We write as anthropologists on all three University of Toronto campuses, as well as scholars of health studies at UTSC, who form, along with our students, a community with a common commitment to excellence in education and research. We recognize that the working conditions of Teaching Assistants, Course Instructors, and Sessional Instructors are vital to the scholarly integrity of the university. The quality of our teaching and research is dependent upon and enriched by the labour of our Teaching Assistants, Course Instructors, and Sessional Instructors. And so, we express our solidarity with the efforts of graduate students and sessional instructors to secure better conditions for their labour and study.
As anthropologists and scholars of health studies, we are concerned about the growing forms of inequality that are defining working conditions at the University of Toronto, at universities across North America, and in society at large. We recognize that Teaching Assistants and many Course Instructors are also members of our community whose work and working conditions are crucial to the university, the future of intellectual work, and the quality of undergraduate teaching. Many are also international students who pay significantly higher tuition; many are responsible for dependents; and those who are outside the funded cohort rely on paid teaching work to complete their degrees.
It is our collective responsibility to work for a more equitable environment for knowledge production. Despite the administration’s disagreements with CUPE, we believe that the university administration should, in all its public statements, reaffirm its commitment to graduate education, and to graduate students, and to all of our more junior and vulnerable colleagues. We call for open and ongoing dialogue between all members of our scholarly community about the complex issues.
We join our colleagues in History, Geography, Women and Gender Studies, Cinema Studies, Religion, Education, Development Studies, Linguistics, English, Drama, Theatre, Performance Studies, Sociology and other programs and departments in affirming that the university’s mission can only be met through the work that each member of our community contributes on a daily basis.
In our collective endeavors, all of us are the university.
Maureen A. Murney