B!KE
Statement House
Theatre Trent 2022
Arthur News School of Fish
Students protest for lower tuition fees. Kayla Weiler argues that students should stand in solidarity with their faculty who protest for just working conditions.

Students Need to Support Faculty

Written by
Kayla Weiler
and
and
February 24, 2022

Kayla Weiler is the National Executive Representative, Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario.

Students Need to Support Faculty
Students protest for lower tuition fees. Kayla Weiler argues that students should stand in solidarity with their faculty who protest for just working conditions.

Students and workers are the backbone of Ontario’s college and university campuses. Workers set the stage for better conditions on campus where students study, and sometimes live and work. The institution's ecosystem cannot fully function without students and workers.

This past year, Ontario institutions have seen an increase in faculty strike actions. At the core of all of this has been demands for better working and learning conditions, an end to privatization and precarious work, and a better deal for Post-Secondary Education (PSE) across the board. 

Faculty continue to go above and beyond for students during the pandemic, offering both academic and mental health supports for students. Faculty continue to bargain for workload adjustments, equal pay for equal work, job security and equity as well as academic freedoms. These priorities for faculty are important for students’ learning conditions. 

Contrary to what administrators state, there is no neat division between students and instructors and other academic workers. Many contract instructors are themselves students, such as TAs and RAs. At the University of Waterloo - one of the last existing non-unionized workplaces for TAs, RAs, and contract instructors - a union drive has been underway, organized by graduate student workers.

Administrations try their best to divide students and faculty, and benefit from those who claim to remain “neutral”. Students have a history of supporting their faculty throughout the bargaining process and throughout job action, including strikes. In previous strikes, students and their unions have been pressured by the administration to remain “neutral'' or to support the administration instead of faculty. This is seen through campaigns of misinformation about the faculty union and their bargaining demands. Administration will commonly blame the workers. There is no “neutral third party”; when people attempt to remain neutral, the administrators benefit, not the faculty and especially not students. When students read between the lines, they clearly see that the administration is scared of students supporting their instructors, professors, and other academic support workers. Administrators know that the campus would not exist without the student to learn, and the teacher to teach.

Post-Secondary Education has been underfunded for decades and the cost of paying for education has been offloaded onto students through high tuition fees, but especially international students' tuition fees. This underfunding leads to large class sizes, heavy faculty workloads, and a high student to faculty ratio and both parties are feeling the pressure and effects of a system that is privatized. 

International students - a cornerstone of campus life - have been used by administrations to line their pockets, with some students paying as much as $60,000 a year. Despite administrations' and the Government's claims that they cannot afford to fund public college and university education, several Ontario institutions posted profits this past year.  

When labour is precarious, the system is one step closer to being privatized. Students and workers want to see robust change to the PSE sector. We call for the end of contracting out of support workers and call on institutions to hire staff in unionized jobs and for services to be brought in house and operated internally. There needs to be an end to short-term contracts for faculty and full-time, good paying jobs need to be offered to faculty. Graduate students need equal pay for equal work and to be recognized as a worker as well as a student at decision making structures such as the Board of Governors and Senate. When we graduate, we enter the same precarious job market that our professors and instructors are in. The Canadian Federation of Students fights for faculty and their issues because we have the same concerns and can only win when we are united. The Federation is united with labour unions that are fighting to end precarious work.

The entire PSE system suffers when work is precarious and underfunded, impacting students in the classroom. There is no justifiable reason why the administration and the government continue to underfund the system and charge high tuition fees. The PSE system is being treated like a private corporation to support the interests of private business and not the public good. We believe that universities and colleges should be a place of belonging, exploration, and growth, rather than solely a means by which students may attain a certification on their resumé.

B!KE
Statement House
Theatre Trent 2022
Arthur News School of Fish
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B!KE
Statement House
Theatre Trent 2022
Arthur News School of Fish
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