OCUFA statement of support for striking TAs and contract faculty at University of Toronto, York

Posted March 4th, 2015 By OCUFA

The Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA), on behalf of its 17,000 members at 28 faculty associations across Ontario, supports the members of CUPE 3902 and 3903 currently on strike at the University of Toronto and York University. We join them in their call for better pay and improved working conditions. We also urge the administrations of U of T and York to reach a fair agreement with the members of 3902 and 3903 immediately for the benefit of students, staff, and faculty.

OCUFA firmly believes that all academic jobs – from TA to contract faculty to tenured professor – should be good jobs. This means fair pay, good benefits, and real job security for everyone who works in our universities.

OCUFA is currently running We Teach Ontario, an initiative that highlights the important work done by contract faculty in the face of difficult working conditions. We invite everyone to visit the website and read the stories of Ontario’s contract faculty. We would also like to extend a special invitation to contract faculty – especially those currently on strike – to share their story with us and be featured in the campaign.

For more information, please contact Graeme Stewart, OCUFA Communications Manager.

Laura Rossi’s Experience

Posted March 4th, 2015 By OCUFA

Biology, Nipissing University

I’ve worked as a contract faculty member for 3 years. I currently teach microbiology, immunology, molecular biology techniques, and various biology labs in the area of cell and molecular science. I love my job because I’m able to use and apply my own education each and every day, and in doing so, spread my own enthusiasm for hands-on science to others. I’ll never forget when I was on the other side of the classroom for the first time. It was a very humbling experience. I’m extremely proud of the time I saw students I had taught in their first year getting ready to tackle an honours thesis, and hearing them talk about furthering their education in a research area I had introduced them to in one of my classes.

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 work on developing and troubleshooting new lab material for the consecutive year. It would also mean not having to work twice as hard or at more than one job to ensure my living costs could be covered. On a more personal level, I would have the opportunity to finally call this city my new home, and stop searching for other work just in case things don’t pan out.

Each week, I travel less than 5 kms to get to work and do 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. I currently have questionable job security, which makes it hard to focus my efforts to improving my current labs/courses, rather than wondering whether or not I will have a job this time next year.

Overall, I want to tell you that the dream of working in academia is no longer a sustainable career unless you can stand to sacrifice the basic rights and privileges granted to your fellow colleagues, and live with that double standard each day.

Pasha’s Story

Posted March 4th, 2015 By OCUFA

Early Childhood Assistance Program, Mohawk College

I’ve worked as a contract faculty member for 2.5 years. I currently teach Early Childhood Assistance Program. I love my job because I started teaching adults. I’ll never forget my first day and the first graduation ceremony. I’m extremely proud of the time I helped a student with learning disabilities learn and understand curriculum. She graduated from the program and is currently taking ECE.

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 even more time to help students without worrying about finances and security. It would also mean that I could be secured in my job and be able to pay for benefits. On a more personal level, I would have the opportunity to put a down payment for my condo. It would be my first place. Having security will be a great thing.

Each week, I travel 20 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 after studying at college to become an expert in Early Childhood Education. My current income is twenty dollars an hour. I work only 4 hours a day. I currently have no job security, which makes it hard to plan for tomorrow.

Overall, I want to tell you that educational staff needs security. It will benefit students.

Christina DeRoche’s Experience

Posted March 4th, 2015 By OCUFA

Sociology of Medicine and Women and Age, Nipissing University

I’ve worked as a contract faculty member foryears. I currently teach Sociology of Medicine and Women and Age. I love my job because I get to interact with the youth of today and make a difference in some capacity, but also engage in research and academic endeavours. I’ll never forget when my students presented me with an end of the year gift acknowledging how much I had meant to them. I’m extremely proud of the time I was chosen to help in collating benchmarking data for the provincial body of children’s inpatient psychiatric centres.

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 engage more fully with my students by holding regular office hours that were not at night. It would also mean not having to work twice as hard or at more than one job to ensure my living costs could be covered. On a more personal level, I would have the opportunity to engage and spend more time with my family, including my husband and daughter.

Each week, I travel less than 5 kms to get to work and do 20 hours of additional unpaid work to support my students. In return, I have dental, retirement and medical benefits. This is on top of <$10,000 in student debt I owe after studying at McMaster University to become an expert in Sociology of Education and Health. My current income is appropriate for a full-time Professor but I work 2 jobs in order to do so. I currently have no job security, which makes it hard to feel committed to the job.

