Update from the Dipperwell

For those who frequented this site earlier in this strike you will remember a refreshing article I posted here from a blog named “The Dipperwell.” It is run by an undergrad at York and (s)he writes very amusing critiques of this entire disaster. Here is the most recent critque of CUPE’s PR strategies. I hope you all enjoy it and can draw a humourous grin on your face from it:

York University spokeswhores have made “the 50,000 undergraduate students” the most popular phrase since “these tough economic times”. Not a paragraph passes through their newsletter’s groins that doesn’t lament the terrible cost to the league of 50,000. Do I approve of this hollow pandering? No. But I prefer it to CUPE 3903’s latest communications, which give the strike all the gravity of a cat riding a treadmill. Not only have students staging a sit-in at the Ross Building formed a precious little club (“The Ninth Floor Sitters”) they have also gotten an adorable email address (ninthfloorsitters@gmail.com) and they are adorably referring to themselves as “raindrops” (which can make an ocean of cuteness, presumably) which are adorably “seeping” (onto the eighth floor). Daniel, their spokesboy, who post-strike I can only guess will set up an adorable lemonade stand, has referred to the sit-in as “raining”. The Ninth Floor Sitters are having a Pictionary tournament. The Ninth Floor Sitters are making cute parodies of MTV Cribs. The Ninth Floor Sitters have, quite possibly, given themselves spy-names and are making liberal, unecessary use of the word “hereinafter“.
 
The Ninth Floor Sitters hate CUPE.
 
It’s the only way I can explain it. I can’t think of a more plausible explanation for why CUPE 3903, which – as I’ve posted before – has aims and requests I consider largely well-deserved and legitimate – would want to be affiliated with these messages of unbearable cuteness that serve only as a extraordinary slap in the face to the 50,000 students who take this strike very seriously, whose jobs and internships and graduations are hinging on this, who (like me) are employed by York and have had their work hours slashed and don’t know where next month’s rent will come from.
 
I am formally presenting my conclusion that the Ninth Floor Sitters, as represented on CUPE 3903’s strike blog, are a rogue group that has infiltrated CUPE 3903 and aims to destroy it by communicating only in cutesy vocabulary, extolling the family-fun recreational activities of the strikers, and portraying striking as a comedic goldmine and heart-warming bonding experience for everyone involved (except “Hereinafter” Shoukri, that grumpy goofus!) with no acknowledgment or recognition of how the strike has serious, unfunny effects on the York community – from CUPE 3903 members to staff and undergrad students.
 
The strike blog, for example, includes a section called ” Undergrad Corner” – but rather than thoroughly addressing the questions and concerns of undergrads, it broadcasts only messages from undergraduate CUPE supporters. It has one post titled “Frustrated by the strike?” but its content starts with “So are we!” and proceeds with an outline of how CUPE members suffer, failing to address – even slightly – the undergrads themselves. The best I’ve seen is an abstract mention of how CUPE 3903 members must take care of themselves in order to take care of others (me?), which is a valid argument that could also be used by York’s administration to justify giving themselves pay raises.
 
So here’s what I’d like to see:
 
“Dear 50,000 Undergrads:
 
We know we’ve pissed a lot of you off. And that’s totally fair. Because of our actions, some of you may have lost or postponed important job opportunities, internships, travel plans, or even graduating. You’re probably experiencing a lot of uncertainty and anxiety about the status of your courses, assignment due dates, and exams. Some of you work for York, and have lost hours because of the strike. Many of you are just waiting in limbo for this to end. Simple things like talking to a prof, picking up OSAP, or using a campus computer are less accessible – or not accessible at all – because of the strike and picket lines. You have every right to be angry, frustrated, and hurt – we would be too, if we knew that no one had our back. We’ve talked a lot about solidarity, and we don’t blame for wondering when the hell you’ll get it from us and your school. That was our first mistake, and this letter is about that.
 
