Laurier Commons and the Caucus for a Democratic Union

This article is from the WLUFA Advocate April 2016 4.1.

Helen Ramirez (Women and Gender Studies) and Nelson Joannette (History)

In order to update you on the latest developments of the Laurier Commons, we’d like to let you know that the Caucus for a Democratic Union (or CDU) has spring-boarded as a distinct group. The CDU is comprised solely of CAS members but welcomes support from others. Rather than being under the WLUFA banner, the CDU’s objective is to form a distinct union, with the sole mandate of pro-actively advocating on behalf of CAS. The following explains the history of how and why the CDU offshoot of its sister organization, the Laurier Commons, came into being.

It is interesting that the champions of democracy often come from the sectors that are most affected by those in power who speak of democracy but seldom practice it. In the Spring, students, staff and faculty from our Brantford campus gathered, not only to contest the cuts that had resulted in the loss of jobs of our colleagues – employees who have been committed to the values Laurier promotes – but also to contest the loss of courses that would mean dedicated contract faculty would have fewer or no courses this year. This Stop the Cuts initiative opened the conversation about these actions across all campuses and, from these conversations, emerged Laurier Commons.

The firings and cuts to courses taught by contract faculty were just two examples in a larger series that told us that the university had discarded its values and its mission, and had chosen, instead, an economic argument that will continue to destroy the heart of an institution that at one time promoted inclusivity, diversity and transparency. Laurier Commons is a collection of people who gather to support the specific efforts of each other’s work to hold our institution, our departments and our union accountable to the exercise of democratic principles.

Laurier Commons raises questions about how best to protect and defend the values that make a university a living example of a space where democracy is learned and practiced. The group should not be seen as dissident voices but rather defenders of core values. It is a sitting place where so-called “dissidents” can gather for support. This is a space where what we teach is practised.

It is difficult, though, for those who raise hard questions because when requests for change aren’t taken seriously, other means may be required in order to be heard and accorded justice. When conversations move in directions which are critical of others, the intent is not to dismiss the work of individuals in various positions of power but to hold them accountable for not doing what they should do to protect, defend and work for those most vulnerable. The aim is to instil fundamental change in times of great urgency.

For more information about Laurier Commons or the Caucus for a Democratic Union please contact: Helen Ramirez (hramirez@wlu.ca) or Nelson Joannette (njoannette@wlu.ca).

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