[A version of this post was published in the December-January edition of the MUFA Newsletter]
On December 20-21, I went to Lakehead University in Thunder Bay as representative of MUFA to participate in a protest against the Lakehead administration’s decision to put faculty and staff on a four-day furlough to save money. The protest was very well attended, with representatives from across Canada participating. On the morning of Dec. 21, a group of approximate 300 people marched 1.5 kilometres from Lakehead University Faculty Association’s (LUFA) off-campus headquarters to the main university building to find locked doors. Rousing speeches were delivered by CAUT members, as well as members of other labour organisations about the regressive nature of furlough as a solution to Lakehead’s operating budget problems. In a moment of ironic levity, Santa Claus even made an appearance, delivering stockings emblazoned with the names of the senior Lakehead administration and filled with coal. While the mood was quite positive, the resolve of the protesters was firm – everyone was united in condemning the actions of the Lakehead administration and the terrible precedent it would set if the furlough survived the appeal process. In his speech, James Turk, president of CAUT, highlighted the negative precedent set by the Lakehead administration’s decision to impose furlough and break the contract with faculty without negotiating with or consulting LUFA. The protest garnered significant local media coverage, as well as a widely read blog post by globecampus.com writer, Joey Coleman.