The 2017-18 year is shaping up to be a big year for graduate student life at York. On the positive side, it looks like we’ll finally be riding the TTC subway in style by the end of the year! Combine that with the new Grad/Faculty co-operatively-owned pub—a major achievement of last year’s YUGSA—and things are really looking up for us.
That being said, there are many struggles ahead. Last year, in a devastating blow to graduate student life, York rolled out the new graduate student funding model, which cut nearly 700 graduate assistantship positions. Given the important role that those positions held in graduate students’ experiential learning, as well as in our community projects and conferences, YUGSA fought all year alongside CUPE 3903 and campus allies, to get those valuable employment positions back. We continue to fight for good jobs and benefits.
The 2016-17 year also saw the lack of proper consultation with York graduate students and polarization in our community. Along with the new funding model, York Libraries decided graduate students will no longer receive their customary $300 annual printing allowance. Shortly after, York’s Board of Governors showed a complete disregard for democracy in their controversial election process of the new president, a move universally denounced by unions on campus, concerned with the Board’s lack of consultation with York students and faculty throughout the decision-making process. In addition, the rise of right-wing groups who espouse ethnic nationalism, homophobia, anti-Semitism, anti-Black racism, and Islamophobia, has shown itself on campus in acts of discrimination and hate.
However, 2016-17 saw several great victories on campus too. Last year’s executive revitalized the Cross-Campus Alliance (CCA), consisting of YUGSA, CUPE 1356, CUPE 3903, the York University Faculty Association, and the York Federation of Students. The CCA led the struggle against Rhonda Lenton’s undemocratic appointment and, along with the $15 and Fairness campaign, added strong support to the food service workers of UNITE HERE Local 75’s victorious strike for a $15/hour starting wage, enhanced benefits, and respect in the workplace.
In many ways, 2017-18 will be about capturing this momentum. With three labour unions on campus going into bargaining (CUPE 3903, YUFA, and CUPE 1356), we will continue working through the CCA to show solidarity and achieve results for graduate students, struggling against York’s union-busting, funding cuts, and undemocratic governance structure. We will also continue to fight against racism and all forms of oppression and advocate for the right to self-determination for marginalized peoples on campus and abroad.
We saw attendance at council increase dramatically last year compared with the past, a clear sign the student body is ready for these struggles. It’s an exciting time to get involved in the student movement, so join us: become a councillor; stay tuned for YUGSA newsletters; and come to our Campaigns meetings. See you there!