Thursday, January 15, 2009


So, some members of YUFA -- the York University Faculty Association, representing long-term contract lecturers as well as tenure-stream and tenured profs -- got together and signed a little petition "encouraging" CUPE 3903 members to vote "yes" in the upcoming ratification vote.

It's worth noting that, in doing so, they break with the executive of YUFA, which passed the following motion a few days ago:
13 Jan 09 – CUPE 3903 Forced Ratification Vote

The following motions were passed unanimously at the YUFA Executive meeting of 12 January 2009:

1. YUFA Executive re-affirms its support of free collective bargaining and does not endorse a ratification vote of CUPE 3903 members as forced by the Employer.
2. YUFA Executive strongly urges all YUFA members to respect individual CUPE 3903 members’ rights in the forced ratification vote to vote freely and according to their conscience. We urge all YUFA members to respect CUPE members’ rights to vote freely.
3. YUFA Executive, recognizing the power relations implicit in the roles of YUFA members and CUPE 3903 members, does not endorse any YUFA member attempting to influence how a CUPE 3903 member might vote in the forced ratification vote.
They can, of course, disagree with their Executive all they like -- indeed, that's exactly what they're trying to get CUPE 3903 members to do to their Executive. But this is really the coward's way of doing it. The principled way would have been to insist on a full meeting of all YUFA members and try to get a counter-motion passed. But that's hard.

Here's the letter. I've highlighted philosophy department members who signed it -- regrettably, including two members of my own committee. But first, a rousing game of "Spot the Fallacy".
January 14, 2009


We, the undersigned retirees and full-time faculty members of York University, urge our colleagues in CUPE 3903 who have been on strike since November 6, 2008, to end their labour action by accepting the current contract offer of the York University administration. Why?
Oo, tell us, please.
• The current offer of a 10.7 per cent increase to the overall cost of the contract over three years with a substantial package of wages (9.25% increase over three years) and benefits is fair and reasonable, and consistent with the most recent agreements of other unionized employees at York. The university offer appears especially positive in light of chronic government underfunding and the current economic environment.
  1. Fallacy of irrelevance: the appeal to the other agreements of unionized employees at York.
  2. Fallacy of irrelevance: chronic government underfunding (which is surely the York administration's problem to bear).
  3. Fallacy of what-the-bloody-fuck (possible ad misericordiam, possible special pleading): the appeal to the "current economic environment". As if the "current economic environment" were some external factor which weren't composed of the individual decisions of organizations like York. (Aside: want to make a recession worse? Step 1: give people less money to spend. Step 2: don't pay them enough to live on.)
  4. Proof by assertion: use of "fair" and "reasonable" stripped of any principled standards for same.
• A continuation of this strike will damage the academic reputation of the university, and diminish the perceived quality of its graduate and undergraduate degrees.
  1. Ad baculum fallacy: a pretty blatant threat. Also possible ad misericordiam.
• The potential loss of undergraduate enrolments in 2009-10 (in quality and quantity) resulting from the continuation of the strike could lead to a reduction in the number of teaching assistantships and part-time faculty positions in the future. CUPE members will best serve their own interests, and those of the university at large, by ending rather than extending the strike.
  1. Ad baculum: obvious. Also, although I don't think it's a fallacy as such, note that it's supposed to be entirely CUPE's fault that the strike is continuing. Last I checked, bargaining required at least two parties; maybe I need to check again?
• CUPE’s demands include a substantial number of full-time YUFA appointments for long-serving contract faculty, a proposal that would lead to automatic full-time status for a select group of part-time faculty without requiring them to demonstrate scholarly achievement or potential. This runs counter to two fundamental principles of the university: open competitions for available positions among all qualified candidates and the cultivation of a scholarly research culture. In the past, the university has demonstrated its commitment to addressing the interests of long-serving contract faculty by establishing two programs unique in North America: the conversion program (in 1988) and the SRC program (2000). Since 1988 the university has made a total of 138 appointments through these two programs. The current offer continues that commitment by offering a reasonable number of appointments for long-serving contract faculty through 17 new teaching intensive appointments (in a new “teaching stream” appointments program), and 5 conversion appointments, providing the appointees with job security.
At last, a non-fallacious argument (two, actually). However, it's still pretty shitty. The meritocratic ideas appealed to here only work insofar as hiring is actually meritocratic (which is the ideal, but clearly not the reality) and those who have merit actually get hired. That is, this argument assumes that those who are hired deserve to be, and those who deserve to be hired are -- so, the classes are co-extensive. The former, as said, seems to be a declaration of an ideal, not a statement of fact, which immediately undercuts the claim that these are co-extensive. The latter is laughable. It's not difficult to find good scholars who merit full-time positions and just can't find them (throw a cat on York campus; you're bound to hit one). So, the two classes are not co-extensive, and thus the argument fails.

