689.

This was the number of students who felt that a possible strike at Acadia University was worth a few hours of their time on a Friday evening. This is, actually, an impressive number, and I would like to extend my personal appreciation to each of those individuals. An especially large amount of appreciation goes out to the Frosh who have had the least amount of time to become part of this community, and yet still came to voice their opinion. Kudos.

I was going to attempt to write this blog post without contributing to the conversation during the meeting, so as to be able to establish my own neutrality, but anyone who stuck around knows that this didn’t last very long (I’m weak). But, first off, I have a fairly simple message for those who didn’t feel the meeting was worth their time:

Your affliction is apathy. We don’t have a cure. We really wish we did.

The people who didn’t show up to the meeting aren’t “stupid,” “ignorant,” or in any way terrible people: they are simply apathetic towards this cause (To those who had other commitments, I’m not including you in this distinction). Actually, I’d argue that most are likely apathetic towards all causes, but that’s another story. This was about the academic future of this university and a potential strike, and quorum could not be reached. My faith in stopping apathy’s slow march across our society is, well, waning.

For those who couldn’t make it due to work or illness or any other reason, or to those who want to do something about your apathy, you can still make your voice heard. Contact your SRC Councillor via the ASU website, or go to next Thursday’s council meeting to become part of this discourse (I’ll have a summary of events below).

But I don’t need to harp on about that, because there is one thing I really want to deal with.

Hecklers.

I want to talk about how inappropriate and classless it is to heckle during a public presentation…while apologizing for doing it myself by the end of the meeting. During the presentation of the second motion, I reacted with laughter at a comment and Alex (rightfully) called me on it. I apologize for this, as it was both hypocritical and inappropriate for the setting.

This being said, there is a major difference between laughter and even a short one-sentence remark such as “Do some research.” Rather, what I want to address is those individuals who, while the Director of Public Affairs Scott Roberts was speaking, yelled “Shut up.”

Unlike the apathetic people, I am more than willing to call these individuals classless. It is one thing to stimulate someone for more information in a quick statement, but it is entirely another to inform someone who has agreed to speak to students to shut up. I don’t care if you think that Roberts is nothing but a PR flack or that his stance is the wrong one, but treating anyone willing to step in front of an obviously hostile crowd like that is disrespectful beyond laughter or a short statement. It is disruptive, rude and reflects poorly on our ability, as students, to be willing to at least hear someone out on their side of an issue.

As for the meeting itself, for those who either didn’t attend or left before the presentations finished, here’s what went down from as neutral as perspective as someone with opinions on the issue can offer.

Presentation #1 – Dr. Peter Williams (AUFA)

  • Focused on faculty issues as they related to students
  • Evoked Letter of Understanding, broken promises, and the Complement issue
  • States that University presented an ultimatum: this is our final offer. And then talks broke down.
  • Last slide removed due to violation of SRC-mandated purpose of the meeting. Much brouhaha ensued over what was an entirely procedural and non-editorial decision.
  • Question period focused on expectations of salary (Wanting a midpoint between regional/national competition), and Dr. Williams questions whether Acadia has been promoting the right message to prospective students.

Presentation #2 – Scott Roberts (Acadia University)

  • Offered background information on nature of collective bargaining and the University’s current operating budget in generalized terms.
  • Describes series of events differently: says that Acadia presented an offer, expected a counter-offer, and are still waiting at the table.
  • Emphasized that Acadia’s goals are to be flexible and balanced in terms of their budget.
  • Fields questions about administration spending and salaries (Gives math vastly different than Williams), as well as addressing capital expenditures the university has made (or were gifted). Offers opportunity for students to use the Freedom of Information Act to gain further info, and promises to answer the remaining 25 questions online following the meeting.

Presentation #3 – Kyle Steele and Angela Wilson on Neutrality

  • Covered their motion as it would have been presented within a successful General Meeting.
  • Outlined the role that the ASU has played in a neutral stance, and echoed views that this could not be done if a side was chosen. Mentioned media awareness, all-student emails and the letter-signing campaign as examples of their proactive behaviour.
  • Motion itself focused on the ASU being: proactive, reactive, an information source for students, an advocate for student’s interests first, and to not impede negotiations.
  • Students in the audience focused questioning on just how effective neutrality has been if we’ve seen no change in the status of the dispute, and the question of whether students need a filter for this information.
  • Answers usually referred to the role of the SRC in setting these initiatives for moving forward, and that without quorum it really became their decision: talk to your councilor, attend the meeting, and have your voice heard through that setting.

Presentation #4 – Alex Redfield and Megan Lickley on Supporting the Faculty

  • Supports a pro-faculty motion, but more importantly supports picking a side in order to become the agitator this conflict needs to move towards a resolution.
  • Questions focus on a cost/benefit analysis of the possible damage which could be done in taking a stance.
  • Answers focus on failure of current ASU strategy, and presenters ask for further student input and development to craft the most representative and effective motion for the SRC meeting next Thursday.

If anyone feels that I have misrepresented what they said, or what was said by someone else, please let me know by leaving a comment below or by contacting me on Facebook or via email or any other form. I do not want this to be a political statement, and I feel I’ve avoided this, but if anyone would like a correction made I am more than willing to do so. I want people who couldn’t make the meeting, or didn’t stay, to know what was discussed and the impact that it had.

And if anyone wants to comment on the plans, the event, the motions, or the strike in general, feel free to leave one below.

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