Up is down, and little seems to make sense as I scurry about, attempting to complete my final assignments. Throughout the entire process of the faculty strike and the ensuing fallout, I’ve heard no end to vague assertions and ‘abstract’ arguments that contribute little to a constructive discussion of the problems between our professors and our administrators.
Arguments based around questions like ‘how do you assign a dollar value to an education’ or ‘what is the nature of education’ were spouted by either side to justify a whole host of positions. At Mount Allison, we have a problematic lack of arbitrary rules and guidelines to coordinate our affairs.
Wait, a lack of arbitrary rules?
Answering questions such as ‘what is the value an education’ are practically impossible for anyone at Mt. A, or anywhere to answer. Truly unanswerable questions are great for the classroom but when applied to policy at Mt. A the result is the ridiculous claim by the administration that we essentially did not lose anything of irreplaceable value during the strike.
The shroud surrounding the strike allowed the administration to cry and scream that students are losing their education during the strike, and then comfortably turn around and claim that students were essentially able to educate themselves with “enhanced services.”
So, what exactly is the ‘value of an education?’
My suggestion is an easy one. Simply take what each student pays in tuition (adjusting for full-time, part-time, and international fees) and divide that into the amount of classroom days the semester should have had and simply multiply that number by twelve (the amount of days lost).
This suggestion is arbitrary to the extreme but unlike the vague nonsense it would create a workable system. The administration would be forced to offer at least some sort of reimbursement because it could no longer use vague language to justify polar opposite policies. More arbitrariness would allow all of us, professor, student, and administrator to discuss the labour problem at Mt. A on the same terms with each other. In the current rhetoric landscape Allisonians can hardly even discuss the strike with each other because the terms of the discussion remain vague and very much open to interpretation.
And besides, just because a a guideline or rule of conduct is an arbitrary one does not mean that it is valueless. A degree at Mt. A consists of 120 credits. Really, who decided that? Honestly, it does not matter who decided it or what kind of logic they used to reach their conclusion.
The traditional practice at Mt. A of granting a degree after 120 credits have been earned may be an arbitrary rule but it allows all to participate in the education process at Mt. A on an equal footing and understand the terms of a discussion around the granting of degrees.
We can argue ourselves into circles over assigning a value to education all day long. Or we can apply subjective arbitrary conditions that may not be perfect but at least allow us to all discuss the issue on the same terms. I prefer this to faculty shouting passionately about oranges while the administration makes the case for apples.