Open Letter to the University of Toronto

We, the undersigned affiliates and friends of the BABEL Working Group (a collective of scholars and artists from around the world), support and here express our solidarity with the members of Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 3902 currently on strike at the University of Toronto.

Those on strike are largely graduate students who teach at the University. We stand in solidarity with their demand that their labor be compensated fairly, at a level above the poverty line. The University of Toronto relies on graduate-student teaching to carry out its educational mission; they lead a significant portion of the University’s classrooms and teach many, many of its undergraduate students. Teaching labor is only part of the work that graduate students do for the university, however—they also do original research, win grants, bring prestige to the university by organizing conferences and by being active members and leaders of their respective scholarly communities, including the Babel Working Group’s own Steering Committee. It is time that this essential work is recognized and paid commensurately.

Graduate funding packages have been frozen for seven years, even as administrators’ salaries continue to grow. We call on the administration to negotiate in good faith with CUPE 3902 and enact much needed changes. The University has an ethical obligation to pay its workers a living wage, and many U of T graduate employees support themselves and their dependents on their teaching salaries.

Those striking are fighting not just for their own livelihoods and those of their co-workers, but also for the very possibility of earning a PhD even if one is not independently wealthy and even if one refuses to assume catastrophic debt. Those striking are fighting in part to sustain whatever degree of economic diversity is still possible within graduate education.

We believe collective bargaining is essential to fairness and transparency in the twenty-first century university. Tenure-stream, contingent, and graduate student instructors can and should demand that their labor be recognized through fair pay, job security, benefits, and powers of self-governance. Recently, New York University settled a fair contract with GSOC-UAW, the union for Teaching and Research Assistants, and it’s time for the University of Toronto to do the same.

BABEL will hold its biennial conference at the University of Toronto in October 2015. We originally chose to do so partly on account of the University’s tradition of excellence in medieval studies, book history, and humanities scholarship at large. This vibrant intellectual community is constituted of teachers and students, learning alongside one another at many levels. Without fair compensation and a living wage, this vibrant community will be vitiated. The BABEL Working Group invites ideas from members and those in the U of T community for how we might support graduate student labor during October’s conference, through teaching, art, or direct action.


