Ruth Bradley-St-Cyr’s Experience

Posted June 3rd, 2015 By OCUFA

First-year Essay Writing, University of Ottawa

I’ve worked as a contract faculty member for several years. I currently teach Canadian publishing history. I love my job because I help students understand that writing an academic essay is not meant to be a form of torture. I’ll never forget when my TA Amanda and I had our two sections compete for house points. House of Montague always wins! I’m extremely proud of the time I co-authored A Writer’s Workshop: Crafting Sentences, Building Paragraphs, Designing Essays.

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 spend more time preparing courses, especially those with better online components. It would also mean that my research would become a regular part of my work life rather than a personal expense. On a more personal level, I could balance my life, not always scramble for the next editing job, teaching contract, or grant application.

Each week, I travel 50 kms to get to work and do many hours of additional unpaid work to support my students. In return, I have no benefits. This is on top of $20,001-$30,000 in student debt I owe. My current income is wildly fluctuating and unstable; it is difficult to see how we will pay off the debt before retirement, so we can’t save for retirement. I currently have zero job security, which makes it hard to plan anything, including visiting my daughters.

Overall, I want to tell you that putting in four to seven years pursuing a PhD and then ending up with less job security than working at Tim Hortons is completely unacceptable. It doesn’t work for me and it doesn’t work for undergraduate students, most of whom are taught by people like me.

Laura Hall’s Story

Posted June 3rd, 2015 By OCUFA

Sustainable community based Indigenous planning, York University

I’ve worked as a contract faculty member for years. I currently teach sustainable community based Indigenous planning. I love my job because my students and I push knowledge in new and exciting ways. I’ll never forget when my students created their own emergent learning plan, teaching each other in a circle. I’m extremely proud of the time I was able to situate our classroom outside even in the Winter, allowing us to engage directly with environmental and embodied learning practices.

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 work to create community based, emergent learning practices and to deepen our research profiles in areas of new scholarship. It would also mean that I could finally lead innovative research addressing the gaps in our service and socio-political needs.

Each week, I travel many kms to get to work and do hours of additional unpaid work to support my students. In return, I have no benefits. This is on top of $20,001-$30,000 in student debt I owe after studying at to become an expert in Indigenous studies. My current income is too little and too insecure. I currently have minimal job security, which makes it hard to maintain food and housing security.

Overall, I want to tell you that The biggest issues that I and perhaps others face, relate to the capacity that we have to collectively impact University policy, student freedom (both creative and economic), academic freedom and responsibility, and research priorities and patterns. We should be pushing forward in innovative ways, doing the kinds of work that we are trained to do.

Marie Polgar-Matthews’ Story

Posted March 23rd, 2015 By OCUFA

I’ve worked as a contract faculty member for 2.5 years. I currently teach Qualitative Methods at UOIT in Oshawa. I love my job because I can impact the lives of young students.  I love to inspire students to reach their full potential within their academic careers. I’ll never forget when I received a thank you letter from a student who went on to graduate studies. I’m extremely proud of the time I helped students connect qualitative action research to student issues.

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 a stronger reference for my students who want to me to write them letters of reference for graduate programs. It would also mean I could plan a future, beyond 17 weeks. On a more personal level, I would be able to buy a house.

Each week, I travel 102 kms to get to work and do 2-3 hours of additional unpaid work to support my students. In return, I have no benefits. This is on top of $30,001-$40,000 in student debt I owe after studying criminology at UOIT. My current income is unreliable and lacks stability. I currently have very little job security, which makes it hard to plan beyond 17 weeks of my life at a time.

Overall, I want to tell you that the University tells us they can pay us so little ($7000.00 for a course) and they don’t have to offer us stability because our jobs are disposable. I have to apply for my job every 17 weeks, because they they say they only need me to fill an immediate need. Basically, I am told my my employer that my employment covers other employees who are off on maternity leave. However, I challenge this explanation! When every term at least 1/3 of all the courses at UOIT are taught by Sessional Lecturers. I highly doubt we are being hired to cover employees off on maternity leave. I offer that we are being hired because they only have to pay us $7000.00 per course and they can provide us with no stability or benefits.

Denise Davis-Gains’ Experience

Posted March 23rd, 2015 By OCUFA

I’ve worked as a contract faculty member for 16 years. I currently teach physical fitness, group exercise and yoga. I love my job because it is an honour to educate and inspire students.  I love the ah-ha moments and the feedback in journals about the learning process and the material presented. I’ll never forget when a student shared about using a technique that she learned in class to help her get a good nights sleep.  A chronic insomniac used a yoga relaxation tool to learn to sleep better. I’m extremely proud of the time I discovered the connection between yoga nidra and parkinson’s disease.

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 have more interaction with students and be able to provide hands on tools for managing stress and anxiety. It would also mean doing research in the area of yoga and yoga nidra thereby expanding the body of knowledge in this ancient tradition. On a more personal level, I would be able to support my family without having to work 60-80hours a week in 5 jobs.

