will never have a voice.

Furthermore, if management can arbitrarily choose who is represented by the union through the distribution of too few of too many hours, then how can the union effectively represent our needs? They can’t … and there is not a damn thing they can do about it (legally) … especially given that we PLers will never have enough voting clout to vote down a contract that does not rectify this oversight.

I strongly believe we need to push a vote of no-confidence in the ability of our union to represent us, and then reform in a manner which will include all manner of non-permanent employees. We could then push as a solid front, independent of the complacent, over-fed bourgeoisie, and have our own needs met.

Or better yet … rather than create more opposition through having to fight against the FTers and management … we could all just agree that our capitalistic society is a mistake. We could admit that the environment of limitless economic growth that cultivated bulging six-figure salaries does not exist, and we could all agree to accept sliding scale pay cuts for any future FT hires. Perhaps have the starting range enter at $45K/yr and the top end at $75K/yr. This way we could gradually weed out the mistakes of those who came before us, create a more sustainable system of compensation, and free up budget room so that management has incentive to treat non-permanent faculty better.

If this upsets anyone … don’t worry too much. My vote does not even count. I have 14 teaching hours this semester.


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