Andrew Robinson’s Story
Physics, Carleton University
I’ve worked as a contract faculty member for 4 years. I currently teach Introductory Physics. I love my job because I love watching students make the connections. I’ll never forget when a student found an error in the Physics in several YouTube videos and we published a paper on it. I’m extremely proud of the time I won two teaching awards in a space of three years.
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 review student progress more carefully. It would also mean I would be able to develop new teaching methods. On a more personal level, I would have the opportunity to take a proper vacation with my family.
Each week, I travel 20 kms to get to work and do 5 hours of additional unpaid work to support my students. In return, I have some medical benefits. This is on top of <$10,000 in student debt I owe after studying at to become an expert in Surface Physics and Physics Education. My current income is $34,000 per year. I have a PhD and 25 years of research and teaching experience. I currently have no job security, which makes it hard to plan ahead, or take time off to go on vacation.
Overall, I want to tell you that we are completely disenfranchised from the University. We do not know in advance whether we have employment later in the year. Right now (end of Feb) I do not know if the two summer courses (May – Aug) I teach are being held. I also have to teach continuously without a break. I try and take a week at Christmas, but the University is now scheduling my final exams much closer to Christmas, so the marking is intruding on my Christmas break. I have no possibilities for professional advancement, and the University claims that giving me a permanent job is “against the University strategic direction”.
I feel that the University literally does not care at all about its contract instructors. We are completely disposable. The University HR people are the worst I have ever encountered in any organisation which I have worked for.