Each week, I travel 200-300 kms to get to work and do 12-20 hours of additional unpaid work to support my students. In return, I have no benefits. This is on top of <$10,000 in student debt I owe. My current income is insecure and below the poverty line. I currently have zero job security, which makes it hard to own a home and plan for the future.

Overall, I want to tell you that I love what I do.  I am passionate about the subject matter that I study and teach.  I would like to complete my advanced education and do research but working 5 jobs to support my family (three children and two aging parents – as a single parent) prevents me from having time and money to do so.

Ilona Posner’s Experience

Posted March 16th, 2015 By OCUFA

User Experience Design, U of Toronto, OCADU

My proudest teaching moment:

I teach Computer Science and Design students that, “They are Not the User!” That they cannot see their own designs the same way their users will see them. How to find out what their users actual needs are and how to design towards fulfilling those needs. How to take users and their points of view into account throughout their design process. My proudest moments occur when my students tell me that my course was the most influencial in their academic careers. That they cannot look at designs the same way ever again, without considering different points of view. When they come back to visit and tell me that they are pursuing the field of User Experience Design as a result of the insights they discovered through my class.

My greatest research accomplishment:

Simplifying the abstract and theoretical concepts of my field of Human Computer Interaction into the simple “Keyhole Impact” metaphor and sharing it with my students and in professional keynote presentations for technology design teams. This helps designers see their work using different eyes and results in more user sensitive products that can improve people’s lives.

How I use my knowledge, research skills and teaching ability to improve my community:

By making technology designers and developers more sensitive to users needs, we ensure that the technology they produce will be useful, user centred, user friendly, fun, and enjoyable to use. I volunteer to share this knowledge with design professionals in my community and beyond.

The challenges I face in my work:

Balancing a UX consulting practice, of more than 25 years, with teaching, more than 15 years, and with life outside of work. Short term notification about potential teaching opportunities so I can’t plan beyond the current teaching term. Not knowing if I will have a teaching appointment the following term and what my teaching schedule might be. Continuous changing of players and decision making roles in the various academic institutions that I am affiliated with, which make future planning of my teaching assignments even more difficult.

Nadine Robinson’s Story

Posted March 16th, 2015 By OCUFA

I’ve worked as a contract faculty member for 8 years. I currently teach Accounting, Marketing, Statistics, and Economics. I love my job because it is a gift to be able to watch the light bulb turn on over someone’s head. What could be better than helping to inspire our youth? I’ll never forget when my students sent a petition to the President asking for me to be hired full-time because they felt that I was an excellent instructor. I’m extremely proud of the time I “faced off” with my students in an Internet Marketing project that ended up being featured in the media.

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 have an office and be more available to my students. It would also mean that I would be able to pull some irons out of the fire and I could focus on what I love: teaching, inspiring, researching. On a more personal level, I would have the opportunity to Plan ahead more than 4 months… I would have health benefits for my children and myself, I would be compensated properly for what I am already doing.. teaching and researching.

Each week, I travel 15 kms to get to work and do hours of additional unpaid work to support my students. In return, I have no benefits. This is on top of <$10,000 in student debt I owe. My current income is impossible to nail down year to year, but you can forget about retirement planning. Many years I have found myself eligible for the Working Income Tax Benefit even though I have a doctorate. I currently have very little job security, which makes it hard to plan for the future. Not having a steady income is very stressful. I want to be able to keep my house. My kids don’t want any more change in their lives.

Overall, I want to tell you that we teach because we love it. We are good at what we do, exceptional even, but we are not considered equals at our places of business. We realize that universities run on our backs, we accept it … to a point, but there is still room to make our lives more comfortable, with better pay, benefits, and some semblance of job security. We deserve it. Students will benefit further from our instruction when we aren’t distracted by our next looming mortgage payment… and the additional freelance work we have to pick up to make ends meet.

Susan Sajna’s Experience

Posted March 12th, 2015 By OCUFA

Psychology, Lakehead University

My proudest teaching moment:

1) When, unbeknownst to me students in my class nominated me for LU’s Distinguished Instructor award (twice) and the Contributions to Teaching Award (3 times).

2) When I received an e-mail 10 years later from a student I helped through a rough first term. I had no idea that it was my intervention that made him change his mind about quitting school to go back to his job (mature student). He is now very happily a teacher.

3) When a smaller intercessional class got together for a group photo, enlarged, framed and signed it for me.  In all honesty, #2 touched my heart the most.

My greatest research accomplishment:

Preparing, administering, collating and analyzing the data on a survey for Introduction to Psychology Students on their participation in departmental research. The prepared results were presented to the Senate for Ethical Review. The bonus points for research participation arrangement was saved.

Conducting research is not part of my job description as a Continuing Contract Lecturer. However, keeping on top of daily emails from sciencedaily.com, where the newest research is posted even before it gets published is a feat in and of itself. I incorporate this material into my lectures.

How I use my knowledge, research skills and teaching ability to improve my community:

In addition to informal settings where people ask me questions about psychology, the brain and the like regularly, I was a panelist for Science North’s February Science Café, held in Thunder Bay.

