Solidarity and Analysis

Solidarity
Please send messages of solidarity to our email address: utgeneralassembly @ gmail dot com or comment here.

A Message from Puerto Rico – “Lets begin a global student’s network (University of Puerto Rico)”

Hi, my name is Alvin B. Rodríguez-Lynch from the University of Puerto Rico, School of Law. As I write, fellow graduate and undergraduate students are being arrested for civil disobedience at my campus’ gates. This is part of a series of civil disobedience acts that began today, when we approach nearly a year of struggle against a government that pretends to leave thousands of Puerto Ricans without access to higher education. The details are long to be written in a single email, but the most important thing is that we can learn from each other’s experiences.

Over here, I co-founded a low-power AM radio station during our first student strike in April 2010 and it has proven to be an effective information source and student tool as we also stream on http://www.ustream.com/radiohuelga. The name we gave the station is Radio Huelga or as translated to English, Strike-Radio. I would like to take a step further into this struggle that is having the effect of our future being arrested as up to now, more than 60 students have been unjustly arrested for exercising their freedom of speech right.

My proposal is to begin a network of information flow between both of our movements and Universities with the purpose of establishing contact with other student struggles around the world so that hopefully we could create a Global Network of Student Affairs. If we prove successful in this task, we can celebrate a Global Student Assembly where we can discuss the needs and get informed of the struggles of students around the World. It sounds big as many other things in the past may have sound to our ancestors, but it is never unworthy to give a try to changing the future for good.

I hope this idea gets your attention and I’m looking forward to get in contact with someone who can begin forging this concept with me. Please contact me by this email. Wishing the best of luck with your General Assembly and 100% in solidarity,

Alvin B. Rodríguez-Lynch
2nd Year Law Student
University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras Campus


Formal declarations of solidarity from the general assembly will also be posted as we continues to meet. In the meantime we would like to express our utmost support for students and workers currently mobilizing against repressive governments and tuition demands in Tunisia and Puerto Rico, as well as student and worker movements around the world.

Analysis and Articles
Editorial: Flat Fees Will Hurt Students
Education Not Deportation
Exposed: U of T Suppresses pro-Palestinian Activism
G20 Aims to Shut Down U of T Campus and Academic Integrity
How U of T’s New Space-booking Policy Further Marginalizes Campus Community Groups
Money really can buy anything – even at the University of Toronto
Profs Allege Donor Influence
The University is a Factory, Let’s Treat it Like One
U of T Ditches SLLUT, but Doesn’t Plan for Better Planning
U of T Student Faces Deportation
University of Toronto Plan Decimates Languages, Humanities Programs
Welcome to your Corporate Campus
Why The Academic Plan Failed

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Introduction read at the beginning of the second General Assembly

We have gathered here tonight because we care about this University, we know it is wildly adrift, and we demand that it do better.  We come here from a variety of perspectives and positions.  We are workers, librarians, students, faculty, and community members.  We will not agree on everything, but we must agree on one thing, we are this university.  Not David Naylor.  Not Governing Council.  Not wealthy donors like Peter Munk.  The University of Toronto is composed of students, workers, and the public.

This is not a popular view down at Simcoe Hall.  In their eyes and on their budget sheets, all of you lovely folks are one of two things – and many of you are both. You are either workers or commodities.  Either way, you don’t deserve a seat at the decision making table, because as commodities you don’t speak, and as workers your perspectives don’t matter. You are things for Deans to manage. You are Basic Income Units. You feel like a number, because you are.  You feel shut out, because you are.  You feel like this University is failing, because it is.

Here, we are working to build something different. This is the most representative political body at this University.  All of us have voice and vote in this body. We all experience this University’s failings, we think it can do better, and we, unlike our friends in Simcoe Hall, are willing to listen to, and work with each other to make sure it does do better.

Many of us have already committed hundreds of hours to this process and we will all have to dedicate countless more.  This is not an easy task.  The corporate university restructures our lives. It compartmentalizes us, individuates us, ranks us. And in doing this, the corporate university makes it more difficult for us to find each other, to trust each other—to organize and fight back.

We are not alone in our struggle against the educational-factory.  At Universities around the world, students and workers are similarly working to reclaim their public institutions.  In Wisconsin, when the Governor moved to destroy the meager remains of the New Deal, it was the quick action of workers, students, and faculty at the University of Wisconsin that stopped him.  They stalled the Wisconsin State Senate with days of deputation and spent their nights on the floor of the Capitol Building.  Those students and workers from Wisconsin show us our potential; Governor Walker shows us the depth of the menace we face.

