An article in the last issue of The Outsider entitled, “What Might a UCP Government Do to PSE?”, elicited the following response from tutor Theresa Zoller.
Theresa: “This article on UCP and education is way too partisan and reads like NDP talking points. In addition, it is, in places, factually incorrect. Don’t send me stuff like this. It is offensive and beneath levels of proper academic discourse.”
CUPE 3911 Administrator: “Thank you for your feedback. I will remove you from the mailing list and share this with the author of the article.”
Theresa: “I don’t want to be removed from the CUPE mailing list. I want our local to publish articles that are more level-headed and less partisan. Don’t send me partisan talking points.”
First, the article was written to inform our readers about what a change in provincial government might mean for post-secondary education. That is something our members need to think about especially with a provincial election coming up next year. The article addressed in The Outsider is one of very few the UCP has published on the topic of PSE; that is why it was addressed. If our members have any other such relevant documents we would welcome a chance to review them. One responsibility of CUPE 3911 is to address not just our own issues but larger issues, particularly in the field of post-secondary education. So we think the draft policy of the political opposition on PSE is a legitimate topic for discussion, as are policies of the current government.
The question of partisanship is interesting. All media are partisan. There is no such thing as non-partisan media. All news is opinion, even in regards to selecting what to print or ignore. So the point is not to give equal weight to both (or many) sides but to give accurate weight. The big media in Canada is certainly partisan; every major paper in Canada for decades publicly endorsed the Conservative Party in federal elections, except the Toronto Star. The AU media is partisan to AU administration. The union media in Canada is partisan to working people. So our CUPE 3911 newsletter is definitely partisan and we don’t apologize for that. We even state our partisanship in our editorial policy. This should not come as a surprise. Our union members work in post-secondary education so it is reasonable that we are partisan to our union, partisan to our members’ interests, and partisan to the cause of public post-secondary education.
As to whether the article in the last issue “read like NDP talking points” that is a matter of opinion, to which any reader is entitled. At the same time, we want to point out that (1) The NDP was not promoted anywhere in the article; (2) The NDP does not have exclusive rights to any specific talking points; many individuals and groups say or write similar things. (So do academics; that’s why citations exist.) (3) We have previously criticized “NDP” government education policy and we will continue to do so. We are not the mouthpiece of a particular party and we have demonstrated that in the past. The latter is the case, even though in the 2015 federal election CUPE National called on all its members to vote NDP.
As to the statement that parts of the article are “factually incorrect”, that is an unsupported assertion to which we cannot reply because we have no idea which parts the reader refers to. Further, the statement, “It is offensive and beneath levels of proper academic discourse”, is another unsupported assertion. To our way of thinking, academic discourse is defined by claims based on evidence and reasons. We see no evidence or reasons provided for the statement that The Outsider article is beneath proper levels of academic discourse, so again, we cannot reply to that charge. On the other hand, we do believe that our article is grounded in evidence and reasons and we are prepared to back up any claims that we made within the article.