We’re not going to end the strike, even though it’s hurting you. We could lie to you and pretend otherwise, but you deserve honesty. We’re going to hold out for a deal we think is good, because that’s how the voting went. It might hurt you more than it hurts us, but – again, to be honest here – we are students and employees, and we’re willing to admit that undergraduates aren’t our first priority. You know that, and if you’re ever in our position, when it comes to job security and your financial future, the majority of you might have to prioritize yourselves over the students you teach too. Maybe that’s not the ideal solution – one side wins, the other loses – but we believe the education system and corporate structure of York, and universities like York, don’t leave many other options.
 
Now, we know what you’re thinking – what constitutes a “good deal” is very contentious. Some of you may feel we’ve greedily passed over several good deals already. And what to us seems like our only option may to you seem like the worst of many better paths we could have taken. It’s not unreasonable for you to feel we’ve been stupid, unreasonable, selfish or short-sighted – because we’ve definitely made some mistakes along the way, because York has an incentive for portraying us as such, and because some of the things we’ve done which are right for us are wrong for you.
 
So how can we make this up to you? First, we want to keep communication lines open. It should be easy for undergraduates to ask CUPE 3903 members the questions that are bothering them. So in addition to having an email hotline where we’ll respond to your questions, concerns, and criticisms, undergrads are also welcome to visit us at the picket lines – have a cup of coffee with us, and let’s talk about your feelings regarding the strike and our involvement. We know undergrads have been made the pawn in all of this, and we want you to know that your complaints and criticisms will not be ignored or silenced. You deserve a voice.
 
Second, we know that fourth-year students are especially worried, and with good reason – graduation. It might be cold comfort, but please know that employees like us, who strike for better wages, will help ensure that those of you going to grad school will be paid well when you become a TA. Most of us will still be in the academia when you go through your first contract negotiations, and we can provide help and support and donuts at lunchtime. And for some more cold comfort – if it helps at all, this strike is awful for some of us as well. For most of us, it isn’t fun, we’re losing money, we want to get back to teaching students and doing research, and our only hope is that York’s administration and our negotiators will come to a resolution ASAP.
 
Third, you’ve put up with us – you deserve our help and support in return. If you protest for lower student fees, CUPE will be with you. If you’re unhappy with how the administration is treating students, CUPE may be able to help. If you simply feel, after the strike, that you want to talk about it with a CUPE 3903 representative, we’ll be ready for your call. More importantly, we want to formally pledge our dedication to you as our students. When we say “power to the classroom”, you should be included in that power. We’re fully aware that your tuition fees, to some extent, help pay our salaries. We also know that you’re intelligent adults who should be involved in decision-making. That means making arrangements for assignments and exams that are fair to you, and really considering your suggestions. That means finding out how we, your TAs and contract faculty, could provide a better learning experience (more Powerpoint? less Powerpoint? what do you think is a reasonable time for assignments to be handed back? how do you feel about group work?) and integrating your responses as best we can into our work. We want to up our game for you, because that’s what you deserve.
 
In other words, we know you’ve suffered, and we know that when it comes down to it, regardless of whose side you’re on, there are many ways in which this strike has been unfair to you. Negotiating is a hard game to play, and we know we haven’t played a perfect game – especially when it comes to our relationships with you, our students. So we want to have open, uncensored conversations with you about what we’ve done wrong, and how we can do better. We want to be better, stronger teachers for you – and we are ready to field your questions and address your concerns, because although you aren’t our #1 priority, you do matter to us, and if we’ve ever made you feel like you don’t, we are really sorry.
 
Looking forward to seeing and talking to all of you again,
 
CUPE 3903″

Here is the link back to The Dipperwell’s blog: http://dipperwell.ca/node/8

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9 Comments

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9 responses to “Update from the Dipperwell

  1. Cupe Doll

    Brilliantly well written. Somewhat too charitable to those 3903s out to prolong this strike at *any* cost.

  2. aguyuno

    A little too charitable, definitely, but at the same time I think s(he) is saying that he knows full well something like this letter will never be posted by them simply because they DON’T think that way. They should, of course – but they don’t.

    You, of course, are not included in they Doll. You’re that unfortunate minority with a modicom of intelligence.

