I've agreed to house-sit and cat-sit (house-and-cat-sit) for my sister in December. Three whole weeks in Mississauga, with a house all to myself and some insane cats to care for. My sister's going to be in Mexico with her husband and a bunch of their friends and his in-laws. ...I guess that settles the question about whether I'm getting a December metropass. They're paying me, too. That'll take the sting out of the expenses for going to that conference in Wales next month, expenses I may or may not recover because York's a bit nuts about these things.
The fun part (and why my sister is awesome) is that she put it like this: “We thought you might like to have a house to yourself and, you know, have a party.” Not "watch our house and don't break stuff" but "watch our house and do whatever, 'cause we trust you not to burn it down". I love my sister.
My little brother and some friends have agreed to come hang out for a while, making three weeks alone with cats in Mississauga less horrifying. Anyone who wants to make the trek out to Sauga for New Years is more than welcome. :D
In school-news, ( ...I'm watching VMars? )
Also in school news, it's possible that my union will be on strike as of next week. That means no classes, except for off-campus stuff and grad-level Schulich stuff. I'll probably still have classes, because I'm taking a grad-level Schulich course and a class at Ryerson. It's getting a bit ugly: the union thinks it's perfectly reasonable to ask for a wage increase in line with inflation, the employer (York University) released a statement condemning "the extraordinary cost
" of the union's demands. The press release is funny because they've got lots of numbers and statistics thrown around; but when they put in bold type that the wage increases will be 15% of the total operating budget, it's not like grad student funding is currently only 5% of the budget. Because, thanks to all those lefty Marxists running around campus, our union is quite strong and historically has a pretty good deal. I'm also offended that they're referring to sponsoring research as a cost. Isn't that what they're supposed to do
? Fund research and researchers?
The idea of being a graduate student is to research, learn, spend long hours bent over books, be all student-y. The idea of graduate funding is to make it possible for people who want to live this kind of crazy life to live
that life, and not to be forced to work more hours per week than they spend on their studies. But we do
have to work: these wage increases that are being requested (demanded, whatever) are for the jobs that students have to hold in order to make grad school financially possible. Bear in mind, these are wages
that are being fought over, not free handouts. Students do have to work for this money. The idea, though, is that the University wants us to be students first, but only if we have the independent financial means to do so. I don't have those means. I'm taking out yet more debt to go to this conference next month, because if I want a career in academia, I have to start building my CV. It's all out-of-pocket, and I'll be lucky if York reimburses me for even half of my expenses.
I'm not getting rich on my funding, I'm not squirreling away extra money into investments (hell, I've still got a pile of undergrad debt that I'll have to deal with someday); according to the Canadian Council on Social Development
, I - and the majority of my fellow students - are living at or below the poverty line. But I don't have to work three or more days per week to make rent and tuition payments. I'm able to buy groceries. I couldn't possibly afford to live on my own, so I have roommates. If it wasn't for the combination of York money and government money, I would have to be working more, and studying less. Researching less, contributing less to the University's prestige as its students succeed, buggering off to Ottawa to work for the Department of Heritage because playing this academic bullshit game is a lot more wearying (when you have to work retail, too) than playing the Ottawa bullshit game...
It's just unfortunate that the bargaining had to happen in this of all months, when the global economy is melting down. I'm not necessarily in favour of striking (I don't think strikes are useful or warranted if you're talking about such white-collar work as this), but I also don't see how it's reasonable on the University's part to assume that its students want to get second jobs while maintaining their full-time status because the job they're doing for their own school isn't paying enough to live on. *hops down, kicks soapbox to the corner*