Students refusing to let strike delay their research

York labour action not keeping them from labs, some TAs say

Teaching assistant Samantha Stefanoff works one-on-one with student Tehmeena Chaudhry during school strike. Steph Backus // Toronto Observer

Protestors block the entrance to York University. The campus is a ghost town.

But Tehmenna Chaudhry, a biology undergrad in her final year, won’t let that defer her research.

“Dr. Stutchbury, the chair of ecology, gave me the option to delay my research during the strike,” she said. “But I told her I would rather we didn’t let the strike affect our work”.

Members of CUPE 3903, that represents teaching assistants and tenured staff, are currently on strike. They vetoed the tuition freeze offer Monday evening, because they want a better one for the next generation of TAs.

“I’ll be a TA next year, and I’ll be researching for my masters in avian biology,” Chaudhry said. “ So I feel a lot of solidarity with the TAs”.

Samantha Stefanoff, a TA specializing in ecology, is adamant the strike continues, because the universities offer isn’t enough, she says.

“We’re fighting for tax indexation. Our minimum stipend and potential hike in tuition fees should balance out,” she said. “But York University is proposing a tuition freeze, which isn’t good enough”.

Teaching assistants are guaranteed a stipend to alleviate financial strain. But Stefanoff says this isn’t enough to live on.

“You’re putting in a lot of hours for not very much money,” she said. “Our stipend is $21,000 per year.”

Among other things, Stefanoff would like to see an increase in that stipend.

“York is under a lot of pressure to give us a deal that we would want because the university is completely shut down,” she said. “There’s no classes going on — every day is costing them money. The CUPE members are seeing that, so they’ll want to continue striking to get us a good deal.”

York University is no rookie when it comes to strikes. In 2009 the university endured an 85-day strike, marking it as one of the longest strikes in Canadian University history.

This strike may rival it, but even if it does Chaudhry and Stefanoff can be found in bio lab.


About this article

By: Steph Backus
Posted: Mar 10 2015 1:19 pm
Filed under: News