When it comes to the university's "commitments" to addressing the needs of long-serving contract faculty, the word "commitment" is thrown out without any explanation -- even a cursory one -- of what would constitute a commitment to these needs. Why is 138 appointments over 20 years supposed to be impressive? The letter doesn't say; I suspect this is because it's actually pathetic, and only looks good in comparison to what everyone else in the sector is(n't) doing. Which only proves that if you drive the standards low enough, anyone can be a saint.
• A continuation of the strike takes the university into uncharted territory: the potential loss of at least the summer term and, conceivably, the entire academic year. The impact of the latter on the lives of tens of thousands of undergraduate and graduate students will be immeasurable. Furthermore, if the summer term is lost, there will be considerable cost to CUPE members in teaching positions and income.
  1. Ad misericordiam and ad baculum: two-hit combo! Also what looks like a possible variation on a "base rate" fallacy, i.e., the fallacy of calculating a probability without taking into consideration prior probabilities. It's asserted that the summer term and the academic year would be lost without ratification, but how likely is it, really, that York (or the province) would let things go that far?
• In their own interest and that of the entire university community, we urge CUPE members to end their labour action and help the university resume expeditiously the provision of its full academic programs.
Why is it CUPE members that have to take the interests of the "entire university community" into account? Why is that their problem, exactly? I've yet to see an adequate explanation for that which doesn't turn on some nonsense about students being the light of a teacher's life or similarly saccharinity (I made it up; deal). Here's a thought: it's been suggested to me that the conversions shouldn't exist in CUPE, but in YUFA. So, why don't these YUFA members try to make that happen? That would remove a pretty big logjam in the negotiations. Oh, wait, forgot: that's hard.

The list of signatories follows. Remember, philosophers are highlighted in bold; such folks should be particularly ashamed of themselves for affixing their names to such a ridiculous hit-piece. Seriously, folks, we're supposed to be good at reasoning; this is embarrassing.