Overall, I want to tell you that as a contract faculty member I work full-time in a non-academic, public sector position. I love this job but if the universities feel that they are to move in this direction of hiring more sessional and contract faculty, they will have to pay the price and so will our students. As a full-time working contract staff member, my students do not get the attention nor the professor they deserve. Additionally, universities will have to ensure they have the appropriate support services in place after working hours to accommodate their sessional faculty who work nights after working days at a full-time position.

Nagina Parmar’s Experience

Posted March 3rd, 2015 By OCUFA

Biology, Microbiology and Drug development courses, Ryerson University

I’ve worked as a contract faculty member for 15 years. I currently teach Biology, Microbiology and Drug development courses. I love my job because teaching is my passion, it is something I was trained for and I have so much experience which I would like to share with the students. Also, I show them how amazing the biology is especially to non-majors who get thrilled by the activities we do in the classrooms. I’ll never forget when students’ achievements are higher than expected and also they remember me even after few semesters of teaching. Also one student did her thesis with me and that was a great learning experience. I’m extremely proud of when students send me their  feedback that how I show empathy and they enjoy my lectures and have fun at the same time.

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 incorporate my training as a basic and clinical researcher and provide more insight into the subject being taught.  I will have my own research project and apply for funding with interesting ideas and able. It would also mean that I will be able to have my research interests being recognized and appreciated. On a more personal level, I would have the opportunity to be well respected, recognized and feel satisfied of my achievements which I am trained for.

Each week, I travel 250 kilometres to get to work and do 20 hours of additional unpaid work to support my students. In return, I have some benefits. This is on top of <$10,000 in student debt. I currently have a very low level of job security, which makes it hard to focus sometimes on the teaching and also explore different areas to teach. Not knowing the courses you are going to teach in the next semester make it very hard to design the courses the way you would like. It also add unnecessary stress of waiting if you will get the course or not.

Overall, I want to tell you that The life as an adjunct faculty is very unstable. It seems like we are living from semester to semester, waiting for the courses to fall in our lap and waiting for the university to toss us out whenever they feel. Nobody cares or have a clue about the extra hours we put in to prepare the course outlines, lectures, assignments, marking and other administrative tasks. We also take the time from our family to do all these tasks when we are preparing for our lectures in return for nothing. This doesn’t end there as adding extra workload  leads to extra stress, health issues (e.g. high blood pressure, psychological issues, sleep deprivation etc.).    Some of us have other jobs to pay for the mortgages, kids expenses and tuition, and the other job suffer due to the class scheduling issues at the same time when we have to attend the other work. Sometimes universities promise to get you LTF for 3- 4 years but then these jobs are being given to the ones who have less teaching experiences due to favoritism.   It is very frustrating that all the contract faculty are so highly educated and still feels like every semester we have to think if we will be given this job then we will be able to pay those bill piling up. There is a need to create full time teaching positions to avoid the hassle of changing professors every semester to provide stability to the students and to the contract faculty. Hope that day will come one day as they say” There is always light at the end of the tunnel “

Marnina Norys’s Story

Posted March 3rd, 2015 By OCUFA

Social and Political Thought, York University

I’ve worked as a contract faculty member for 14 years. I currently teach Modes of Reasoning: Techniques of Persusasion. I love my job because I delight in seeing students start to think for themselves, question dogma, make interesting connections and arrive at interesting conclusions. I’ll never forget when on the last day of class, my students refused to leave asking me to tell what university life was going to be like for them. I’m extremely proud of the I time engineered an activity that got students discussing, laughing, and best of all, seriously reflecting on the nuances of an ancient Greek tragedy many saw as boring coming into to activity.

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 design course that improve upon my lessons and past mistakes because I would know what I’m teaching one year to the next. I could also serve on departmental committees and do university service and be a more stable mentor for students because I know I will be around next year when they need help or further guidance. It would also mean I could start to making a serious dent in my student loans and maybe even start to think about buying instead of renting a home. On a more personal level, I would have the opportunity to seriously undertake my own research projects in the summer, without the haunting spectre of unemployment frightening me and distracting me.

