Taryn Grieder’s Experience

Posted March 2nd, 2015 By OCUFA

Abnormal Psychology, Neurobiology, Psychology of Addiction, Psychopharmacology, University of Toronto

I’ve worked as a contract faculty member for years. I currently teach Abnormal Psychology, Neurobiology, Psychology of Addiction, Psychopharmacology. I love my job because I get to show students how awesome the human mind is, what happens when things go wrong, and the research that’s going on to provide new therapies. I’ll never forget when my students told me that I changed their life, and that they wanted to do research in neuropsychology because of the things I’d taught them. I’m extremely proud of the time I received better teaching evaluations than the department, faculty and university as a whole.

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 dedicate all my time to teaching, lesson and pedagogical development, and lifelong learning. It would also mean that I’d have job security, and wouldn’t always be wondering if I’d have a contract in the next term. On a more personal level, I would have the opportunity to buy a house, because I’d actually get approved for a mortgage if I had a full-time job.

Each week, I travel 100 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 after studying at University of Toronto to become an expert in Medical Neuroscience. My current income is too little and insecure. I currently have NO job security, which makes it hard to plan for the future.

Overall, I want to tell you that I love to teach, but it would be a lot less stressful if I had more job security.

Andrea Holm-Allingham’s Experience

Posted February 27th, 2015 By OCUFA

Faculty of Education and Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Lakehead

My proudest teaching moment:

For several years I have been personally invited by the Registrar’s Office to attend convocation because members of the study body had voted me as a person who made a difference to their education at Lakehead.

As well, I had a visiting scholar from China attend my classes for two months, observing and participating. Her letter to me at the end of the term indicated that my pedagogy was informing her research and that she had enjoyed the experiences.

My greatest research accomplishment:

I was asked by the editor of The Dickensian to review a book being released by a very well-known scholar in children’s literature. My review was published in this well-established British journal.

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

One of my graduate assistants and I put on a workshop for local high school students entitled “Act Out: A Free Social Action Youth Conference” (“Community-Building: Hands-On Activities”).

The challenges I face in my work:

The challenges that I face as instructor of up to several hundred students in a term are considerable:
Lack of secure storage; appropriate working space (my “office” is shared by 25 plus instructors with only 8 work stations); and I have to turn my keys in when my contract ends on 04/30 each year, so that I have remove my materials from the working space.

It took many years to become eligible to pay into the pension plan; there are still very limited health benefits available to me.

Student satisfaction scores are the drivers for being rehired, so I have a peer review done as well.

The most significant problem is the lack of stability; the impermanence of my position leaves me in a precarious situation each year. I cannot plan ahead as I do not know what I will earn. I make 20 % of my husband’s salary (he is a full professor) with none of the perks, and I make less than half of what my salary was when I was a high school teacher—with no opportunity to contribute to pension.

Elizabeth Mitchell’s Story

Posted February 27th, 2015 By OCUFA

Music Therapy, Wilfrid Laurier University

My proudest teaching moment:

Since 2008, I have instructed MU353, “Inclusive Arts for Children”, an undergraduate course offered by the department of music therapy and open to students from all faculties. This is a Community Service Learning course, which means that in addition to the in-class component, students participate in a community placement. For this course, after intensive preparation, students take on the role of leaders at a creative-arts day camp for children with exceptionalities. At the end of the camp week each summer, as I watch the university students on stage performing alongside the children they have been supporting, I feel incredibly proud. The university students’ leadership, creativity, risk-taking, and their ability to link academic learning with community involvement in a way that is extremely meaningful for children and families are all to be commended.

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

Currently I’m working as the choral conductor for “El Sistema Aeolian” in London, Ontario, an intensive and completely free after-school program designed to provide accessible and inclusive music education for all children. We have about sixty children in the program right now, and working with them keeps me challenged and also fulfilled. It is one thing to study music therapy and music education, and it’s quite another to put theory into practice!

The challenges I face in my work:

One challenge that I face as a Contract Academic Staff member is the “not-knowing”, from year to year, how much work will be offered to me. This not-knowing can make it very difficult to decide how much work to commit to outside of the university, as I risk either over- or under-committing myself in other areas.

