Students shouldn’t be caught in negotiations
The Wilfrid Laurier University Faculty Association (WLUFA) and the university met to exchange proposals with respect to the negotiation of a new contract for contract academic staff (CAS). This is an important issue that directly impacts students but that does not mean students should be forced to pick a side. It is at its core, a labour dispute and both sides need to figure out their next agreement behind closed doors.
It’s fine to publicly display displeasure and explain to students why each side is unhappy. However, pulling on student heartstrings and vying for student support is an unnatural part of the process. CAS has recently been using social media to express their grievances to students and anyone else who will listen.
The problem is not that their grievances are illegitimate, because they very much are, but the problem is in the onus CAS is trying to put on students. Students are not oblivious. They know exactly how important CAS staff are to Laurier.
Informing the school community of both sides’ arguments is acceptable, but there are limits to what should be shared. Contract workers are drawing attention to an elderly American contract professor who died of cancer while working two jobs to try and pay for treatment. Despite the longevity of her career, she was forced to find a second source of income to try to keep up with medical bills. Her death is a tragic story that deserves attention.
However, students are not the main party that can help this sort of thing from happening again. These types of stories are sad and reflect injustices, but do not guarantee a better deal this time around.
Even with media coverage and a sympathetic public, a favourable resolution to a labour dispute is not guaranteed. Again, this is an issue that impacts students and even further, it is an issue students really do care about. But they should not be put in the middle of a labour dispute.