Each week, I travel/commute for 12 hours across 24 kms to get to work and do at least 10 hours of additional unpaid work to support my students. In return, I have extended health benefits and dental. But these may evaporate if my contract is not renewed. This is on top of >$40,000 in student debt I owe after studying at the York University to become an expert in Social and Political thought. My current income is too insecure to describe. I started this year making $1,700/month, but am making more now. But I never know from year-to-year how much I will make. I currently have zero job security, which makes it hard to feel that my future is at all hopeful.

Overall, I want to tell you that I exist in a grievance laden environment so that in the summer, even if I’ve only landed a measly $5,000/year TAship, there is a good chance that a high seniority faculty member will swoop down, and eradicate my access to healthcare benefits in the process, and take this pittance because she also lost her work. In that back of the mind I feel that the enormous amount of time and dedication I invest in course design will be lost, because I have no idea if I will ever get the chance to teach that course again. Buying a home is beyond the realm of imagination for me in spite of being 46 years old with a PhD. In spite of all this, there is no job I’d rather do than to teach your young people. They, and their ideas, their intellect, invigorates me. I feel honoured to have the ability to partake in the further refinement of the cognitive faculties so that they might day become thoughtful, insightful, imaginative, critical and contributing citizens to whatever society they land in.

Jennifer Long’s Story

Posted March 2nd, 2015 By OCUFA

Anthropology, Wilfrid Laurier University

I’ve worked as a contract faculty member for years. I currently teach Applied Anthropology, Cultures of Business and Work, and the Anthropology of Sport. I love my job because I get to teach the next generation about contemporary social issues and the tools that they have to create meaningful change. I’ll never forget when the students of my applied anthropology class worked together – using the tools they’d learned in class – to advocate for change on campus. I’m extremely proud of the time I was able to make ‘the university experience’ more welcoming for international students through my research on tolerance of cultural diversity on campus and in the community.

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 the ability to provide sustainable education and mentoring which I am not currently able to do because of the instability of my employment. It would also mean that I could concentrate on publishing the findings of my research to help positively influence the prestige of my department and showcase the wide applicability of anthropological work. On a more personal level, I would have the opportunity to continue teaching and informing the next generation instead of taking my talents to the private sector.

Each week, I travel 192 kms to get to work and do 36 hours of additional unpaid work to support my students. In return, I have no benefits. This is on top of >$40,000 in student debt I owe after studying at the Western University to become an expert in Anthropology. My current income is paltry and insecure. I currently have no job security, which makes it hard to plan for the month let alone any significant amount of time in the future.

Overall, I want to tell you that being a contract faculty member is a position with very little power. We teach the majority of undergraduates for the least amount of pay. We need full time faculty to work with us in order to achieve an equitable employment environment; a scenario that will prove beneficial for all students and instructors at post-secondary institutions. I provide my students with the transferable skill set they need to get hired in today’s job economy. This approach to education however does not come at the expense of knowledge or creative social critique.

Mary Green’s Story

Posted March 2nd, 2015 By OCUFA

Classical myth, English literature

I’ve worked as a contract faculty member for eight years. I love my job because I love teaching Classical myth, English literature, and academic research and writing skills to my students. I’ll never forget when students tell me they feel motivated, even excited, about learning. I’m extremely proud of the time I encouraged a student to continue with his studies – and he graduated!

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 participate on curriculum development committees, ensuring innovative courses for my students. It would also mean I could publish more in my field. On a more personal level, I would have the opportunity to give more papers at world conferences.

Each week, I travel 25 kms to get to work and do many, many hours of additional unpaid work to support my students. In return, I have some benefits. This is on top of <$10,000 in student debt. My current income is low. I currently have limited job security, which makes it hard to retire!

Overall, I want to tell you that while I love teaching, I feel I would like to be able to be remunerated more fairly, to be a more active member in the development of courses, curriculum and events at my university, and to be respected more as a scholar with something unique to contribute.

Andrew Bretz’s Story

Posted March 2nd, 2015 By OCUFA

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 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.

Paul Bali’s Story

Posted March 2nd, 2015 By OCUFA

Philosophy, Ryerson University

I’ve worked as a contract faculty member for twelve years. I currently teach Philosophy. I love my job because I enjoy opening minds and having mine opened.

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 the opportunity to devote more time to teaching and learning.

I have some inconsistent and minimal benefits. This is on top of <$10,000 in student debt I owe after studying at University of Toronto to become an expert in Philosophical Theology. My current income is $50,000. I currently have little formal job security.

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