I had an opportunity very late this evening to speak with Ms. Punam Khosla, one of CUPE 3903’s media contacts. She was good enough to give me their perspective on the resumption of class at Osgoode, which will occur tomorrow and promises to be contentious.
Ms. Khosla expresses a lot of sympathy, which I feel is genuine, regarding the plight of students at Osgoode and Schulich, where classes have also (previously) resumed on a limited basis. She states “students are under a lot of pressure, academically, when they go to these professional schools.” She clarifies that all students are under pressure, naturally, but acknowledges that the cost of these programs is especially burdensome.
On the issue of Osgoode’s reputation for progressiveness, at least among students, which appears to be on the line here, Ms. Khosla has this to say. She feels there are many progressive students but they are under “intense academic pressure” to resume class. In particular, she cites the competition factor and suggests that once some students resume class others feel almost obligated to do the same or risk falling behind. In this way, the administration’s decision to resume classes pits students against one another.
I raised the question of doing work from home. Osgoode has committed to taping all lectures so that students can work from home and never cross the picket line. Personally, I feel that only makes it easy to cross the picket line in a virtual sense. Ms. Khosla is more tolerant of students electing for this option and feels, at least, it’s a lesser intrusion than physically crossing the line. She additionally states, however, that this is “in some sense the university conducting business as normal.” As the goal of any strike is to prevent the university from conducting business, even working from home is a partial failure to respect the strike.
Ms. Khosla made some additional points regarding the rise in tuition at Osgoode and Schulich and the resulting divide between students in these professional programs and everyone else. I take these as general expressions of solidarity with the broader student cause but they certainly came across as heartfelt. I had the sense that Ms. Khosla is aware there’s a lot of resentment among students out there, and feels somewhat uncomfortable that CUPE has been forced into what appears to be (at least to many people) an anti-student position. I’ll simply repeat my standing observation that CUPE has definitely been losing the media war with York University, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re wrong, just that they’re out-gunned. Of course it could also mean they’re wrong, too.
CUPE will definitely be at the pickets tomorrow, and will be observing strike protocol to the limits of their rights. It’s probably obvious to say this, by now, but anyone looking to cross the line is advised to leave a lot of extra time for that. Tempers may be raw and it won’t do anyone any good to aggravate the situation. If you must cross the line, please wait as requested, take some literature, and take the opportunity to learn why CUPE 3903 is on strike from their perspective. They are undeniably overwhelmed in their messaging by York. If you’re going to cross their line, at least listen to them when you do.