At the last meeting of this General Assembly, in January, we agreed on 4 principles: that each member of the assembly has one vote; that decisions will be made with a 2/3 majority and an attempt to accommodate those who voted against the decision; that the assembly is accountable to no organization except itself; and that the Assembly is open to all members of the U of T community, broadly conceived. We also made some amazing headway in identifying priority areas in which to focus our work. Eleven working groups were developed, including: Anti-Corporatization, Academic Planning, Campus Space, Economic Accessibility and Funding, Environmental Justice and Sustainability, Equity, Governance and Accountability, International Solidarity, Labour, Political Direction, and University Life.

As for where we are going? Tonight, we will take on the task of agreeing on a basis of unity—a shared vision for this Assembly. This is an exciting step in figuring out what this experiment in self-governance will look like. But it is up to us to be creative and persistent in working hard and pushing for what we want this experiment to be.

And so, we are gathered here to fight, like our colleagues in Wisconsin, for the sanctity of our livelihoods, for our education, for the integrity of our public institutions, and for the very idea of the public.  This fight is bigger than any of our narrow personal interests or those of any organization or union.  Tonight is not about the future of the Faculty Association or CUPE 3902 or U.T.S.U., it is about the future of our university.  And so, on a more severe note, let’s remind ourselves that interventions that fail to transcend narrow personal agendas have no place in this General Assembly.  This principle deserves particular recognition tonight as we are in the heat of election season.

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Press Release: UofT Community Meets to Solidify Campus General Assembly

*** For Immediate Release ***

Toronto, Feb. 28

What: University of Toronto General Assembly
When: Tuesday, March 1st, 2011-02-28
Where: Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, auditorium, 252 Bloor St W

Following a packed first meeting on January 19th, the newly formed University of Toronto General Assembly will convene tomorrow, March 1st, to continue working toward more democratic and accountable university governance. Hundreds of students, faculty, workers, and community members will gather to voice opposition to the top-down, undemocratic, and corporate decision-making structures that currently characterize governance at the University of Toronto and universities across the country. Open to all members of the community, the participants of the General Assembly share equal voice and vote.

According to organizers, the Assembly envisions itself as a nexus that connects members of the University community who, for various reasons, have had negative experiences with its governance. Its members wish to advocate for, and create, alternative administrative structures. “Workers, faculty members, and students are systematically excluded from structures of governance at the University,” says Assembly organizer, Jessica Denyer. “We are meeting at the General Assembly to express our non-confidence in these structures. The Assembly will act as a site for political action and a tool to replace them with more equitable alternatives.”

The General Assembly seeks to safeguard the public mandate of the University. “There are increasingly fewer means for the public to hold the University of Toronto accountable.” Johanna Lewis, a student from the department of Global Health, continues: “At UofT, decisions are becoming increasingly opaque. Its administrators are more invested in consulting with ‘captains of industry’ than promoting the wellbeing of all of its members and of society at large.”

Participants of the General Assembly seek a university that is organized and operated by those who make it what it is. Together, they plan to map out an alternative direction for the institution and its administration.

To find out more about the University of Toronto General Assembly, please attend its second meeting this Tuesday, March 1st, from 5:00 – 8:00 p.m. in the auditorium of the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto (252 Bloor Street W.).

###

For further information, contact:
Ryan Culpepper, (416) 880-4293
Jessica Denyer, (416) 708-3195
Johanna Lewis, (416) 797-8537.

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Call Out: UTGA Second Meeting!

UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO GENERAL ASSEMBLY
ALL OUT TO TRANSFORM THE UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO
 
Second General Assembly
Tuesday, March 1st, 5-8pm
OISE Auditorium, Room G162 (first floor)
252 Bloor St. West
 
On January 19th, hundreds gathered for the inaugural meeting of the University of Toronto General Assembly. The General Assembly embodies our commitment to transforming this University into one that is organized and operated by those who make it what it is.
 
After all, UofT is our university. It comprises our education, our workplace, our living space, our community – and frequently all of the above. It is a public institution whose aim is to promote the wellbeing of all of its members and of society at large. We, and no one else, are its stakeholders and its governors. As members of the General Assembly, we are reclaiming our role as agents – a role that has been stripped from us, and that we are looking to take back.
 
