Second open letter to members of the York University Department of History

March 27, 2018

Dear members of the York University Department of History,

On March 6, 2018, the department posted a letter explaining its decision to continue running some classes for the duration of the current CUPE 3903 strike ( In response, nearly 150 current and former students of the York Graduate Program in History signed an open letter requesting the immediate suspension of all classes, in the interest of safety, academic integrity, and social and labour justice ( This letter was delivered on March 12, immediately prior to a meeting of the Liberal Arts & Professional Studies (LAPS) Faculty Council, in the hopes that the department would reconsider its decision.

However, department Chair Dr. Thabit Abdullah argued in this meeting against any such suspension. It was reported by undergraduates and CUPE 3903 members in attendance that Dr. Abdullah suggested safety concerns can be exaggerated, and warned that the suspension of classes could constitute “tyranny” against individual professors. Fortunately, the Faculty Council voted to recommend that the University Senate suspend all classes immediately. This non-binding recommendation has had little effect, as classes continue across the University.

The Department of History has not yet publicly addressed the issues raised in the March 12 open letter, and has not responded to the alumni who signed. Dr. Abdullah did post a response to a closed History listserv, and while this clarified the process that led to the departmental decision, it did not directly address signatories’ concerns. The decision to allow some classes to continue is not a neutral stance; it counteracts the request of the signatories, and tacitly supports the bargaining goals of the York administration.

On March 19, Dr. Abdullah and several other department faculty members met with four graduate representatives. The faculty clarified that the department’s decision was based on respect for individual professors’ autonomy, and an inability to justify suspension in terms of academic integrity to the Dean of LAPS. Dr. Abdullah also suggested that there is a lack of consensus on the matter among History faculty, but this contradicts the departmental statement of March 6, which reads: “A consensus was reached that in light of the Senate Executive’s determination not to suspend courses university-wide, the decision to suspend or continue teaching, according to York University Senate Policy, has fallen to individual fulltime [sic] faculty members.” As far as we are aware, a vote on the matter within the context of a Departmental Council meeting has not yet taken place.

There was also an indication that some faculty are unsure of what is at stake in this strike, or what CUPE 3903 is bargaining for. Anyone who is unclear can visit to view a summary of the union’s positions. The union has been fully transparent throughout the bargaining process, and more detailed bargaining reports are available at Faculty are also invited to the pickets to speak directly with graduate students and contract faculty colleagues.

In the past weeks, picket lines have seen physical altercations, at least one hit-and-run, and numerous close calls. The University has hired a private security company, independent of York Security Services, to continuously film picketers. These guards, however, do not assist in violent or potentially violent situations, and have refused to provide video footage of various incidents. In 2015, picketers—particularly women—faced similar violence and threats, and in 2006, accounting professor John Stammers was killed while picketing at Centennial College. Picketers’ concerns for safety are obviously well-founded, have historical precedent, and are not taken seriously by York University. The administration seems content to let the safety situation degrade further, pitting undergraduate students anxious to attend classes against their graduate and contract instructors. As we approach the April exam period, it is imperative that the number of vehicles crossing picket lines be reduced to an absolute minimum. The consequences of not cancelling classes could clearly be fatal.

Aside from the safety problem of inviting students to cross picket lines, this decision also threatens the academic integrity of individual courses. Students who choose not to cross will be unfairly penalized; they will not receive the same quality of instruction as their peers who do attend class, even with remediation measures in place. Failure to suspend classes creates a divided and chaotic learning environment, which will endure after the strike has ended. Seminars rely on student participation and collaboration, and suffer when even a minority of students are consistently absent.

We, the undersigned, again call on all members of the Department of History to heed the message of the March 12 open letter, and reconsider their positions if necessary. We ask that:

  1. individual faculty members who have not yet suspended classes do so immediately, citing the degradation of academic integrity;
  2. a Departmental Council meeting be held as soon as possible, with as much participation as possible, to vote on the question of suspending all classes in History for the duration of the strike;
  3. Dr. Thabit Abdullah, in his capacity as a University Senator, work toward and vote for a blanket suspension of all classes, university-wide, for the duration of the strike.


