When it looked like job action was likely,

a sister president at another institution warned me against using humour in any communications for the duration. I have honoured this, as they say, more in the breech. And my colleague was correct: I should have held my tongue, run out into the woods at midnight and whispered my bon mots to the stars if I had to. Latest example: some enterprising students hung their own flag on an official university flagpole:


This is, of course, marvellous, and I immediately tweeted the image. From the response, you would have thought someone had burnt the university flag rather than merely shared the pole. Of course feelings are running high. So let me say here, categorically, that I was not chortling as I tweeted; I was deadly serious.

This action on the part of the apparently ninja-quick students is a central symbol of the struggle to wrest some control back and save the academic mission of our university from the corrosive managerialism that impedes the teaching and research functions of our institution. That little hand-lettered pillow-case of a flag represents an alternate voice among the traditional symbols of power. It puts students into a picture from which they were notably absent. It stands for the multiplicity of voices that ideally make up any vibrant community, and certainly a healthy university community. It represents the cheekiness and daring of the next generation, and bravo to them. It is a visible political action, planned and executed with grace rather than confrontation. It dares to stand up among the solid, recognized symbols of government and nation and ¬†shout, “we’re here too!”

Yes I tweeted it and I would retweet it. Unsmilingly of course.

Comrade colleagues

Yes we are professors, researchers and librarians. And yes we are on strike. Do you have a problem with that?

Vignette: The picket captain who jammed the official picket-captain orange toque on top of his Tilley hat.
Vignette: The senior colleague with the bad leg who picketed from his lawn chair.
Vignette: The senior colleague with gout, gamely limping along the line.
Vignette: The group of students who showed up with protesting-snowman cookies.

Okay, so we’re not quite the Teamsters or the Longshoremen, but we have our own charm, no?