Voices from the Picket Line

Striking CUPE 3903 Workers, in their own Words

Posts Tagged ‘faculty of environmental studies

Hi, my name is Joshua and I’m a PhD student in FES and a TA in Environmental Writing.

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A few unedited and brief thoughts on my/our situation:

This story of striking coincides with so many other stories — stories with themes of dedication, frustration, confusion, hope, joy, fear, and countless other emotions in no particular order.  At this time in my life I am a student (confusion/frustration/joy!), teaching assistant (dedication/confusion/frustration!), educator (hope/confusion/fear!), and barista (none of the above!), writer (joy/fear/dedication/confusion/etc etc etc etc!) — all in a country I was not born in (hope/frustration!) and…  not that you would notice or that you need to know or even that you could possibly care…  but amidst the first long-term relationship of my life (fear/hope/joy/love/bliss/confusion/frustration/mostly joy and love/sorry/no, its my fault/no, I’m sorry/no, you are…  no, YOU are!).

To say there is a lot going on inside of my head is an understatement.

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Written by Gavan Watson

November 28, 2008 at 10:06 am

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

with 8 comments

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

Hi. I’m Gavan. I’m a TA, course director and PhD student at York.

with 3 comments

Let me take a quick moment to introduce myself: my name is Gavan Watson and I am a PhD student in the Faculty of Environmental Studies (FES) at York University. This is my seventh year at York; for my first two I was a master’s student in FES and now I’m in year five of the PhD program. When I’m not on-campus walking the picket line, I’m busy collecting data (interviewing people) for my dissertation. I hope to defend my work sometime mid-2009. If I wasn’t on strike, I would be teaching in my faculty this semester: I am the course director for a first year course exploring the natural history of Toronto, which makes me a member of Unit 1.

I am the one responsible for starting the blog, in part because I’ve been disappointed in the way that our demands have been represented in the mainstream media and the paucity of individual voices from the union to explain why what we’re asking for is so important to us. So, rather than getting caught up rhetoric about 30% wage increases (which, just to clarify was a demand at one point in time, but has been off the table for weeks), I want to explain what it is like to be a graduate student who earned $16 353 in 2007 (I just looked that up on my pay stub).

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Written by Gavan Watson

November 13, 2008 at 3:43 pm