Tuesday, September 13, 2011

All Is Well, Remain Calm

Sure, McGill has to say that the strike of the support staff is not affecting things.  That is part of the bargaining effort.  In any bargaining situation, using coercion (such as a strike) to inflict pain is a likely strategy.  Just as likely is an effort by the coerced to deny being hurt so weakness is not perceived.  But we who are affected bystanders do not have to buy it.  It is simply incredible as in not believable to say that losing the work of hundreds (thousands?) of staff folk would not have a negative impact.  Otherwise, why have them work for you in the first place?

To be clear, I really like our department's staff, but I am not entirely sure I am in love with the union or its demands.  Lots of stuff involved, but it is abundantly clear to me that we miss them, that their absence is affecting the faculty and the students.  How does it matter? 
  • Well, registration for classes is always a tough issue since we have lots of students interested in our classes.  While the waiting list system is automated, the students trying to enroll are not so much.  Managing their mistakes (like dropping the main part of the class as they sign up for discussion sections) requires humans. 
  • I am trying to create a team of coders from undergrads who are interested in doing research for credit.  Not easy to figure out how this works with a bunch of folks on the picket line who might be able to answer my questions.
  • Work-study is at a standstill-I employ some students via workstudy.  But that seems kaput for now.
  • I have several grad students (both those for whom I am the main supervisor and those where I sit on their committees) on the job market, but now the secretary who sends out the letters of recommendation is on strike.  So, the students have to depend on profs to be detail-oriented and get out tens and tens of letters on time.  The good news is that more hiring departments use online processes but certainly not half.  So, we shall see how this goes.  
Again, I get both sides: McGill does not want to suggest that the strike is costly or else it might have to make some concessions.  The strikers want the strike to hurt or else they will not get what they want.  But it is not fun to be one of the two or three groups (students, profs, neighbors, etc) who are in the middle of this.

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