Monday, June 8, 2009

will president shoukri please shut the fuck up?

i was up at york today and i grabbed the latest issue of yorku magazine for something to read on the subway ride home.

yorku is a pretty glossy and expensive magazine for a university that claimed money trouble in order to get out of paying its employees, but york isn't exactly a 'walk the walk' kind of institution.

every issue there is something outrageous and ridiculous in this magazine--mostly in the letter from the president at the beginning of each issue.

in this issue president shoukri's article is called "coming together" and is about how it's been such a hard year with the economy, the strike, and the racism but we still have a lot to be proud of--like our most recent batch of graduates.

for the moment i'm not even going to touch the title... according to shoukri convocation time(spring) is a time to "come together as a community, as a family." It only makes sense, he writes, that we "build the kind of university we want, and to treat each other as want to be treated."

it's been a long, shitty year at yorku. this is something we can all agree on. but i resent shoukri's attempts to paint over the difficulties of this year with this kind of bullshit about togetherness and community.

shoukrie writes that "this has been a challenging year, in more ways than one: a lengthy labour disruption, the difficult economic climate and student behaviour that has been, at times, less than collegial."

i agree, it has been a challenging year, but what i don't agree with is what he writes next.

"One of my priorities is to help rebuild a sense of community, and I believe that dialogue is key to building a sense of community-with unions, student groups, staff, parents and stakeholders alike. It's surprising how far civil discourse can take you. It's hard to turn your back on someone with whom you have a good working relationship."

so when thousands of copies of an alternative student newspaper were blatantly destroyed by two individuals who were caught on tape doing so and you refused to comment on, engage in,or condemn these actions that was your way of rebuilding community?

when you ignored requests for discussions by your students and staff for three months during the strike then held a town hall meeting in which you blamed us for the lack of communication, that was another community building tactic?

when you appointed the incoming dean of the largest university faculty in canada under false pretense of his academic achievement, then blamed it on your subordinates, then went after university professor's private emails who rightfully called what you were doing academic fraud, this helped our community rebuild and heal?

if you don't give a shit about community building, then don't hide it behind this wishy washy rhetoric about civil discourse, dialogue, and community building. we all know that the university is more interested in pleasing its corporate stakeholders and other political lobbies than it cares about building any kind of working dialogue between anyone.

it is going to take real work, really hard work, to bring together the different voices on campus. it's been a divisive and difficult year but what's most important is that we not just sweep these issues under the rug for the sake of moving on. there are serious problems at york, and im not just talking about the strike. freedom of speech and academic freedom are under attack, our right to privacy is being eroded, corporate interests are steering the decisions of the administration, and the widespread exploitation of graduate students and contract faculty has become essential to support the rapid expansion of the university.

shoukri writes that "york is a dynamic university, still young and still evolving; we have great strengths and even greater potential" and this is totally true. york is young and has historically been a dynamic and political place. the challenge is trying to enact positive change in the face of the shallow, insipid, and spineless nature of the administration who would sell us down the river for a pharmaceutical company pay out or a free chauffeur.

so let's just be honest, shoukri and the university don't really want us "coming together"because that would mean that all parties are getting something out of this encounter. instead, york and shoukri are employing a more selfish technique which leaves the rest of us feeling frustrated, unsatisfied, and used.

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