Now that the “Winter Semester” has finally ended, the widespread animosity at York University seems to have dissipated…a bit. Yes, having our school year extended into the summer months has been painful—especially for the professors who are still bitterly reading our bitterly-written assignments—and we must all lament the fact that finger-pointing became the new hand-shaking on campus. Still, now that we’re free, perhaps this article I co-wrote in March will be well-received. In it, Andrew and I re-examine the 11-week strike of 2001 and interview those affected in order to benefit from their hindsight. Although our own strike lasted 2 weeks longer than did theirs, let’s try to imagine what we will feel in the not-so-distant future.
Back to the Future||Your Thoughts on the York University Strike Seven Years from now?
Siobheann Leahy still remembers feeling guilty as she stepped off of the bus and looked toward the picket lines. Head down, she walked in the direction of the Seymour Schulich Building, an oasis of activity on a largely dormant campus. During the 2001 strike, Leahy was in her first year of a Bachelor of Business Administration, one of the few programs that continued even as the strike dragged on.
“I was in a conflicted position,” recalls Leahy, “It was an awful feeling, crossing people who were standing up for their rights.”
Jessica Shumake might have been one of those people. During the 2001 strike, Shumake was a first year PhD student in the department of Philosophy, a teaching assistant, and a fervent member of CUPE 3903. Nearly seven years after the fact, she still thinks about the eleven-week strike.
“That strike marked the first moment I began to think of myself as an activist. Graduate school can feel really individualistic and competitive,” said Shumake, “It was powerful to learn that I could put my energy into collective action with the same intensity that I could my academic research and professional goals.”
Nevertheless, the exuberance of the critical mass, as it were, did not come without a price.