Oh, and, about a week back or so, the head of the Philosophy Department sent a note around asking grad students to meet with himself, the undergrad program director, and the grad program director, so that everyone could discuss the issues raised by the strike. The meeting was then called off on the, IM-never-very-HO, spurious grounds that some grad students had expressed concerns that this would be "divisive" within the department. (Seriously. Methinks everyone needs to sack up. I've also read about some crybaby grad students in other departments who feel they're being "railroaded" by the union. Again, sack up. Sub-rant over.) I wonder, though, how "divisive" they think it might be to sign this letter, as all three have. Or is that somehow not supposed to be a problem? It's divisive to meet with people, but not to sign a letter after canceling the meeting? I do not see how this amounts to a coherent position (polite way of saying it doesn't).
Thabit A. J. Abdullah, Department of History
Mokhtar Aboelaze, Department of Computer Science and Engineering
Jean Adams, Schulich School of Business
Scott A. Adler, Department of Psychology
Monique Adriaen, French Studies
Ahmet Akyol, Department of Economics
Gabriela Alboiu, DLLL
Robert Allan, Department of Chemistry
John Amanatides, Department of Computer Science and Engineering
Aijun An, Department of Computer Science and Engineering
Mahmudul Anam, Department of Economics
Kristin A. Andrews, Department of Philosophy
Paul Anisef, Department of Sociology
Marcia Annisette, Schulich School of Business
Elie Appelbaum, Department of Economics
Eshrat Arjomandi, Department of Computer Science and Engineering, University Professor
Preet Aulakh, Schulich School of Business
Gerald Audette, Department of Chemistry
Paul Axelrod, Faculty of Education
Kee-Hong Bae, Schulich School of Business
Judith Baker, Department of Philosophy, Glendon
Ian Balfour, Department of English
Norbert Bartel, Department of Physics and Astronomy, Distinguished Research Professor
Mark Bayfield, Department of Biology
John Beare, Department of Economics
Chris Bell, Schulich School of Business
Samuel Benchimol, Department of Biology
Markus Biehl, Schulich School of Business
Ellen Bialystok, Department of Psychology, Distinguished Research Professor
Diethard Bohme, Department of Chemistry, Distinguished Research Professor
Sammy Bonsu, Schulich School of Business
Deborah P. Britzman, Faculty of Education, Distinguished Research Professor
Shirley Ann Brown, Atkinson and Fine Arts Faculties
Matthew Brzozowski, Department of Economics, Atkinson
Bob Burns, Department of Mathematics and Statistics
Gary Butler, Division of Humanities
Amila Buturovic, Division of Humanities
Radu Campeanu, School of Information Technology
Melanie Cao, Schulich School of Business
Tuan Cao-Huu, Multidisciplinary Department, Glendon College
James Carley, Department of English, Distinguished Research Professor
Donald L. Carveth, Department of Sociology and Social and Political Thought
Nicholas Cepeda, Department of Psychology
Archishman Chakraborty, Schulich School of Business
Shin-Hwan Chiang, Department of Economics
Hugh Chesser, Department of Earth and Space Science and Engineering
Janne Chung, Schulich School of Business
Avi Cohen, Department of Economics
Jennifer Connolly, Department of Psychology
Wesley Cragg, Schulich School of Business
Julia Creet, Department of English
Wade D. Cook, Schulich School of Business
Robert A. Cribbie, Department of Psychology
Douglas Cumming, Schulich School of Business
Luiz Marcio Cysneiros, School of Information Technology
Peter R. Darke, Schulich School of Business
James Darroch, Schulich School of Business
Abdullah Dasci, School of Administrative Studies
Joseph Francis DeSouza, Department of Psychology
Gwen Dobie, Theatre Department
Dale Domian, School of Administrative Studies
Logan Donaldson, Department of Biology
Ming Dong, Schulich School of Business
Gail Drory, Schulich School of Business
Suzanne Dubeau, York University Libraries
Claudio Duran, School of Arts and Letters, Atkinson
Andrew W. Eckford, Department of Computer Science and Engineering
Carl S. Ehrlich, Division of Humanities
James Elder, Department of Computer Science and Engineering and Dept. of Psychology
Maurice Elliott, Department of English, University Professor, emeritus
Paul Emond, Osgoode Hall Law School
Berta Esteve-Volart, Department of Economics
David Etkin, Disaster and Emergency Management, Atkinson
Raymond Fancher, Department of Psychology
Ilijas Farah, Department of Mathematics and Statistics
Moshe Farjoun, Schulich School of Business
Elizabeth Farrell, Schulich School of Business
Trevor C. W. Farrow, Osgoode Hall Law School
Seth Feldman, Department of Film, University Professor
Leila Fernandez, Steacie Science and Engineering Library
Ida Ferrara, Department of Economics, Atkinson
Eileen Fischer, Schulich School of Business
David Flora, Department of Psychology
Joshua Fogel, Department of History
Wm (Bill) C. Found, Geography and Faculty of Environmental Studies, University Professor Emeritus
Ed Furman, Department of Mathematics and Statistics
William Gage, School of Kinesiology and Health Science
Benjamin Geva, Osgoode Hall Law School
Jacqueline A. Gibbons, Sociology and Social Science
Michael Gilbert, Department of Philosophy
Jerry Ginsburg, Department of History