 You can add your name by e-mailing 


  • Angela Bennett Segler, New York University, GSOC-UAW member
  • Julie Orlemanksi, University of Chicago
  • Jeffrey Cohen, George Washington University
  • Chris Piuma, University of Toronto
  • Jonathan Hsy, George Washington University; proud former member of GET-UP/AFT (University of Pennsylvania)
  • Karl Steel, Brooklyn College and the Graduate Center, CUNY
  • Maggie M. WIlliams, William Paterson University, AFT Local 1796
  • Asa Mittman, member of California Faculty Association, Chico Chapter, California State University, Chico
  • Lara Farina, West Virginia University
  • Sakina Bryant, Sonoma State University
  • Boyda Johnstone, Fordham University
  • Roberta Magnani, Swansea University, UK
  • Steven Bruso, Fordham University
  • Eileen Joy, punctum books
  • Jessica Lockhart, University of Toronto
  • Rob Wakeman, University of Maryland
  • Masha Raskolnikov, Cornell University
  • Kathryn Vomero Santos, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi
  • Debapriya Sarkar, Hendrix College
  • Brooke Conti, SUNY – Brockport
  • Elizabeth Randell Upton, University of California, Los Angeles
  • Rebekah Sheldon, Indiana University
  • Mike Smith, George Washington University
  • Rick Godden, Tulane University
  • Karen Overbey, Tufts University
  • Myra Seaman, College of Charleston
  • Dorothy Kim, Vassar College
  • Jonathan Forbes, University of California, Santa Barbara
  • Rachel Levinson-Emley, University of California, Santa Barbara, UAW 2865 member
  • Ben Ambler, Arizona State University
  • Dianne Berg, Tufts University
  • Holly Dugan, George Washington University
  • Adeline Koh, Stockton University
  • Paul Megna, University of California, Santa Barbara
  • Travis Neel, The Ohio State University
  • Sally Livingston, Ohio Wesleyan University
  • Lawrence Warner, Kings College London
  • Arthur Russell, Arizona State University
  • Jim Knowles, North Carolina State University
  • Matthew Davis, North Carolina State University
  • Kathy Cawsey, Dalhousie University
  • Dan Kline, University of Alaska Anchorage
  • Heidi Støa, Indiana University
  • Ben Tilghman, Lawrence University
  • Jennifer Borland, Oklahoma State University
  • Maura Coughlin, Bryant University
  • Lisa H. Cooper, University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Mary Kate Hurley, Ohio University
  • Brandon Hawk, University of Tennessee
  • Holly Crocker, University of South Carolina
  • A.L. McMichael, The Graduate Center, CUNY
  • David Oswald, University of Victoria
  • Alberto Garcia-Raboso, University of Toronto, CUPE Units 1 & 5 member
  • Sandra Danilovic, University of Toronto
  • Susie Nakley St. Joseph’s College
  • Andrew Culp, Whitman College
  • Christopher Lakey, Johns Hopkins University
  • Jen Boyle, Associate Professor of English and New Media, Coastal Carolina University, founding member of UAW 2865, UC Irvine
  • Christina M. Fitzgerald, University of Toledo, UT-AAUP union member
  • Lenora Hanson, Jacob K Javits Fellow, University of Wisconsin Madison, Teaching Assistants’ Association AFT local 3220
  • S.C. Kaplan, University of California, Santa Barbara
  • Christopher Holmes, SUNY Maritime College (University of Toronto ’94)
  • Steven Swarbrick, Brown University
  • Andrew Griffin, University of California, Santa Barbara
  • Anna Klosowska, Miami University Ohio
  • Adam Miyashiro, Stockton University, Secretary Stockton Federation of Teachers Local 2275
  • James Gregory, Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis
  • Andrew Eichel, University of Tennessee, Knoxville
  • Graham Harman, American University in Cairo
  • Joyce T. Lionarons, Ursinus College
  • Martha Easton, Seton Hall University
  • Sigi Jottkandt, Open Humanities Press
  • David Ottina, Open Humanities Press
  • Anna Kornbluh, University of Illinois, Chicago
  • Kim Klimek, Metropolitan State University of Denver
  • Aranye Fradenburg, University of California, Santa Barbara New Center for Psychoanalysis, Los Angeles
  • Rebecca Davis, University of California, Irvine
  • Briony Neilson, University of Sydney
  • Jake Walsh Morrissey, Trent University
  • Robyn Cadwallader, Flinders University, South Australia
  • Kristi J. Castleberry, University of Rochester
  • Sarah McKibben, University of Notre Dame
  • Michael O’Rourke, ISSH, Skopje, Macedonia
  • Corey Sparks, California State University, Chico
  • Christian Hite, UA Local 761
  • Katherine A. Snider, University of Washington, Seattle
  • Vincent W.J. van Gerven Oei, executive director, The Department of Eagles, Tirana, Albania
  • Paul Langeslag, University of Göttingen
  • Martin Law, Indiana University
  • Ben Davies, University of Portsmouth, UK
  • Maria Parsons, Institute of Art, Design and Technology, Dun Laoghaire, Ireland
  • Zach Rivers, New York University
  • George Edmondson, Dartmouth College
  • Nicole Slipp, Queen’s University
  • Kathleen E. Kennedy- Penn State-Brandywine
  • Katherine Blake, Indiana University
  • Robin Norris, Carleton University (and Toronto alumna)
  • Bidushy Rahman, University of Victoria
  • Mark Bruce, Bethel University
  • Katherine H. Terrell, Hamilton College
  • Michael Sarabia, University of Iowa
  • Jennifer L Jordan, State University of New York, Stony Brook
  • Julianne Bruce, Bethel University
  • Thomas H. Blake, University of Iowa
  • Ashley Ott, Saint Louis University
  • Wiktor Ostasz, University of Oxford

for reference

Open Letter to the University of Toronto

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