Don’t miss the General Assembly’s second meeting on Tuesday, March 1st at 5pm. All members of the UofT community, including students, workers, staff, faculty, alumni, and neighbors, are invited and welcome to participate in the General Assembly. As our movement grows, so too does our influence, the scope of our organizing, and our ability to transform the university.
 
Join us.
 
||| FREE FOOD |||

WEBSITE: https://utgeneralassembly.wordpress.com/
E-MAIL: utgeneralassembly@gmail.com
FACEBOOK: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=163868450331161

Accessibility
The OISE auditorium is fully accessible. Accessible washrooms are located on every floor.
 
Childcare and ASL Interpretation
Childcare will be available for this event. ASL interpretation will be made available upon request.

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More Violence in Puerto Rico as University Student Fee is Imposed

January 18, 2011; Maritza Stanchich:

The forced institutionalization of fees comes after violent clashes with strike police last week as the fees began to be processed on Thursday, when protesting students blocked workers from entering Plaza Universitaria, the administrative building housing the offices to process payments. The students brandished multilingual banners of “¡No a La Cuota!” and home-made shields of wood and plastic, some stenciled with “A Defender la UPR” slogans with the university’s emblematic clock tower. Strike police dislodged the students with full force, using tear gas, pepper spray and wielding batons and Taser guns, arresting seven, six of whom were later released without charges. One female student appeared to have been arbitrarily clubbed at her brow, and another hit by a car across campus on a main thoroughfare, Avenida Barbosa.

Full article at the Huffington Post.

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Introduction Read at the Beginning of the First General Assembly

[Note: Much of the text was taken from a comment piece that the General Assembly organizing group submitted to The Varsity]

Let me open with two contrasting conceptions of the University of Toronto. In the first, the interests of students, staff, faculty and others on campus are intertwined. We work together to share and learn, to arrive at something better for ourselves and society. In this scenario, our interests may not immediately align. But together, we decide what and how to negotiate. We are the university. To not listen to or harm any group on campus is to act against the best interests of the university.

In our second conception of the university, it is run like a factory – a mechanized profit machine, and we are its gears and its products. We are not the University’s will, we are its clients and its labour. At this university, decisions become increasingly opaque and unaccountable. Its administrators are more invested in consulting with ‘captains of industry’ like Peter Munk, than with students, workers, and faculty. The familiarity of this scenario should indicate what kind of university we currently find ourselves at.

When students, faculty, and workers view our interests in isolation, we disempower ourselves and legitimize the bodies that manage us. These bodies, existing as various administrative groups and the Governing Council, are vested with power in order to further our collective interests. But recent events are enough to show that governing structures on campus undermine the needs of most of its members. Flat fees and poor classroom environments, the Faculty of Arts & Science Academic Plan and other program cuts, the G20 campus closure, space booking policies, and contracts with corporate sponsors that threaten academic freedom are familiar to us all. In each instance, though we came earnestly and in numbers, we were blocked from participating in decision-making.

The misbehaviors of our governing bodies are no accident. The Governing Council, for instance, is structurally predisposed to ignore student, staff, and faculty interests. Of the fifty Governing Council seats, only eight are reserved for students, 2 for staff, and 12 for faculty most of whom are administrators. 14 seats are for government appointees, most of whom are business leaders. If you’ve ever been to Governing Council you’ll quickly notice that it looks nothing like the University. Most of the governors are white men who make hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollar a year. The minority of students, staff, and faculty who actually teach on Governing Council cannot sway a group of CEOs to consider our needs.

Substantive change cannot come from cajoling the Governing Council – trust me, we have tried. It is time that we stop investing our power in Governing Council, and take governance into our own hands. Rather than hoping that these governing bodies will finally make one decision in our favour, we need to strengthen our relationships with each other, and reclaim our ability to make decisions for ourselves.

The crisis in education is not limited to UofT, and – of course – cannot be separated from broader political trends in Canada and around the world. These trends increasingly deny access to services and the chance at a good life for a majority of the people on our planet. The good news is – we are not alone in our struggle. Students in the US, Tunisia, the UK, Puerto Rico, Nepal, Italy, Martinique, and Quebec, have recently mobilized in unprecedented numbers to protests increasing privatization and decreasing access to education and other social goods.

Make no mistake – we are not here to talk or group hug. We want action. We want to build commonalities across issues and populations. We want to generate strategies to combat looming threats to our education, our liveliehoods, and our space. We want to empower many more students, workers, and faculty to participate. We want an entirely different university, where the power to govern is in all of our hands.

