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### U of T Dominates Research Rankings but Falls Short in Employee Treatment

Canada’s premier university faces the risk of losing its top-ranking status if it fails to address the crucial issue of labor shortages.

In March, there was a looming possibility of a standstill at the university as negotiations between the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Locals 3261 and 3902 and the U of T administration unfolded just moments before a strike deadline. The discussions involved representatives from CUPE 3902 units 1 and 5, which collectively represent nearly 7,000 academic workers on campus.

Despite averting a strike, U of T had initially procrastinated in engaging with CUPE. The university repeatedly postponed negotiations with Teaching Assistants (TAs) and contract lecturers, leaving them hanging for two and a half months beyond the response deadline. When discussions finally commenced, union leaders criticized the university for lacking the same level of commitment and urgency.

The repercussions of these tactics were felt by students as well. The lack of transparency surrounding the negotiation progress left students uncertain about the continuity of winter classes and assignment evaluations.

While the university prides itself on its global reputation as a research institution and its high standings in [ppp1] rankings, the majority of academic workers at U of T, including teaching and research assistants, sessional lecturers, and post-doctoral researchers, operate in precarious contractual positions. These unsung heroes play a pivotal role in the university’s research endeavors, despite being overshadowed by U of T’s grandiose fundraising campaigns.

The recent strike threat underscored one undeniable fact: U of T must value and respect its academic workers to rightfully claim its position as a leading research institution. Any aspirations to maintain this status necessitate a substantial allocation of resources to support contract academic workers.

The university’s fundraising initiatives, exemplified by the campaigns “Boundless” and “Defy Gravity,” aimed to secure substantial donations to solidify U of T’s academic eminence. However, these campaigns, while emphasizing lofty goals of enhancing the university, notably lacked provisions for supporting the academic workforce driving these ambitions.

Although some campaign funds are directed towards student aid and research initiatives, there is a conspicuous absence of concrete measures to benefit the academic workers contributing to the research endeavors. The oversight in prioritizing the welfare of these workers raises pertinent questions about the university’s commitment to its labor force.

The narrative of dwindling opportunities for sessional professors and the challenges they face in securing stable academic positions paints a grim picture of the academic landscape at U of T. By disregarding the rights of academic workers navigating the precarious academic ladder, the university jeopardizes its future as a prominent research institution.

The recurrent pattern of delayed negotiations with labor unions, exemplified by the recent events involving CUPE 3902, reflects a concerning trend of evasive tactics employed by the university. These practices not only undermine the labor rights of academic workers but also hinder the university’s progress towards fostering a conducive academic environment.

As U of T navigates the evolving landscape of higher education funding, it must prioritize the well-being of its contract staff to sustain its academic excellence. Neglecting the fundamental role of academic workers in shaping the university’s research landscape could impede its trajectory towards academic eminence.

In conclusion, U of T’s journey to defy gravity hinges on recognizing the indispensable contributions of its academic workforce. By championing the cause of academic workers and integrating their welfare into future fundraising campaigns, the university can truly embody the boundless spirit it aspires to uphold.