Of students and strikes

As of this writing, there are fewer than twenty-four hours until the Mount Allison Faculty Association (MAFA) begins a vote to decide whether or not its members can go on strike in the near future. By the time this article is published, they will have already made up their minds.

And here I thought that it would be relaxing to come back to university after the inevitable stress of the holidays.

MAFA, representing over 200 full- and part-time faculty members and librarians at Mount Allison, has negotiated with the school since the summer, after the previous collective agreement expired on June 30.

As negotiations sputtered back and forth and with the strike vote looming on the horizon, both the administration and MAFA unveiled websites outlining their angles.

Please, though, don’t let your research end at their websites. There are plenty of resources for gathering a wider perspective of the situation, such as looking at the coverage of last year’s faculty strike at St. Francis Xavier University or the strike at the University of New Brunswick.

I strongly advocate looking at these or other sources, or at least taking the MAFA and administration websites with a grain of salt. With the agendas and biases circulating in a nuanced situation like this, it can be very difficult to get a clear picture of things from sources directly involved in the matter, but it’s certainly worth a try.

This is particularly true when a lot of Mt. A students are curious about the specifics of these negotiations and the potential implications of a strike vote. When I asked some of my peers what they thought about the current state of affairs, I received more questions than answers; the most common inquiry I heard was, “what does this mean for me as a student?”

Not to put too fine a point on it, but that is the most important question being asked right now, if for slightly unintuitive reasons. A university is, on some levels, a business, and these negotiations are very much focused on the business side of things.

But more than that, university is a service industry. One of its foremost goals should always be to facilitate the continuing education of its students, and to do so in the most efficient and effective way possible. This, more than anything, is the problem that I have with this entire negotiating process, whether it leads to a strike or not.

While the fallout may not cause egregious damage to my education or that of my peers, the fact that it could potentially cause any damage whatsoever—and furthermore, that both my educational institution and my educators themselves seem to accept that possibility—is upsetting to me.

I agree that some of the MAFA’s grievances may be valid and others may not, but I do not believe that what they are doing is going to benefit me, my fellow students, or my school. So while the administration is acting in their best interest as a business and the faculty association is acting in its members’ best interest as employees, I hope all of my peers will act in their best interest as students. Namely, I hope that we will all do our research and voice our opinions, because they certainly matter here; now more than ever.

And above all, I hope we’ll continue asking that critical question: what does this mean for me as a student?

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