Voices from the Picket Line

Striking CUPE 3903 Workers, in their own Words

Archive for the ‘Grad Student Life’ Category

Darya, a TA whose first language isn’t English, told she shouldn’t teach at York by local radio host

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This is the exchange between myself and the CFRB 1010 radio show today Monday November 24, just before/around 4 PM. The issue? York Strike.

Now, before I called, I knew that it is the business of ‘talk radio’ to  insult the audience to get a reaction out of them to make the show more ‘interesting’. But even with that understanding, I was shocked to hear such a blunt racist statement. I am more used to polite types of racism…

(editor’s note: the following is a transcript of the conversation provided by the radio station)

Caller: I’m a TA at York and I just want to say I’m happy with whatever I’m getting paid right now. So lets just get that out of the table. But what bothers me is the people that are calling and make comments and make judgements and they don’t know what exactly is going on.

LeDrew: Correct us then.

Caller: Because the issue of increase of the pay of the TA is only a very small part of what is happening and is concern of a lot of students and contract faculty.

LeDrew: Daria [sic] .. quickly what are the issues then

Caller: So one of the issues on the table is classroom sizes, why don’t you talk about classroom sizes … and you can say we don’t talk about classroom sizes because of A & B & C

Coren: May I ask you a question? What do you teach?

Caller: Why is that relevant?

Coren: I’m asking you the question … it’s just courtesy … what do you teach?

Caller: I teach … um … health, science course

Coren: OK … I just got the impression … I’m not trying to be rude … but maybe English wasn’t your first language.

Caller: No … it’s not … but why is that relevant?

Coren: Because I think your English should be fluent if you’re teaching kids in the English language

Caller: Well I think you’re very ignorant because my English is perfect … so it is not a problem

Coren: No … it’s not … and you’re also rather rude D’aria [sic] … I was on your side … I was only a question … but if you’re the quality of TA’s and that’s how you speak to people who ask you a question then we have a problem …

LeDrew: So at the end of the day if she’s happy with the money but it haas to deal with classrom size … what baloney … are you now coming over to the right side of the argument … are you agreeing with me that the government should step in to get rid of the strike ….

The caller is no longer on the radio … the topic moves to John Moore who comes into the studio to promote his show coming up after the news …

Of course I was not going to let an idiot’s comments ruin my day. In fact, I burst into an ironic and bitter laughter after hanging up. But not saying anything about it was also not an option for me given we all claim we work for social justice and against racism and oppression. So I am sharing my story with you…if any of you would like to make a comment to the radio, these are the emails you need (editor’s note: I’ve provided a complete list of contacts at the bottom of this post, below the break), or feel free to post a comment on their website though I did not find a blog for that show. I understand people’s busy days and the tiredness after a long day of picketing ( which I haven’t been doing for a few days due to illness)! So no pressure 🙂

…and ESL TAs, GA s, faculty, and students, do not let such comments EVER influence your self confidence.

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Written by Gavan Watson

November 25, 2008 at 1:42 pm

I’m May and I’m a TA at York as well as a course director elsewhere; I am also a mom.

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I am in Ph.D. 4 in Women’s Studies, I am a writing instructor (which is a TA position) at the Writing Centre and I teach three social work courses at another university.  I also have a very part time additional job (approximately 50 hours per year) and have two children, aged five and two.  I am very lucky to have a partner who is immensely supportive, both emotionally and financially, which is the only reason I can even think of blending grad school with parenthood.  Even under these circumstances, however, I am forced to work far more than is really reasonable.  I do this because my childcare expenses are approximately $1700 a month– more than my paycheque from York; because my children are, thank goodness, thriving and therefore eat their own weight in food every week and outgrew their clothes faster than I can buy them.  I love teaching and can say, without conceit, that I am an excellent teacher– but I would never, given the choice, pick a life that includes the equivalent of two full time jobs (three courses is considered full time, and I am a full time Ph.D. student with a TA).

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Written by Gavan Watson

November 16, 2008 at 9:28 am

Meet Leslie. A course director and PhD graduate.

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Hey, I’m Leslie and I’m a course director at York and University of Guelph. I just finished my PhD in Women’s Studies at York, and throughout those six years I was a TA for seven courses, and in the last year, a course director at York and McMaster and GA at York. Back in 2002, I turned down a spot in the PhD program at a university that I loved because of York’s offer of a teaching assistantship – I accepted not just because I needed the funding, but because I badly wanted to teach. I still do. Now I’m on the picket lines because I am deeply concerned about the university’s attempt to shrink all forms of funding for graduate students and to casualize university teaching – a process that hurts all students.

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Written by Gavan Watson

November 14, 2008 at 11:19 am