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Varsity Comment Piece – Appeared January 17th

Let us open with two different conceptions of what the University of Toronto is. In the first, the interests of students, staff, faculty and others on campus are intertwined. We meet at this site to share and learn, to arrive at something better for ourselves and collectively, and perhaps more importantly – to facilitate this process. In this scenario, the interests of students may not immediately align with those of faculty or staff. But together, we decide what and how to negotiate. We are the University. To not listen to or account for any group on campus is to act against the best interests of the university.

In the second conception of what this university is, students elected onto the Governing Council are told to prioritize the long-term well-being of the institution above broadly articulated needs of students. We submit to an institution that manages the conflicting interests of students, staff, and faculty. We think that students can gain when others lose – and because of this, we are suspicious of demands for better working conditions, and resigned to program cuts. But somehow, our fees continue to climb amidst the underfunding of programs and increasing casualization of labour on campus. The familiarity of this scenario should indicate what kind of university we currently find ourselves inhabiting.

When students, faculty, and staff – and groups within which – detach our interests from each others’, we disempower ourselves and legitimize the presence of managing bodies. These bodies, existing as various administrative groups and the Governing Council, are vested with power in order to further our collective interests. But even recent events are enough to show that governing structures on campus undermine the needs of a majority. Many groups and individuals came together to oppose, most prominently, flat fees, the FAS proposed Academic Plan, the G20 campus closure, restrictions to space booking policies on campus, and contracts with corporate sponsors that threaten academic freedom. Unfortunately, though we come in numbers, our voices and bodies are usually blocked from the loci of decision-making.

The misbehaviour of our governing bodies are no accident. The Governing Council, for instance, is structurally predisposed to ignore student, staff, and faculty interests. Of the fifty GC seats, only eight are reserved for students; the majority are reserved for University and corporate appointees. The minority of students and faculty on GC can not sway a group of CEOs to consider the needs of a majority that we actually represent. The composition of GC hints at an answer to the question of if not us, who does governance at the university benefit?

Substantive change cannot come from cajoling the GC – trust me, we have tried. It is time that we stop investing our power in GC, and take governance into our own hands. It is time that we break from inhabiting a familiar conception of the university that does not benefit any of us. Rather than hoping that these governing bodies will finally make one decision in our favour, we need to reconceptualize our relationship to each other, and reclaim our ability to make decisions for ourselves.

The crisis in education is not limited to UofT, and – of course – cannot be separated from broader political trends in our province, country, and world that increasingly deny access to services and the chance at a good life from a majority of the people on our planet. The good news is – we are not alone in our revolutionary project. Students in the US, UK, Ireland, Puerto Rico, Tunisia, Spain, Italy, and Quebec, have recently mobilized in unprecedented numbers to protest symptoms of the increasing privatization of, and the incumbent decreasing access to, education.

We have not yet seen such large-scale collective action in our province or at our university, which prompts us to ask why, given the magnitude of poor decision making at UofT. The most satisfactory answer that we have arrived at pins the blame on a default political register of disengagement and disconnection here – and by here, we mean particularly at UofT. It is more than a cliché to say that you feel like a number on this campus. That you somehow find it, or found it at one time, difficult to speak to your professors, TAs, or the people who you find yourself sitting beside in class. That you’re somehow very different, and have nothing in common with, from the people that you’re surrounded by. This sense of disconnect is precisely what both legitimizes our governing bodies and is their biggest accomplishment. We are disconnected from each other, so we trust a third party to mediate between us. This third party facilitates disconnection so that it would have a reason to exist.

Some have suggested that commonalities in ethnicity and a more coherent class identity contribute to why mobilizations in Europe, as well as at the City University of New York and the University of California, have been so much more powerful than seen elsewhere in North America. Whether true or not, we think that connecting to each other is both a part and the goal of governance reform at this university. To this end, a group of concerned students, staff and faculty have called for the first UofT General Assembly to happen on Wednesday January 19th, from 5-8 pm in the Multifaith Centre. This is a project that is both more mundane and radical than most others.

Make no mistake. The organizers do not just want to talk or group hug. We want action. We want to build and articulate commonalities across issues and populations. We want to generate strategies and campaigns to combat looming threats to our education and our space, and for as many people as possible to shape these. We also want something that may be less concretely measurable, which is an entirely different university, where the power to govern is in all of our hands.

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