Philosophy Undergrads Say ‘No’ to Strikes, Grads Say ‘Yes’

Graduate Philosophy Students to Strike in Protest Against Austerity on Nov. 5

The motion, which was tallied by secret ballot, lost with 19 ‘Yes’ votes and 20 ‘No’ votes, according to Katie Nelson, President of Students of Philosophy Association (SoPhiA). File Photo

Philosophy undergraduate students failed to pass a strike motion by one vote last Wednesday, but their graduate counterparts successfully voted for a one day strike a few days after.

The motion, which was tallied by secret ballot, lost with 19 ‘Yes’ votes and 20 ‘No’ votes, according to Katie Nelson, President of Students of Philosophy Association (SoPhiA).

“It’s unfortunate that students are so divided on the issue that it became so close in a vote,” she said. “It’s a general assembly and we have to respect that choice even if it’s by one vote over.”

Had it passed, philosophy undergrads would’ve joined students on the picket lines from the Liberal Arts and School of Community and Public Affairs (SCPA), who begin weeklong strike mandates to protest provincial austerity measures on Monday.

Opponents to striking voiced concerns about harmful effects on their academic success as well as what the striking tactic would accomplish, Nelson said. Most at the general assembly agreed that austerity cuts by the Liberal majority government is an issue, she added.

An amendment to change the length of the strike from a week to three days failed to pass as well, according to Nelson.

“I encourage any philosophy student who have a strong passion against austerity join in with [Liberal Arts and SCPA students] as they please,” she said, emphasizing all the workshops and teach-ins organized this week that any student can attend.

Graduates say ‘Yes’

A motion to strike solely on Nov. 5 for philosophy grads passed with eight votes for, one against and two abstentions, according to Anthony Gavin, Secretary of the Graduate Philosophy Students Association (GPSA).

The graduate program comprises of only 30 students. Gavin said the discussion leading up to the vote allowed his colleagues to analyze their unique positions as both students and employees of the university. Many in the program are researching and teaching assistants.

Graduate philosophy students went on strike last semester, and Gavin said the decision to do so largely depended on their undergraduate peers passing a mandate, which they did.

“I was a little bit surprised,” he commented about his undergrad peers not striking this time around. Since some graduate and undergraduate students share seminar courses, there is the possibility that philosophy undergrads will see some classes cancelled on Thursday, Gavin said.

The strike mandate is to disrupt class by blocking professors, not students, Gavin added. Informal dialogue he’s held with his department’s professors throughout the year have ranged from indifference to cautious support, he said.

Despite this, he added that he doesn’t believe any professors are against student strikes. “Most profs are supportive of our association, of our tactics and are open to dialogue,” he said.

Nelson echoed Gavin’s experiences, and said there is open dialogue with the chair of the department, David Morris. Morris couldn’t be reached for comment by press time.