Ontario Colleges: We as students stand beside our teachers. We make their demands our own.
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Freedom and democracy are the basis in which all great institutions in the world are made. I learned that while attending a university in Mexico — a developing country. Unfortunately, to the higher levels in the Ontario Colleges’ hierarchy, these values are not fundamental. Or at least, that is what they have shown to the world during the negotiations with our professors.
Academic freedom allows institutions to keep track of the things that are going on out in the real world. It is the oil that allows the machine of knowledge to run smoothly. Discoveries and improvements cannot be made if we ask people to lock themselves into a little box just so they can be useful to an established system. Furthermore, that is a terrible idea, as jobs that can be taught within that scheme will very likely be replaced by robots in the upcoming years. Colleges need to change philosophies and start forming the creators of tomorrow instead of the employees of tomorrow. All of that cannot be accomplished without academic freedom.
Not only that, everyone should be able to criticize authorities without the fear of repression. That is a fundamental principle of our civilizations. Criticizing authorities is what prevents them from becoming tyrants. Criticizing authorities makes possible great, vibrant cities like Toronto where people from all creeds and beliefs can interact without fear. Criticizing authorities make possible rethink the status quo and move towards better realities. This applies a fortiori in higher education institutions as they are supposed to be the “critical consciousness of society” (1).
Teachers nowadays must be seen as mentors rather than as mere instructors as — who we are trying to fool? — instructions can be taken directly from the Internet. Student enrollment in Ontario colleges doubled between 1989 and 2004 while full-time faculty members fell by 22% during the same period, which makes no sense. Students are required to have a close and truly personal connection with their professors in order to succeed as professionals but more importantly, as human beings. Nonetheless, “from 2003 to 2016 alone, administrative positions within Ontario colleges rose by a whopping 77%, well over double the increase in student enrollment” (2). We, as students, agree: We need far less bureaucracy and far more professors. Not only that, we need well-paid professors instead of well-paid administrators.
There are ways to make all of this demands work as the Ontario college system collectively had a surplus of $188 million dollars last year alone. The vast majority of Ontarians trust college professors — not the government nor administrators — to ensure the quality of education. We the students, demand to the College Employer Council to get back to the bargaining tables and negotiate thinking above all of the good of students and professors as this relationship is the one that really matters in the end of the day.
(1) "La Universidad: Conciencia crítica", by Carlos de la Isla.
(2) "Ontario College Educators are on strike for their students", by Maxine Simon, as it appeared on "The Walrus". November 2nd, 2017.
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