Tuesday, July 07, 2009

The similarities between university administrators and Conservatives are striking.

I love this first piece on the recent York U news update (taken, I believe, largely from the Toronto Star and CP -- but it's hard to tell how much is quoted and how much is original without comparing the stories directly). It's about the recent York Federation of Students (YFS) elections. My favourite part, I think, is where it lists the allegations of irregularities in a way that implies they actually happened -- with no discussion of whether there was any basis to these claims.

Here's the deeper problem, though. The York Federation of Students is an independent body. Which means that the folks named -- York VP Students Rob Tiffin, Conservative MP (Thornhill) Peter Kent, Conservative MPP (Thornhill) Peter Shurman, and York President and Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri -- have no status to interfere in or investigate anything about York student elections. None. For them to behave as if they have some authority to consider voting "irregularities" is pure bullshit. The whole thing seems to be motivated by more crybaby nonsense from the same group of undergrads who were whining about the York strike ("I might have to take another semester to graduate!" Yes, and if you fail a course, the same thing happens. Should you get the province to legislate that out of existence, too?).

Incidentally, York's not in Kent's or Shurman's riding, so why do they give a shit? York's in York Centre, which is Ken Dryden (MP, Lib) and Monte Kwinter (MPP, Lib). Could it be that the crybabies who lost the election couldn't get the Liberals to take them seriously, and so they went searching for a sympathetic ear? No, never; it must be that Kent and Shurman are deeply principled... yeah, okay, I couldn't get through that even sarcastically. Moving on.

I get worried when people try to use the authority they do have to assume authority in areas where they have none. And I get really worried when the alleged "future" of the country can't stand the thought of not getting what they wanted. (Well, okay, I don't worry about either; at this point, I find the latter darkly amusing and the former evidence for continued cynicism. But someone less misanthropic might find these cause for concern.)


rob said...

Some of the administrators at my old school made the same mistake, though the local politicians were at least sensible enough to stay out of student politics. When I would liase with the administrators, I often got the impression that they just didn't understand the limits of their authority. I don't know if that is what is going on here or not, but perhaps a presentation to the school's Board of Governors by the student union that explained this point to them, along with other info on student unions, might be helpful.

ADHR said...

That strikes me as depressingly plausible. I'm not sure that York's BoG would be amenable to that proposal, though. There's a certain amount of hostility between the BoG and the YFS (and, for that matter, the BoG and Senate, and the BoG and campus unions... you get the idea), which makes it difficult to get through to them.

My general sense is that, right now, the best thing to have happen is for everyone to go to their corners and try to not antagonize other on-campus players, for about a year or so. But that doesn't seem to be happening.

mnfu said...

I've started to think that in the popular right-wing imagination York is THE lefty school in Southern Ontario and people like Kent think of York as the place to take a page from David Horovitz's paranoid ramblings about alleged leftist conformity in universities and try to "correct" some perceived bias. Of course it seems he's untroubled by the means with which he's achieving his aims.

ADHR said...

The ramblings of the Horowitzes of the world are always so deeply uninformed as to be simply hilarious. People like him have clearly never set foot in a law, business or economics department.

I'm not sure York'ss all that lefty, really. So there's a factual problem, if that's Kent et al's attitude. It's certainly a very activist university, but there's right- as well as left-wing groups with significant on-campus voices, both amongst the student body and the professoriate.

That said, it's interesting to note that this is the third significant attempt by the Cons to screw with Canadian universities -- the other two being Gary Goodyear's interference in the York-hosted conference on Israel, and the SSHRC funding debacle. So, this may be less about tamping down voices from the left, and more about standard paleoconservative anti-intellectualism.

mnfu said...

I'd agree that York's student body (I'm talking about undergrads mainly) aren't all that political at all. There's probably 5-10% of undergrads on the activist left and a similar number on the activist right - at least it was that way when I went there. But the conservative impression that I get is that they all see the place as super left. Probably because they see the right-wing activists as centrist. Of course that's a classic right wing technique - attempting to shift the perceived "centre" of some issue or another.

ADHR said...

Those numbers would strike me as rather high for most places, which might form the beginnings of an explanation as to why conservatives would take York as excessively left-wing -- most campuses probably don't have more than a thousand really committed left-leaning students, and even 5% of York's undergraduate student body would be about twice that.

You're probably right that they see the right as basically centrist. I'm not sure why they do that, though. What's wrong with being honestly right-wing?