Dearest Friends and Colleagues,
I realize that the title of this post might seems a little pretentious. Who am I to demand anyone’s attention? Nevertheless, I do think that what I am about to write, needs to be read. So my apologies in advance, if I appear to be up on a proverbial horse. My apologies also to those of you who for whom the following is obvious.
Today is an important day. We will meet to vote on whether to ratify the current tentative agreement (TA).
I am not going to use this space to broadcast my own personal opinion on how I think things should go. Part of the reason for that is that I don’t think it would be a reasonable use of the privilege I have been given to address you all through this medium. The second reason is that I really don’t know what to think right now.
For me there are a lot of different vectors of relevance, and their appropriate balance is currently opaque to me. Further, without such a balance, or at least a strong sense of what that balance ought to be, I do not think I (or anyone else for that matter, who is in a similar epistemic situation), am/are in a position to make a decision. My hope is that the meeting this afternoon will go some way to clearing this up so that I can vote with a clear mind and in good conscience.
Some of the things that I am struggling with are the following:
a) What should the proper balance be between net financial gains and structural changes in how the University must deal with us as employees in the TA? Does the current TA embody such a balance?
b) To what extent should I vote according to how this agreement will address my personal concerns vs. the concerns of the union vs. the concerns of post-secondary students in other institutions (like York), who are also on strike right now, for comparable reasons. In other words, what is the appropriate self-other balance that should inform my decision and what is the scope of reference for ‘other’?
c) I strongly suspect that if the TA is sent out for a vote from the entire membership, then it will pass and the strike will end. How should that suspicion impact my vote on ratification today? Does it mean that I should vote to ratify even if I end up deciding I want the deal to be rejected?
Anyways, I am sure these and other questions are in your minds as well. Moving forward, I have two suggestions that I hope will be of use to anyone who ends up reading this.
Suggestion 1 – For those who remain on the fence: Hold these and any other questions you might have in tension. Don’t just try to resolve them. Allow yourself to sit sincerely with your uncertainty. Try to let go of your agitation around this and accept ambiguity and see if anything shifts for you cognitively.
My apologies if that sounds new-agey or ridiculous, but I think it’s a really important epistemic practice, especially when it comes to important decisions like this one. I have found personally that finding a balance between following the arguments where they lead in an inferential way and working to be in a state of more-or-less affective equipoise is super important. What I mean by this, is that dropping aversion and other affective-biases towards uncertainty or confusion can help allow latent cognitive processes to contribute to your general goal of moving through the problem space towards a solution. Insight into the resolution of such problems often arises spontaneously and thus, much of one’s movement through such problem-spaces is often non-linear.
Long story short, try to relax with it. Hopefully today’s meeting will provide some much needed information that will make your decision easier so that you can vote in good faith and with clear conscience.
Suggestion 2 – For those who have a strong sense of the appropriate course of action: Be respectful. Use arguments and evidence to leverage your position. Do not abuse the capacity of rhetoric to move people’s votes.
Let me provide some context for this suggestion. I attended the general meeting at Convocation Hall where we rejected the TA and went on strike. I found the tone and quality of argument on both sides of the question to be mostly poor. People allowed their emotions to take control of their speech and the situation became very heated. Passion is one thing and it can often be good. Completelack of reason for believing your position is another and is not good. Bear in mind, this is only one person’s perception of the Con Hall meeting. Nevertheless, I stand by it and am willing to argue about it, if folks think I am being uncharitable.
I was not at the last general meeting at the Metro Convention Centre where we narrowly passed a motion to table a version of the current TA to the University. My understanding is that this meeting was far worse than the aforementioned Con Hall meeting on at least two fronts:
i. Tempers were even higher (witness the virtual fall-out on the FB threads in the days following the meeting).
ii. There were serious issues of procedure raised given how narrowly the motion passed.
Now let’s briefly consider the lead-up to today’s meeting.
To say that responses to the current TA have been divided and emotional is an understatement. People are clearly feeling the pressure right now. Being on picket lines for three weeks is hard and the current TA is a controversial one. Further, whether related or no, I woke up this morning to see that some fool has taken it upon themselves to vandalize Simcoe Hall.
I know I speak for everyone when I say that this is an absolutely ridiculous act.
I mention these points by way of justifying my expectation that today’s meeting will be similarly problematic, perhaps even more so. The last two meetings were problematic, and conditions have escalated since then. I feel this is sufficient evidence to conclude that my expectation is a rational one.
Therefore, I am forced to insist, in no uncertain terms that:
I. It is essential that we treat each other with respect and kindness right now.
We must do our best to respect differences of opinion on the best way forward and we must not demonize those who disagree with our view, regardless of the outcome.
II. We must strive for clarity, rigor, and precision in presenting our views during today’s meeting.
In previous meetings I was deeply saddened by the dominance of emotionally charged rhetoric at the expense of reasoned argument and evidence. Ideally, there should be a fusion of the two. That is how you win hearts and minds in good faith. We need to hold ourselves to high standards in our upcoming discussions of this TA so that we can be informed when we vote.
In closing, I urge everyone who has already made up their mind to reflect seriously on their current position and to consider opposing views in the light of charity. This means that you consider the strongest and most coherent version of the opposing view. Those who disagree with you are not obviously wrong and they are not your enemy. I submit that an obvious course of action is not clear right now. I hope that folks attend today’s meeting with an open mind. Practically speaking that means the following:
If you choose to speak to the group today by speaking into a microphone, do so only if you are willing to change your position if presented with persuasive arguments and evidence that are contrary to your currently held view. And you can only do this if you are open to the possibility that your currently held view might be incorrect. Humility and respect are essential here.
Okay, that is enough from me. I am jumping down from the proverbial horse now. Again, I apologize if I came across as preachy in any way.
See you all later today.
With love and in solidarity,