  3. CityZen

    Undergraduates: The Most Vulnerable Sector

    As a CUPE 3903 member, albeit a reluctant one at this point, I have to agree with the arguments made by Dipperwell. You are absolutely right in saying that there has been very little attempt to reach out to undergraduates, except as ‘clients’, by the York administration. CUPE has not even done that.

    In his response to an open letter, Jesse Ovadia – a member of the executive – stated that the grand plan of the strike was to ‘bring down the neo-liberal university’ among other things. The executive widely forwarded this letter via e-mail, touting it as the opinion of the executive, and not just a lone radical. Very well.

    Media releases by CUPE decried the fact that graduate students ought to pay tuition at all, and suggested that they ought to be paid for their academic labor. Very well.

    Do these statements not reveal a blatant hypocrisy on the part of a union that does not represent the undergraduates who pay just as much, if not more, tuition as graduate students? Do they not constitute labor, under CUPE’s standards? Unlike the graduate-elite, undergraduates have to take on a wide variety of ‘non-academic’ labor in order to pay for their increasingly expensive education, and while union members can look forward to raises and the possibility of making up their lost pay, undergraduates have to deal with the stress of balancing their academic work with their increased summer labor. Wouldn’t it have been worthwhile to ask undergraduates to withhold their tuition in lieu of a strike?

    In that vein, while we accuse York of being corporate and undemocratic, how is it possible that undergraduates cannot appeal to their TA’s and faculty on behalf of their own economic and academic interests, when CUPE can go so far as to send its members on a door-to-door campaign? By all standards of democracy, shouldn’t the undergraduate sector mount a similar campaign, to ensure that a truly ‘informed’ ratification vote is held on Monday/Tuesday? If we can make claims about the value of ‘face to face’ dialogue, why is our most vulnerable sector kept out of this dialogue? Why are students being told by their TA’s that their e-mails will not be read or responded to? Because they don’t pay union dues?

    As for the nonsense on the ninth floor, it is nothing more than the performance of protest by people who have the temerity to fetishize poverty. In the interests of democracy, I invite the undergraduate population to the Novotel on Monday and Tuesday, so you can ensure you are not ‘de-faced’ in this conflict.

  4. UnderGrad Int'l

    Is this referring to the rally that the students are having on Monday @ the reference to the “Ninth Floor Sitters”?

  5. Cupe Doll

    There are times when our narratives disguise and desensitize us to the plainest of truths. And when such truths get expressed plainly we are struck as-if by profound revelation. Even though we knew it all along.

    That’s how I was struck when reading CitiZen’s description of 3903s’ 9th floor antics. As “.. nothing more than the performance of protest by people who have the temerity to fetishize poverty.”

    Of course, I knew that already. But so well put, it felt like a revelation. Thank you, CitiZen.

  6. E.

    This blog really showed me the flip side of what’s going on with the strike. And I just hope that once we get back to school, whenever that is, we the students do not get murdered with an impossible exam schedule and ridiculous expectations. And this is where I hope the T.A’s will us help out.

  7. Andy

    Agreed, well put CitiZen.

    I’ve always seen a lot of the members as amateur-revolutionaries. Members of a union for the first time in their life, and out to milk the experience for all it’s worth. Don’t want to miss out on a strike, that’s the fun part where you smash capitalism!

  8. dipperwell

    Thanks to YorkStrike2008 for posting this for me, and to you guys for commenting.

    Aguyuno, you’re right – I don’t think CUPE execs could ever write a letter like this, because I think they still harbor the illusion that they can win the undergrads by describing their own side and deconstructing York’s – and any undergrad who isn’t persuaded by their voice of reason must be a nutbag. They’ve got to resist the urge to say “But the administration–” and “That’s a misconception–” even if it kills them, because we’ve heard enough arguments already. They have a chance to be the side that is honest and apologetic about its effect on the undergrads, and they aren’t gonna take it. I don’t think they know how.

    CityZen – Amen.

  9. its a really good because I got myself a new look.

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