  • Aaron Armstrong, BA (Hons); MA History; MA English/Film Studies; PhD I York University; CUPE 3903 Member
  • Aaron Miedema, PhD (ABD) York University, MA Royal Military College of Canada, BA Carleton University, BFA York University.
  • Abril Liberatori, PhD York University
  • Adrian Gamble, PhD (ABD) York University
  • Aitana Guia, PhD York University, Assistant Professor, California State University, Fullerton
  • Alban Bargain, PhD, York University, contract faculty at Keele campus and Glendon College
  • Alex Gagne, BA Brock University, MA Brock University, PhD Year 1 York University
  • Allison Norman, PhD University of Toronto; Adjunct Professor Trent University
  • Amanda Crocker, BA (Hons), University of Waterloo; MA, Queen’s University; PhD (ABD) York University; Managing Editor, Between the Lines
  • Andrea Eidinger, PhD University of Victoria; Editor, Unwritten Histories; Sessional instructor, University of British Columbia
  • Andrew Watson, PhD, York; Assistant Professor (University of Saskatchewan)
  • Anna Jarvis, PhD Student, York University
  • Anne Toews, PhD (ABD) York University; Instructor, Langara College
  • Ashlee Barwell (HBA, MA, PhD Candidate, York University)
  • Avram Heisler, BA (Spec. Honours), MA, PhD (ABD), York University; Current CUPE 3903 Steward, Department of History
  • Barry Torch, BA, Wilfrid Laurier University; MA, PhD (ABD), York University; CUPE 3903
  • Ben Lander, PhD (History, York University), Professor, Dawson College
  • Brad Meredith, PhD ABD (York University, History), MA (Dalhousie University, History), BA (Dalhousie University, Major in History)
  • Brigitte Le Normand, PhD (University of California, Los Angeles), Faculty,  University of British Columbia Okanagan
  • Brooke Sales-Lee, BA, University of California at Berkeley; MA, York University
  • Bruce Douville, BMus (Hons), B.Ed., University of Western Ontario; MA, Queen’s University; PhD, York University; part-time faculty member in Canadian History at Algoma University
  • Bruno R. Véras,  PhD (ABD), York University, CUPE 3903
  • Carly Naismith, BA (Hons), University of Guelph; MA, University of Western Ontario; PhD (ABD) York University; CUPE 3903
  • Carly Simpson, BA, MA, University of Western Ontario; PhD (ABD), York University; Partial Load Instructor, Conestoga College
  • Chelsea Bauer, CUPE 3903 Unit 1 Bargaining Team
  • Christine Grandy, PhD (York University, History), British Academy Mid-Career Fellow and Senior Lecturer in Twentieth Century British History, University of Lincoln (UK).
  • Christine McLaughlin, PhD (ABD), History, York University; Executive Director, UOIT Faculty Association
  • Christine Zappella, PhD Candidate, The University of Chicago
  • Chris Vogel, BA (Spec. Hons), MA, PhD Candidate; York University; CUPE 3903 Member
  • Cristiana Conti, MA, PhD (ABD), York University
  • Dagomar Degroot, PhD, York University; Assistant Professor, Georgetown University
  • Dan Horner, PhD York, Assistant Professor, Ryerson University
  • Dave Hazzan, BA University of Victoria, MA Athabasca University, PhD Year 1 York University, CUPE 3903
  • David Dolff, (PhD, History, University of Alberta) Sessional Instructor, University of Victoria
  • David Molenhuis, BA (Hons.) University of Western Ontario; MA, York University
  • Della Roussin, BA Hon. MA – UBC, PhD Candidate ABD -York University
  • Dr. Jonathan Swainger, PhD., (History, Western University), University of Northern British Columbia
  • Edward Dunsworth, PhD (ABD), History, University of Toronto
  • Émilie Pigeon, PhD; Lab Coordinator, Métis Family and Community Research Lab, Institute of Canadian and Aboriginal Studies University of Ottawa; APTPUO
  • Enrico Moretto, BA (Hons), University of Toronto; MA, PhD student, York University.
