Tuesday, November 22, 2011

McGill Students Don't Suck at Math

Well, perhaps I was wrong.  Some McGill students do understand math, as they have developed a website that addresses some of the math of the current staff strike.  And this site provides a useful service for all sides.

I have been pondering whether the strike is sending a message to the administration that the staff don't want to send--that McGill can get along without its staffers.  The strike started at the beginning of the school year, so we have more than two months of staff-less offices, where office managers are doing the work.  Which raises the question: how much staff does McGill need?  If the administration is not feeling the pain of their absence, who is?  Well, certainly the office managers who are doing far more work.  Who else?  The graduate students as those on the market have to worry about how their letters of recommendation will be reliable delivered to the places to which they apply.  The professors have had to do more work to get those letters out, and have had to manage stuff better since there are no staffers to ease various processes.  And, yes, the undergrads, since the staffers do a heap of work for them.  What this site could do better is actually identify the costs the students are paying for the strike--what services are they not getting? How is it diminishing their education?  Again, this way, they can show what the real effects of the strike are, even if they are actually doing the strikers a favor by showing the administration that the strike is having an impact.

So, while the staff union may not be thrilled that their demands are facing criticism from a bunch of students, the students may actually be doing them a favor by reminding the university that there are big holes not being filled, that the institution is under-performing and under-serving a key constituency--the students.

Still, this site is not entirely helpful to the union as it points out that the insistence on seniority for hiring is problematic.  The students argue that the TA demands fit with the interests of the undergrads while those of the staffers do not.  Of course, this is only partly true as strict adherence to work hour limitations (each TA can only work for 180 hours over the course of the term) means that profs may assign fewer writing assignments; and, of course, TA's demand for more wages conflicts with the general undergrad desire not to have fee increases.  Still, there is a point here--the staffers have not been able to articulate why the students should support their demands.

I have been ambivalent about the strike, as I think the administration tends to be heavy handed and I do like the department staffers quite a bit.  On the other hand, their demands are pretty unrealistic, and a seniority rule would really be unfortunate.

No comments: