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CAUT Bulletin Archives

December 2000

International Coalition Builds Strong Ties

Tom Booth
In early November when dele-gates to the 5th Tri-National Conference for the Defense of Public Education were informed of the recent faculty association strike at Memorial University of Newfoundland support was instantaneous and well articulated.

In Zacatecas, Mexico on Nov. 5, the 5th conference declares solidarity with striking professors at Memorial. On Nov. 8, the Mexican section of the Tri-National Coalition for the Defense of Public Education supports striking MUNFA members. The National Syndicate of Education Workers and the National Coalition of Education Workers send strong messages to St. John's in support of MUNFA. Further support comes from the National Coalition of University and Teachers Syndicate joined by nine affiliated associations. The Alliance of Health Workers and Public Servants, with nine signatory associations, pledges its total solidarity for the union.

The tri-national coalition has hosted biennial conferences in Mexico, Canada and the United States since 1993. It includes primary and secondary school teachers and professors and was established to promote cooperation between teaching organizations committed to improving public education.

Sharing information on impacts of trade agreements (initially NAFTA), on the right to public education and the rights of teachers and professors was also targeted. A network of researchers, exchanging data and participating in joint projects, was subsequently developed. Arising from these activities, tri-national actions for the defense of public education have been proposed and achieved.

Among actions proposed during the Mexico conference was reaffirmation of "the right to know and the right to learn," that access to education fosters citizenship and societal success, that the struggle to maintain viable and effective publicly funded schools and institutions of higher learning must continue, and that "students are not consumers, nor parents clients, nor education a commodity."

Delegates to the conference agreed to share information on public education, including research results. Links to language in collective agreements and exchange of information on news and events are now specifically identified as primary mutual interests. April 20, 2000 will be a Day of Public Action for Public Education in the Americas.

CAUT presented panels on higher education in Canada, university funding, intellectual property at Canadian universities, corporate control of education, and on-line education. Each panel was followed by commentary from the audience. These lively discussions touched on issues of funding, casualization, tenure, academic freedom, corporate influence in teaching and research, ownership of creative works and distance education. Issues of higher education in Canada, i.e., funding, privatization, corporate impacts, distance and on-line education, casualization, intellectual property, and trade law certainly resonate throughout the tri-national coalition. It is safe to say that we in Canadian universities have much to learn, and much to gain, particularly from Mexican partners. Forces of globalization have affected universities in the southern section of the coalition over a longer period than in the north and their impacts have, to date, been much more severe.

On the issues of distance education and devaluation of the segments of the professoriate, the committed support shown to striking MUNFA members by our Mexican colleagues gives testament to well-developed strategies required to successfully deal with some of the impacts of globalization on higher education.

We are fortunate that from inception founders of the coalition understood the possible effects of NAFTA on our institutions and profession. Their foresight brought international trade and higher education into juxtaposition in the hemispheric context. We of CAUT have much in common with the coalition and we should be active members in the future. Some of the benefits of participation and membership have already been experienced by MUNFA.