  • Erica McCloskey, PhD (ABD), York University
  • Eric Strikwerda, PhD (History, York University) Faculty Athabasca University
  • Erin Dolmage, BA, MA University of British Columbia; PhD (ABD), York University; Professor Seneca College, OPSEU 560
  • Francesca D’Amico-Cuthbert, PhD (ABD), York University; Filmmaker
  • Frances Reilly, PhD (University of Saskatchewan, History)
  • Geoff Read, PhD (York University), Associate Professor of History, Huron University College
  • Gilberto Fernandes, PhD, York University; Postdoctoral Visitor, Robarts Centre for Canadian Studies; Course Director (YUFA), HIST4530, Department of History, York University
  • Gillian Poulter, BSc, BEd, MA, PhD (York University), Department of History and Classics, Acadia University
  • Graeme Melcher, BAH (Queen’s University), MA (York University), JD (Dalhousie)
  • Haley Gienow-McConnell, PhD ABD, York University
  • Ian Mosby, PhD, York University
  • Jarett Henderson, PhD (York University), Associate Professor, History, Mount Royal University
  • Jason Chartrand, BA (Hons), King’s University College at Western University; MA, PhD Student, York University; Unit One, CUPE 3903
  • Jason Reid, BA (Hons), Carleton University; MA, PhD, York University; contract faculty at Ryerson University
  • Jen Hassum, PhD (ABD), History, York University
  • Jennifer Susan Marotta, BA (Spec. Hons.), University of Guelph; MA, PhD, Queen’s University; Professor of Humanities, Humber College
  • Jessica DeWitt, PhD Candidate, History, University of Saskatchewan
  • Jessica Stites Mor, PhD (Yale); Associate Professor of History, The University of British Columbia
  • Jim Clifford, PhD, York University; Associate Professor, University of Saskatchewan
  • Joanna L. Pearce, PhD (ABD), York University
  • Jody Hodgins, BA (Hons), MA, University of Guelph; PGCE, Swansea Metropolitan University; PhD I York University, CUPE 3903
  • Joseph Tohill, PhD, York University; Contract Faculty at York University and Ryerson University
  • Julia Pyryeskina, BA (York University, Political Science), MA student (York University, History), YUSA.
  • Kate Barker, BA (Hons), Queen’s University; BAA, Ryerson University; MA, PhD (ABD), York University; part-time instructor, Ryerson School of Journalism; CUPE 3904
  • Kathryn Magee Labelle, PhD; Associate Professor University of Saskatchewan
  • Kesia Kvill, PhD Candidate, University of Guelph; CUPE 3913
  • Kevin Burris, BA (Hons), Simon Fraser University; MA, PhD (ABD), York University; CUPE 3903
  • Kris Radford, BA, MA, PhD (York)
  • Kristin Burnett, PhD, Lakehead University, Indigenous Learning Dept (former graduate student at York University)
  • Kristine Alexander, PhD York University, Canada Research Chair & Assistant Professor of History, University of Lethbridge
  • Kyle Prochnow, PhD (ABD), York University, CUPE 3903
  • Luke Hagemann, PhD Student, Emory University
  • Lynda Daneliuk, BA (English, Folklore), MA (Folklore) Memorial University of Newfoundland; PhD (ABD), Folklore, Memorial University of Newfoundland; Instructor, Communication and New Media Studies, English and Modern Languages, Thompson Rivers University
  • Lynn MacKay, PhD (History) York University, Professor, Brandon University
  • Madeleine Chartrand, BA University of Manitoba; MA, Phd York University
  • Madeline Knickerbocker, History PhD Candidate and First Nations Studies Lecturer, Simon Fraser University, TSSU and SFUFA
  • Marlee Couling, BA Hon., Brandon University; MA, PhD (ABD), York University, CUPE 3903
  • Maryann Buri, BA (Hons), Brandon University; MA, PhD (ABD) York University; CUPE 3903
  • Mary Franks, BA (History) University of California Santa Cruz, MA (Classics) University of Kansas, PhD (ABD, History) York University
