Andrew Bretz’s Story
Shakespeare’s Comedies and Romances, Elizabethan Literature, Shakespeare and Film, and Sixteenth Century Literature, University of Guelph and Wilfrid Laurier University
I’ve worked as a contract faculty member for 7 years. I currently teach Shakespeare’s Comedies and Romances, Elizabethan Literature, Shakespeare and Film, and Sixteenth Century Literature. I love my job because I get to talk about Shakespeare all day long! What isn’t to love about that? I’ll never forget when my students nominated me for the Central Students Association Teaching Excellence Award. I’m extremely proud of the time I took the work I did to create lectures on the students choice of text – Midsummer Night’s Dream – and turned it into an upcoming edition of the play.
If contract professors became full-time faculty, we could offer so much more to universities, students and Canadian research. As a full-time faculty member, I would be able to actually have office hours in a place other than the hallway or the stairwell. It would also mean I could access funding to go to conferences and do research. On a more personal level, I would have the opportunity to afford the time and money to have a child.
Each week, I travel 180-400 kms to get to work and do 30 hours of additional unpaid work to support my students. In return, I have no benefits. This is on top of $30,000-$40,000 in student debt I owe after studying at the Universities of Guelph and Calgary to become an expert in early modern literature and drama. My current income is laughably small. I currently have little to no job security, which makes it hard to plan from semester to semester, or even budget.
Overall, I want to tell you that the university as an institution began as private relationships between individual tutors and students. Over time, the instructors gave power over to administrators to organize when rooms would be available and how to guide the university to fulfill its goals. Now, those administrators are the only ones who benefit from this asymmetrical and unjust system. The private relationship has been eroded to the point of invisibility.
On top of this, a corporate model of education tacitly and/or explicitly encourages instructors to pass students along, because if we don’t, we the educators won’t get a strong evaluation and thus won’t get hired again. In other words, we are taking failure off the table. Without failure, education is meaningless. Education is the lifelong realization that you are not good enough as you are. You must always strive to try harder, to do better, to be better.
Let’s do better. We, as a society, can do better.