R. Darren Gobert, Department of English
Vinod Goel, Department of Psychology
T.J.A. Le Goff, Department of History
John M. Goodings, Department of Chemistry
Doba Goodman, Department of Psychology
Verena Gotschling, Department of Philosophy
Cameron Graham, Schulich School of Business
Jorg Grigull, Department of Mathematics and Statistics
Silviu Guiasu, Department of Mathematics and Statistics
Geoff Harris, Department of Chemistry and Centre for Atmospheric Chemistry
Michael C. Haslam, Department of Mathematics and Statistics
Jagdish Hattiangadi, Department of Philosophy and Science and Technology Studies
Walter Heinrichs, Department of Psychology
Michael Herren, School of Arts and Letters, Atkinson, Distinguished Research Professor
Wai-Ming Ho, Department of Economics
Richard Hoffmann, Department of History
Shelley Hornstein, Department of Visual Arts
Sara R. Horowitz, Division of Humanities & DLLL
Sylvia Hsingwen Hsu, Schulich School of Business
Huaxiong Huang, Department of Mathematics and Statistics
Jimmy Huang, School of Information Technology
Geoffrey Huck, Department of English
Katalin Hudak, Department of Biology
Allan C. Hutchinson, Osgoode Hall Law School, Distinguished Research Professor
Ann M. Hutchison, Department of English, Glendon
Christopher Innes, Department of English, Distinguished Research Professor
Richard H. Irving, Schulich School of Business
Jacques Israelievitch, Department of Music
Neita Israelite, Faculty of Education
Henry Jackman, Philosophy
Hanna Jankowski, Department of Mathematics and Statistics
Gary Jarvis, Department of Earth and Space Science and Engineering
Joann Jasiak, Department of Economics
David A. Johnston, Schulich School of Business
Joanne Jones, School of Administrative Studies
David Jopling, Department of Philosophy
Ashwin Joshi, Schulich School of Business
Hansraj Joshi, Department of Mathematics and Statistics
Joan Judge, Division of Humanities and School of Women’s Studies
Mark Kamstra, Schulich School of Business
Mariana Kant, Computer Science and Engineering
Mustafa Karakul, School of Administrative Studies
Rekha Karambayya, Schulich School of Business
Kerry Kawakami, Department of Psychology
Muhammed Ali Khalidi, Department of Philosophy
Lois King, School of Administrative Studies
Ruth King, DLLL
Matthias Kipping, Schulich School of Business
Stanley O. Kochman, Department of Mathematics and Statistics
Murat Kristal, Schulich School of Business
Sergey N. Krylov, Department of Chemistry
Terry Kubiseski, Department of Biology
A. Kumarakrishnan, Department of Physics and Astronomy
Nils-Petter Lagerlöf, Department of Economics
Patricia Lakin-Thomas, Department of Biology
Peter Landstreet, Department of Sociology
Sam Lanfranco, Economics, Atkinson
Michael Lanphier, Department of Sociology, Professor Emeritus and Senior Scholar
Eric Lawee, Division of Humanities
Fred Lazar, Schulich School of Business and Economics/Arts
Jos Lennards, Senior Scholar of Sociology, Glendon
John Lennox, Department of English, University Professor
A. B. P. Lever, Department of Chemistry, Distinguished Research Professor Emeritus
Lee Li, School of Administrative Studies, Atkinson
Sheng Li, Department of Biology
Bernard Lightman, Division of Humanities
Varpu Lindström, School of Arts and Letters and School of Women’s Studies, University Professor
Martin Lockshin, Division of Humanities
Heather Lotherington, Faculty of Education
Paul Lovejoy, Department of History, Distinguished Research Professor
Bernard Luk, Department of History
Suzanne MacDonald, Department of Psychology
Joanne Magee, School of Public Policy and Administration
Maynard Maidman, Department of History
Elliott Malamet, Faculty of Education
Kim Maltman, Department of Mathematics and Statistics
Christian Marjollet, French Studies
Nadia Massoud, Schulich School of Business
Colin R. McArthur, Department of Chemistry
Marshall McCall, Departments of Physics and Astronomy
Jack McConnell, Earth and Space Science and Engineering, Distinguished Research Professor
James Mckellar, Schulich School of Business
Steve McKenna, School of Administrative Studies, Atkinson
Robert McLaren, Department of Chemistry
Kent McNeil, Osgoode Hall Law School
Ikechi Mgbeoji, Osgood Hall Law School
Alan C. Middleton, Schulich School of Business
Moshe A. Milevsky, Schulich School of Business
Gareth Morgan, Schulich School of Business, Distinguished Research Professor
Richard Murray, Department of Psychology
Robert Myers, Department of Philosophy
Gerard Naddaf Department of Philosophy
Dorit Nevo, Schulich School of Business
Janice Newton, Political Science and School of Women’s Studies
Doris Olin, Department of Philosophy, Glendon
Phil Olin, Department of Mathematics and Statistics
Christine Oliver, Schulich School of Business
Jonathan S. Ostroff, Computer Science and Engineering
Ron Owston, Faculty of Education, University Professor
John Parkinson, School of Administrative Studies
Sarah Parsons, Department of Visual Arts
Ronald Pearlman, Department of Biology, University Professor
Chun Peng, Department of Biology
Theo Peridis, Schulich School of Business
Peter Peskun, Department of Mathematics and Statistics
Lisa Philipps, Osgoode Hall Law School
Bill Pietro, Department of Chemistry
Marilyn L. Pilkington, Osgoode Hall Law School
Andrea Podhorsky, Department of Economics
