Friday, November 04, 2011

System change at McGill University

Many of the workers of McGill University are on strike. Secretaries, technicians, cleaning staff, etc., have been walking the picket line for months. McGill University hasn't been accommodating. I suppose it has never been the tradition for McGill to accommodate with magnanimity in such situations.

Winter is coming, the strikers are getting tired, and it seems that their fate will be to return to work, concerns unmet.

McGill University wasn't founded by men who respected the working class. McGill's pretensions and elitism seem preposterous and awful to me, given that it is a colonial Canadian institution, without much in the way of history, relatively speaking, anyway. Its pretensions are where its lack of sympathy comes from, I think.

The Teaching Assistants, including myself, and the Research Associates, may soon be forced to strike. As I understand it, a Research Assistant, who has worked at McGill for 30 years, who holds a PhD, is paid similarly to a newly hired BSc employed in a similar position at any of the other Montreal universities. That's scandalous. However, the truth is I know a few of my colleagues aren't getting paid for their work at all! Do we all at McGill need to be reminded that we all require sufficient pay to make rent & buy food, etc.? It is horribly predictable that our basic needs are often overlooked, here at the home of Canada's most highly paid administrator.

What is happening at McGill is like Occupy Wall Street, on a small scale. The smallness of the scale does not negate the significance of this event. On the contrary, this should be instructive.

What is happening here is the long-prophesied System Change. System Change is an important ingredient of Global Change, which has long been thought to be unavoidable, owing to the intersections and collisions of climatic, social, and economic crises.

I hope you can understand, as I have come to understand, that System Change asks of us all to bring into being new systems, in a way similar to what is happening at McGill. Our new arrangement must be designed to meet the concerns of the people who are parts of it.

The old systems don't work. Our environmental & economic crises are evidence of the old systemic inadequacies. There is no avoiding system change, because our systems have to change in order for them to continue. Some of those old systems will not change, and they will not survive. Systems, such as McGill University, will not continue in the manner that they were before, because the people, who are the bones and muscles of such an institutional body, just can't handle the old way (the unsympathetic & elitist way) of organizing things anymore.

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