I had to live through two strikes while I was taking physics at York University in Toronto. One was a strike of T.A.’s or tutorial assistants at the university and the other was a strike of the TTC or public transit in Toronto.
Realizing the import of the T.A. jobs, I wanted to support the strike
For those continuing to take science into a masters program or a doctorate program, the strike of the T.A.’s was of paramount importance. You see graduate students can make money by being in charge of tutorials or by marking papers. These are the jobs of the T.A. Graduate students can make enough money to pay for their post degree programs. Or they can if the university is willing to pay them enough. School is expensive. Without T.A. jobs, the schooling of a Ph.D. can cost the victim well over $100,000.
Realizing the import of the T.A. jobs, I wanted to support the strike by not going to classes. But I had a sneaking suspicion of my fellow science students. So that first day I investigated all my classes. Everyone was there. My fellow students had a sneaking suspicion of me, too.
Besides, what is a science major to do? Our classes were hard and we kept having to learn math in our physics courses before it is ever brought up in our math classes. This physics hurrying is because the whole undergraduate program is crammed with too much stuff already. We couldn’t slow down for the slower math classes.
There really wasn’t any time to waste while learning stuff and if anything it’s gotten worse. Employer’s expect us to know everything we are required to know. If we miss classes due to strike sympathies the only place to make it up is in the summer holidays. And professors (our teachers), have plans for the summer that does not include teaching us.
In the public transit strike, I was living off campus and I fortunately was given access to a car from nice relatives. Otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to go in to check my classes to find that no one was missing any classes during the strike. Having been in a union at a lumber yard I would have liked to show brotherhood or sisterhood with the striking union and not go into school. But again this is impossible for a science major.
The only time my political opinion counted for something was in my very last year of university. I was given the opportunity to write and draw political cartoons. This slight bit of political power was way in excess of what other science majors had so I was grateful.
I still think that science majors should be given a political voice.
But I still think that science majors should be given a political voice.
Right now, scientists in the US are finding out what it’s like to have no political voice. Unheard of years ago are science marches, sharing results and observations overseas and other acts of disobedience. No longer is it a given that whomever in power will value the contributions of scientists.
Perhaps these professors who are now organizing could one day give some power and clout to their lowly undergraduates. Maybe if they have experience in civil disobedience early, this can all become easier than it is today.