CUPE 3903 Strongly Condemns Recent Communications from FGS

A pink sign in the snow reads "Education is a right! Keep tuition indexation".

A pink sign in the snow reads “Education is a right! Keep tuition indexation”.

Around 5:00 pm on Friday, May 22, members who are international students from the 2013 and 2014 cohorts received an email from the Faculty of Graduate Studies. Considering that the employer confirmed that only 27 out of approximately 140 members who were affected by the international tuition fee increases are getting any additional funding, we can safely assume that most received the following message:

This message is with regards to the Tuition Offset Letter of Intent provisions in the CUPE 3903 Unit 1 and CUPE 3903 Unit 3 Collective Agreements that are applicable for International graduate students who have received a CUPE 3903 Unit 1 and/or CUPE 3903 Unit 3 position.

After carefully reviewing your record and the funding that you have received during the 2014-15 academic year, we have determined that the full value of your tuition offset is met as per the provisions outlined in the CUPE Collective Agreements.

Should you require any further information or assistance, you are welcome to contact your Graduate Program Assistant.

Thank you and have a nice day.

Faculty of Graduate Studies

The few members who got messages informing them that some level of additional funding was forthcoming were not given a specific amount.

These messages are not a complete surprise, as we had been warned of the employer’s re-interpretation of our tuition offset language. Nonetheless, the inadequacy of these messages is profoundly alarming.

There is no explanation of what process the “careful review”  has taken. In fact, the employer has yet to give an in-depth answer to CUPE 3903 in regards to what was and was not counted towards the offset amount.

An international student from the 2014 cohort told CUPE 3903: “Even students who have been awarded the York Graduate Scholarship or YGS (which is a one-time entrance award worth $3000 for the Doctoral level) have been told that the full value of their tuition offset is met. In the worst case scenario, students who hold such small scholarships should get a rebate to cover the difference between 2012 and 2014 tuition fees that is approximately $7000. In case of YGS, for instance, there must be a $4000 rebate, but FGS has decided to rebate nothing”. It is unclear from what sources the employer considers its obligations to be met with regards to the more than $4000 of the increase left uncovered for members in this situation.

Furthermore, it is completely inadequate to direct irate and confused students to their Graduate Program Assistants when it is doubtful that they have any more information than we do. As FGS enforces these policies, they need to assume responsibility for them. Accountability is not optional, especially when it is a matter of people’s livelihoods, as is the case with funding.

Clearly, the strategy is to create as much confusion as possible in order to make it near impossible to verify the amounts people have received.  We will not play the employer’s game of arguing the point of what is and is not merit-based and non-employment funding. Our position is clear: any international student being charged above the 2012 tuition rates should be receiving additional funding in the amount of the increase. We went on strike for that principle. The employer should be very aware that we will not back down now.

Collective action to put pressure on the employer has already begun. Further action is needed. The Stewards’ Council is meeting on Wednesday May 27 at 1:00 pm in the union office to discuss further strategies.

Also, on Thursday May 28 at 4:00 pm, Dean of Graduate Studies Barbara Crow is hosting a “Dean’s Cafe” where graduate students are encouraged to “have their voices heard”. Since Dean Crow so kindly wants to hear our concerns about graduate education at York, we should oblige her in great numbers.