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Coalition Building after Occupy: Campus Community

All of this talk about who constitutes the 1% makes me think of the university system. Surely, regular, full-time faculty appear to constitute the coveted 1%. We have the some semblance of job security (or at least those with tenure do), better benefits than the contingent faculty, job flexibility, and essentially get paid to think, talk, read, and some get to engage in research. It sounds great. Some have even gone so far to refer to the academic system as one of a feudal society.

I would argue that the student population–both undergraduate and graduate student are in a place of privilege, too. While they are taking classes and many are heavily in debt to do–the act of being on a college campus and opportunity to go to university is in itself a unique opportunity and privilege. Should we move beyond an “us vs them” conversation?

Thus, I’m not completely sure if the framework for who is the 1% completely works–unless we look to the CUPE staff on campus who are doing most of the behind the scenes work on campus–from serving coffee, cleaning the grounds, and working as contingent faculty. I would argue that this group of the university population is the most exploited or constitutes the least privileged group on campus. Of course, this also includes some staff who might make good incomes that exceed 50k annually. This is by no means enough to live comfortably in the capital region; however, it constitutes a good income. My point here is that more people on campus constitute the 99%. And, many in the campus community are not in their career job.

When we think of the university community, it is fair to say that regular, full-time faculty are part of the elite on campus. But, even this group has tiers: senior instructors (new, continuing and Teaching Professors), Assistant Professors, Associate Professors, Full Professors, and Canada Research Chairs. Directors of units or offices are in a good position as well. Then, we move to the various Deanships. Associate Deans and the full Deans. Moving to the next level would be the Associate Vice Presidents, Vice President, Chancellor, and President. There are many tiers of responsibility and privilege on campus. Maybe we should think more like a large community? The campus is its own microcosm. Can we work together for social justice? Is this a reasonable idea? I think that we can work together. The how is the important question.

Lots of great work going on at the campus across multiple units or departments. But, at times we aren’t having cross campus conversations to share this work. We need to get better at this. I don’t have the answers, but I’m thinking about what is next with the occupy movement and how we need a broad-based movement. This movement has touched so many. What is next?

2 thoughts on “Coalition Building after Occupy: Campus Community

  1. I’ve been thinking about this post all day. Very much appreciate this kind of reflection of our own communities. Folks say that privilege is a process that is highly context dependent. But it’s hard to remember when I hear someone complaining about the contractor trying to use American Black Walnut instead of Brazilian Walnut for their hardwood floors, etc. But I’m not immune to this kind of criticism – and it’s all too easy to see fault elsewhere.

    I too am super interested to see what is next.

    • And, that’s just it. I feel privileged to have my full-time, tenure-track job. But, I don’t have the same job security (yet) that my tenured colleagues have. Then, I need to think about a recent conversation with a recent UVIC grad who cannot find decent, permanent work. It’s is relative. Sigh. I can’t wait to see what’s next. I’m hopeful.

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