June 12, 2013: Save UWindsor’s Centre for Studies in Social Justice

Click image for more on OPIRG Windsor
Click image for more on OPIRG Windsor

Listen to entire program here:

The sounds of justice: a lively community rally meant to keep the CSSJ open occurred June 3rd. Featuring Fran Cachon, Bonnie Drago, Dr Tanya Basok, Dr. Jeff Noonan, Kenneth McLeod and others. You can hear it here:

Windsor activists met June 3rd to plan around keeping open the Centre for Studies in Social Justice
Windsor activists met June 8th to plan around keeping open the Centre for Studies in Social Justice

By Paul Chislett:

On Monday June 3 a fine and spirited assembly of community activists on and off campus came together to shout support for the Centre for Studies in Social Justice (CSSJ). If there was a theme it was that at a time when so many human needs are unmet in Windsor/Essex the centre should be strengthened not closed. The university as personified by president Dr Alan Wildeman has embarked on the typical neo-liberal path of a corporatized university. Witness the recent deal between the university and maple leaf Sports and Entertainment. (http://www.uwindsor.ca/dailynews/2013-05-29/strategic-partnership)

The university, eager to show it is all for social justice, says it is committed to social justice because it is investing $30 million into the new School of Social Work which is moving into a renovated Windsor Star building. Also, absent the CSSJ, social justice research projects will be funded by applying to a tribunal.

Just about any thinking person knows that social work and social justice are two very different things. Certainly social work students are in the inner city housing projects and certainly they are useful there, but social work is all about managing the status quo not empowering disenfranchised citizens so they can help transform society into a more just and equitable place. And requiring some sort of competition for funding? Its clear critiques of existing power structures will get short shrift from this university administration.

Also it should be understood that the Centre for Studies in Social Justice was designed as a research centre. It wasn’t meant to connect to the community directly nor was it properly funded to do more than the important work it did do in sponsoring research and producing a highly regarded journal. It seems clear the centre will close as scheduled July 1st.

As a community with dire needs here are some points to consider as we ponder the need to continue a community based centre for social justice whether the university backs it or not:

  • In early June, six more temporary foreign workers were picked up in the area by Canada Border Services Agency.  According to Justicia for Migrant Workers (J4MW) activist Chris Ramsaroop, on June 4th  CBSA (Canadian Boarder Services Agency) arrested six Thai nationals in an immigration raid in Leamington. They were picked up at two different locations. It seems CBSA were acting on an anonymous tip. These workers were being detained in the Windsor jail, and then moved to a detention facility in Toronto. Justicia for Migrant Workers had reports that there were up to three more immigration raids targeting Southeast Asian nationals in the last month. In total J4MW estimated that between 15 and 20 people have been picked up. These immigration raids have been occurring off the radar of most news outlets. The questions loom: Why are raids happening and what are the workers experiencing? The CSSJ has done much research on the plight of agricultural workers and more is needed at a time when the Harper regime is making possible abuses in the temporary foreign workers program?
  • Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) was to be on campus Monday, June 3rd for what was billed as a professional development session to help faculty recognize “youth radicalization” and what to do about it on and off campus. Yes, in a university that doesn’t value a CCSJ it should be no surprise that administrators would see no problem with Canada’s spy agency recruiting faculty on campus and in the community to spy. The speaker was to be Lynn Wallace. She was to speak on “trends, concerns and some of the indicators the Service and its partner agencies (e.g., Canada Border Services, local and provincial law enforcement agencies) are seeing regarding radicalization within the youth population.” She was to lead a discussion on “what to do when we notice youth radicalization, both on campus and within our local community.”
  • The mayor’s recent threats to further contract out  city jobs  as reported in the June 4th issue of the Windsor Star (http://t.co/74IANIWqpN) seems a repeat of 2009 when the Mayor successfully pit the community against itself during the city strike leading to his 2010 re-election campaign. Vilifying public workers is all the rage in the ranks of the austerity elites who seek to further their own careers at public expense. Mayor Francis is quite likely trying to impress all the provincial and federal movers and shakers with his bullying of blue collar unionized city workers as he trumpets the expensive unneeded aquatic centre and selling off downtown land for a buck to build a high school in a congested are around Glengarry and the new tunnel plaza. A centre for social justice should be a hub for creative urban thinking and such things as participatory budgeting that gives citizens a real say on how city funds are spent and how participatory democracy could free us from the whims of developers who only see short term gain for profit, not community building.
  • Local labour leaders are engaging in solidarity building in an effort to rebuild the local working class movement whose struggles were responsible for the rise of the middle class. Working class struggles are social justice struggles.
  • On the environmental front, Dave Turnbull of Oil Change International recently reported on a New York Times article that states “A Canadian electrical power plant, owned by Nova Scotia Power, is chipping away at the three-story-high, block long pile of petroleum coke on Detroit’s waterfront. The company is burning the high-carbon, high-sulfur waste product because it is cheaper than natural gas.” http://priceofoil.org/2013/06/07/detroits-petcoke-pile-helps-a-struggling-coal-plant-stay-in-businessmore-to-come/   While the pet coke pile is on the Detroit side of the river and organizations on both sides are involved in this issue, the contamination of our land, soil and air is a social justice issue of the highest order. Because, as Oil Change International’s Lorne Stockman reported on this program on March 15th (http://windsorshakeup.com/tag/lorne-stockman/), pet coke simply cannot be burned because of it’s high carbon content. Much work needs to be done to educate people that the Tar Sands has a long reach: from the heart of Alberta through pipelines filled with corrosive dilbit to the refineries right here in this area, to petcoke dust and high concentrations of carbon in the atmosphere affecting us all no matter where it’s burned.

The university is simply making an ideological decision to save literally a few bucks simply because it can (Total budget for the CSSJ is around $140,000.00). How do the rationalizations the university makes come close to social justice as a means to a more fair, just and equitable world? They don’t, and the university decision makers, hiding behind their new ridiculous looking emblem, know it as well. They will move on to the next cuts we know are coming…Labour Studies, graduate degrees in social justice, Women’s Studies, Sociology and Anthropology, Philosophy, and so on.

For technocratic decision makers a strictly utilitarian vision of the university with pillars of engineering innovation and a Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment strategic partnership are all that is needed to bring in revenue with no conscience regarding the very real needs of people in the community and a sense that a university must be able to do it all.

For all their boasting about the university being part of the community, the administration is simply using the institution – or the parts of it that matter to them – to advance their own careers and the careers of their future sycophants.

It is always easy to point fingers at austerity minded elites. We must, as a community, come together and form a solidarity coalition in Windsor/Essex where we can study the real conditions of the working class, academia, the economy, and formulate real solutions to present to the broader public. We need to find our own funding for it as we struggle out from under the dead yoke of the austerity crowd.

Click image for more on the CSSJ
Click image for more on the CSSJ

You can help do more!

Thursday, June 13 at 6PM come out to join others to make signs for Friday’s action at the Convocation ceremony Friday afternoon: Windsor Workers’ Action Centre, 328 Pelissier St


Friday, June 14th at 1:45 join in to leaflet and make known the university’s decision to de-fund and CLOSE the Centre for Studies in Social Justice: St Denis Centre on College St

Ken Lewenza Sr., National president of the CAW (Unifor) will be receiving an honourary degree at the convocation which begins at 3PM and will no doubt offer support to those gathered.