Michael M. Pollard, Department of Chemistry
Carol Poster, Department of English
Pierre G. Potvin, Department of Chemistry
Robert Prince, School of Engineering and Department of Physics and Astronomy, University Professor Emeritus
Eliezer Prisman, Schulich School of Business
Huw Pritchard, Chemistry Department, Distinguished Research Professor Emeritus
Norman Purzitsky, Department of Mathematics
David W. Reid, Department of Psychology
Buks van Rensburg, Department of Mathematics and Statistics
Jill Rich, Department of Psychology
Julia J. Richardson, School for Administrative Studies
Marie Rickard, Film Department
Paul Rilstone, Department of Economics
Paul Ritvo, School of Kinesiology and Health Science
Ian Roberge, Département de science politique
Michael De Robertis, Department of Physics and Astronomy
Gordon S. Roberts, Schulich School of Business
Chris Robinson, School of Administrative Studies, Atkinson
John Robinson, Department of Economics
Hazel Rosin, Schulich School of Business
Hamzeh Roumani, Department of Computer Science and Engineering
Parissa Safai, School of Kinesiology and Health Science
Jan Sapp, Department of Biology
Candace Séguinot, School of Translation, Glendon
Lauren Sergio, Kinesiology and Health Science
Stuart Shanker, Distinguished Research Professor of Philosophy and Psychology
R. Shayna Rosenbaum, Department of Psychology
Jochen Rudolph, Department of Chemistry
Ahouva Shulman, DLLL
Pauline Shum, Schulich School of Business
Phillip Silver, Department of Theatre
Yvonne Singer, Department of Visual Arts
K. W. Michael Siu, Department of Chemistry, Distinguished Research Professor
Adriano Solis, School of Administrative Studies
Minas Spetsakis, Department of Computer Science and Engineering
Colin Steel, Department of Biology
Martin J. Steinbach, Department of Psychology, Distinguished Research Professor
Jennifer Steeves, Department of Psychology and Centre for Vision Research
Andrey Stoyanov, Economics, Atkinson
Bridget Stutchbury, Department of Biology
Dennis Stynes, Department of Chemistry
Paul Szeptycki, Department of Mathematics and Statistics
Anthony Szeto, Department of Earth and Space Science and Engineering
Linda Thorne, Schulich School of Business
Malcolm Thurlby, Department of Visual Arts
Yisong S. Tian, Schulich School of Business
Christine Till, Department of Psychology
Andrew Toms, Department of Mathematics and Statistics
Karen Valihora, Department of English
Claudine Verheggen, Department of Philosophy
Peter Victor, Faculty of Environmental Studies
Michael Wade, Schulich School of Business
James Walker, DLLL
Marshall Walker, Department of Mathematics & Statistics & School of Information Technology
Byron Wall, Department of Mathematics and Statistics
Mary Waller, Schulich School of Business
Steven Wang, Department of Mathematics and Statistics
Duff R. Waring, School of Arts and Letters
Carol Anne Wien, Faculty of Education
Eleanor Westney, Schulich School of Business
Henny Westra, Department of Psychology
William Wicken, Department of History
Laurie Wilcox. Department of Psychology
Frances Wilkinson, Department of Psychology and Centre for Vision Research
Paul Wilkinson, Faculty of Environmental Studies
Deanne Williams, Department of English
Barrie Wilson, Humanities and Religious Studies, Atkinson
Carol Wilson, School of Kinesiology and Health Science
Hugh R. Wilson, York Centre for Vision Research & Computer Science and Engineering
Maxine Wintre, Department of Psychology
Bernard Wolf, Schulich School of Business
Stepan Wood, Osgoode Hall Law School
Gillian Wu, Kinesiology and Health Science
Xueqing Xu, DLLL
Xiaohui Yu, School of Information Technology, Atkinson
Mike Zabrocki, Department of Mathematics and Statistics
Joyce Zemans, Schulich School of Business, University Professor Emerita
Carol Zemel, Department of Visual Arts
Brett Zimmerman, Department of English
Cynthia Zimmerman, Department of English, Glendon
Hongmei Zhu, Department of Mathematics and Statistics
If this is what it's like being in the academy, I'm not sure I want to do it any more. (That's "I'm not sure". Not "I quit". Some folks are having a hard time with reading comprehension lately, so I thought I should make that one clear.) Seriously, WTF? Everyone who signed this letter is still getting paid, right? So what's their problem? Christ on a fucking picnic.


Anonymous said...

It's amazing how many profs bought the line from the administration. Same with students though. I've talked to a number of (understandably upset) undergrads about the strike and the default tendency is to blame the union entirely. Trying to bring up that this is a two sided affair is usually met with "the union should just agree to it." I don't envy you going back into the classroom when this is all over and done. For some reason many of the students uncritically buy the administration line.

I would have expected more from the faculty.

ADHR said...

I can take it from undergrads. By definition, they need more education. But faculty should have thought things through just a little more before putting their names down on a public petition.

The deans also sent a letter out, which is potentially illegal interference in the strike under the Labour Relations Act. Of course, they'll get away with it, but it's nice to see laws are things that only apply to the little people.