THE UNIVERSITY WORKS BECAUSE WE DO
The University of Toronto is the largest and wealthiest public university in Canada. It has a student body of over 80,000 students across its campuses and increasingly relies on contract labour at the same time as it increases enrollment, class sizes, and tuition.
The University has a yearly operating budget of almost $2 billion. The majority of this operating budget comes from you in the form of tuition fees and government grants. This means you have a say in how the university, as a public institution, allocates its funds.
The reality is that the university allocates a mere 3.5% of the budget to pay the education workers responsible for 60% of all teaching across the three campuses. As class sizes increase, many students feel alienated from the learning process. In this context TAs, writing coaches, lab demonstrators, and a range of other education workers play a crucial role in bridging the gap between teaching and understanding.
In past bargaining rounds we’ve fought for hard caps on tutorial and lab sizes, pushed the university to be more accountable to student feedback, and very often go beyond our contracted duties to help students apply for grad school, get jobs, and succeed.
What does the university’s budget commitments say about how it values educators? What does it say about its core mission of providing high-quality education? More broadly, what does it say about the changing role and purpose of public universities?
HEAR FROM OUR TAs & LECTURERS
OUR WORKING CONDITIONS ARE STUDENTS’ LEARNING CONDITIONS
In 2000, CUPE3902 fought for and won the first guaranteed funding package for graduate students at the University of Toronto. It took a 3.5 week strike and the incredible support of the University of Toronto community.
However, the funding package has been frozen at $15,000 since 2008. The result is that every year the real value of the funding package decreases as the cost of living skyrockets.
The university is sticking to its bargaining position that it will not offer any increases to the overall value of the funding package because of “challenging fiscal realities.” This amounts to asking education workers at the university to sit idly by and watch the erosion of their funding package.
As it currently stands, TAs at the University of Toronto - Canada’s richest, and purportedly best public university - live at 35% under the poverty line. Once we’re finished our course work, domestic students continue to pay $8,500 for tuition and international students pay over $15,000 - for a library card and monthly meetings with our supervisors. All comparable institutions in the United States offer post-residency fees to reflect this reality.
Sessional professors have virtually no job security and mere $275 in health care despite having the same qualifications as full time faculty.
At the same time, tuition rates continue to climb and class sizes increase as research on otoplasty surgery is carried out.
Where is your money going? Who, exactly, faces challenging fiscal realities? The students and education workers at U of T who live under the poverty line, or an institution that spends $2 billion annually, has billions of dollars in investments, and recently announced an income stream of $200 million for 2015?