Topic: “Why do people believe in misinformation even after it’s been corrected?”” I greatly enjoyed this opportunity to speak to and with members of the local community, 100 of whom showed up. I am also looking into joining a group of local “like minded thinkers” who I met that night.

The challenges I face in my work:

The challenges, sadly, are much the same as they were 25+ years ago when I first started. The role of contract staff is underappreciated. My 25th anniversary of teaching at LU went by unnoticed. I have had courses I nurtured for 10+ years “assigned” to new faculty without notice or explanation. And I face continuing challenges with spring course offerings, (run by a different department)  never knowing if that third course will run or not until it’s too late to offer an alternative.

Although a lucky few of us at LU now have a guarantee of at least two courses per fall/winter some years that is all the work I get. And the pay is not enough to live on. It’s a very good thing I still LOVE teaching. 

Natalie Pietrzak-Renaud’s Experience

Posted March 11th, 2015 By OCUFA

I’ve worked as a contract faculty member for four years. I currently teach online first year geology course. I love my job because I strongly believe that it is important for people to know their physical world and how it impacts their lives without them even realizing it. I’ll never forget when an arts major combined her creative flare and her new knowledge in geology to generate a unique assignment. I’m extremely proud of the time I get responses from students that say “wow, I never knew”. It is at that moment you know you have achieved the ultimate goal of a university education, to broaden our student’s horizons.

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 spend more time meeting students and add current research discoveries to the course where applicable. It would also mean I would have time to research and publish. I can write papers and build my career as a researcher. On a more personal level, I would have the opportunity to I would have a normal work-life balance. As it is I work seven days a week and after my children go to bed to earn enough to live on.

Each week, I travel 40 kms to get to work and do 30 hours of additional unpaid work to support my students. In return, I have no benefits such as medical, dental, retirement or maternity leave. This is on top of <$10,000 in student debt I owe after studying at Western University to become an expert in Economic geology. My current income is insulting for the expertise I have to share and the amount of dedication I put into my degrees and to my commitment to my teaching. I currently have no job security, which makes it hard to support my family, ensure that I can provide for their future, save anything toward our own retirement.

Overall, I want to tell you that For both my two children I had to work when I was pregnant and when they were born midcourse offering. I took 5 days off after giving birth after each one and then was back at email communication, course development, meeting students as well as working my self-employed geology consulting job. I had to do this in order to retain authorship and the right of first refusal to teach the course I created and survive financially. I still have to apply each term and never know until a month or two in advance if the course will run.  It was extremely difficult to maintain my professional standards with so little sleep and the demands of a new and sick baby. Since I am contract and my husband is a consultant (no secure jobs out there for him either), we could not afford daycare so juggle with splitting parenting and getting family to babysit.  Our first born got sick after 3 months and she has had to be continuously on meds since then until her condition resolves. Her meds are expensive and since my husband, myself and our daughter all have pre-existing conditions, we cannot afford to buy health insurance.It has been four years of working seven days a week, most nights until 11pm in order to complete consulting work and teaching duties to earn a living. Since I did not “remove myself from the workforce to raise a child” I am not eligible for NSERC post-doc funding. My academic career prospects are pretty much dead. Researching and writing papers is a luxury and what I do on my “personal time”. I have no work-life balance and the prospects of not only a full-filling career but of any security for the future is slipping away. I am scared of what will happen to my family if something happens to myself or my husband. What future do we face in retirement of if we cannot work?

Kathy’s Story

Posted March 11th, 2015 By OCUFA

I’ve worked as a contract faculty member for 20 years. I currently teach as many as ten courses a year at up to three different locations. I love my job because it allows me to bring about positive change in the world through my students. I’ll never forget when some of my students met with a wrongfully convicted prisoner after I told her story. I’m extremely proud of the time I received a teaching award.

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 have more time to interact with my students. It would also mean that I would the time to conduct research. On a more personal level, I would have the opportunity to adopt a child from the foster care system.

Rhiannon Don’s Experience

Posted March 10th, 2015 By OCUFA

Academic Writing, Nipissing University

My proudest teaching moment:

This past fall, one of my students said, “You know, I thought this class was going to be really lame, but I’ve actually learned a lot about writing.”

My greatest research accomplishment:

I am currently helping to coordinate an interdisciplinary research project called “Connecting Threads: Interdisciplinarity, Fiber Arts, and Digital Communities” that will look at a digital community of knitters and crocheters who are also academics.

The challenges I face in my work:

I have faced a number of different challenges in my work. Some colleagues make offhand comments about how “nice” it must be to have summers off, or complain about how difficult it is to get contract faculty to sit on committees. I had to plan the timing of my pregnancy in order to make sure that I’d have enough hours to qualify for EI maternity and parental benefits. I have minimal access to professional development funds and no research support from my institution. I teach 4/4, so I often miss out on development and service opportunities because I’m teaching so much–attending my own department meetings means not getting a lunch break on Fridays.

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