  • Mathieu Brûlé, PhD (ABD), York University, Negotiator, Public Service Alliance of Canada; Unifor 2025
  • Matthew Koch, Continuing Sessional Lecturer, Departments of History and Hispanic Studies, University of Victoria
  • Matthew Poggi, PhD (ABD), York University.
  • Matthew Robertshaw, BA Hon., MA University of Guelph; PhD student, York University.
  • Michael Ainsworth, PhD (ABD), MA, BEd, York University; BA, Wilfrid Laurier University
  • Michael Akladios, PhD (ABD), York University.
  • Michael Laurentius, PhD Candidate, Science and Technology Studies, York University.
  • Michelle Desveaux, PhD Candidate, History, University of Saskatchewan
  • Michelle Fu, PhD Student, University of Toronto; MA, York University
  • Natasha Henry, PhD student, York University
  • Noa Nahmias, PhD (ABD), York University
  • Olya Murphy, PhD (ABD), York University
  • Pamela Tudge, BA, University of Victoria; MA, University of British Columbia; PhD (ABD) Concordia; Lecturer, Concordia
  • Pascal Maeder (PhD, History, York University), Head of Knowledge Transfer,  Swiss National Centre of Competence in Research LIVES – Overcoming vulnerability: Life course perspectives (NCCR LIVES)
  • Patrice Allen, PHD student, York University, CUPE 3903
  • Patricia Kmiec, PhD, University of Toronto; Part-time Professor, University of Ottawa
  • Richard Aronson, CPA, CMA, B.Comm.Concordia University; BA, MA, PhD (ABD) York University
  • Robin Ganev, PhD (History, York University), Assistant Professor, University of Regina
  • Ronald Morris, PhD candidate, York University
  • Ryan Targa, PhD (ABD), Course Director, York University
  • Sanchia deSouza, PhD Candidate, University of Toronto
  • Sarah Alford, PhD (ABD), Art History and Art Conservation, Queen’s University
  • Sara Howdle, PhD Candidate, York University; Coordinator of the Indigenous Women and Youth Resilience Project, Faculty of Native Studies, University of Alberta.
  • Scott de Groot, PhD (Queen’s University, History), Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Winnipeg
  • Serge Miville, (Ph.D. York University), professeur adjoint, Université Laurentienne. Chaire de recherche en histoire de l’Ontario français
  • Shannon Stettner, PhD York University, Contract Faculty, University of Waterloo
  • Sheila Gibbons, BA (Political Studies), BA Adv Hons (History), MA (History), York University
  • Sheila McManus (PhD 2001, History, York), Professor of History, University of Lethbridge
  • Simon Vickers, PhD Candidate (ABD) University of Toronto
  • Steve Penfold, (PhD, History, York University), Associate Professor, History, University of Toronto
  • Tarah Brookfield PhD (York University, History), Associate Professor Wilfrid Laurier University
  • Tom Hooper, PhD, York University; CSSP, History Department, York University.
  • Tommaso Leoni, PhD (ABD), York University
  • Tom Peace, PhD (York), Assistant Professor, Huron University College
  • Travis Hay, PhD (ABD) York University; Adjunct Professor Lakehead University
  • Valentina Capurri, PhD (History, York University)
  • Valerie Deacon, PhD (History, York University), Visiting Clinical Assistant Professor NYU-Shanghai
  • Vanessa S. Oliveira, PhD (York University), Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Toronto; Course Instructor at the University of Toronto Scarborough
  • Victoria Jackson, PhD (ABD), York University
  • Victor Malins BA, MA, PhD Candidate; York University
  • Will Baker, PhD (ABD), York, former Steward, CUPE, Local 3903, Units 1 & 3, History
  • Zachary Consitt, BA (Spec. Hons), BEd, MA, PhD Candidate; York University; CUPE 3903 Member


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