Chris Duncanson-Hales’s Experience

Posted February 26th, 2015 By OCUFA

Critical Thinking and Argumentation, University of Sudbury

I’ve worked as a contract faculty member for 10 years. I currently teach Critical Thinking and Argumentation. I love my job because it gives me the opportunity to continue my own learning as I learn with my students. I’ll never forget when I confronted a student for possibly handing in a paper they had not written. The students test grades were significantly lower then the grade on the essay. The student told me she had a learning disability and was better at papers then test. She didn’t seek accommodations because she didn’t want to have an unfair advantage over others. I referred her to Student Services after telling her that accommodations do not provide an unfair advantage, but level the playing field. I’m extremely proud of the time I collaborated with Nathan Loewen and Brooke Lester on a teaching text for Fortress Press, Effective Social Learning: A Collaborative, Globally-Networked Pedagogy.

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 and resources to develop my teaching and learning. It would also mean I would finally be able to teach a course more than once and develop and teach courses more directly related to my research and scholarly passions. On a more personal level, I would have the opportunity to pay off my student loans which are currently in collection.

Each week, I travel 10 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 >$40,000 in student debt I owe after studying at to become an expert in philosophical and theological hermeneutics. My current income is precarious, unpredictable and inadequate to provide for my family. I currently have NO job security, which makes it hard to plan or even save for my three children’s education let alone our retirement.

Overall, I want to tell you that when I first began my doctoral studies, I was sold a bill of goods promising that the demand for full-time faculty would outstrip the supply. I was told that all the professors currently teaching at the time would be retiring and need to be replaced in the next 6-10 years, right at the time I would be graduating. What they didn’t tell me is that they wouldn’t be replaced with full-time faculty, but with part-time contract faculty. Whether intentional or not, I was lied to.

Michelle’s Story

Posted February 26th, 2015 By OCUFA

Environmental Science

My name is Michelle.

I’ve worked as a contract faculty member for 2 years. I currently teach Environmental Science. I love my job because I can inspire students to think of issues from many perspectives. I’ll never forget when a student thanked my for helping them overcome their fear of communicating in writing. I’m extremely proud of the time I watched my students engage in fervent & informed debates.

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 time to updated & incorporate innovations into course curriculum. It would also mean I could publish important research on both teaching & environmental science. On a more personal level, I would have the opportunity to STOP WORRYING about survival and give my family & community all I have to offer.

Each week, I travel 2-200 kms to get to work and do 20-30 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 to become an expert in aquatic ecology. My current income is sometimes zero, sometimes minimum wage and at most the average for Ontario. I currently have no job security, which makes it hard to make any plans for the future.

Overall, I want to tell you that the stigma/belief that contract faculty are in anyway less competent than full-time faculty as teachers, researchers & citizens is the most unfair & difficult part.

Report critiques adjunct, tenure-line faculty models

Posted February 25th, 2015 By OCUFA

“Over the last 40 years, the traditional model of the academic profession—full-time tenure-track professorships that focus on the triadic responsibilities of teaching, research, and service—has been eroded by a rising trend toward greater contingency…

Tenure-track jobs, which were once the most prevalent appointments on campuses, are being supplanted by an ever-rising number of full- and part-time non-tenure-track faculty positions. These contingent appointments now make up approximately 70% of faculty positions responsible for providing instruction in the nonprofit higher education sector (NCES, 2013); they represent an even greater share on some campuses.”

In this report by the University of Southern California Delphi Project on the Changing Faculty and Student Success, researchers seek to answer what might the academic profession of the future would look like if it were more intentionally designed to meet institutional goals.

Read the full Inside Higher Ed Report.

Elizabeth Van Houtte’s Experience

Posted February 25th, 2015 By OCUFA

Social Work, Laurentian University

I’ve worked as a contract faculty member for years. I currently teach social work and social welfare courses. I love my job because of the students. I’ll never forget when a group of students presented an anaylsis of a case conference in “real time” – so professional! I’m extremely proud of the times I find students openly acknowledging and embracing the culture and collaborative learning environment I foster in 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 be available daily for mentorship and guidance and be able to offer a consistently supportive presence for the students. It would also mean that I would be in a position to serve as a contributing part of the academic community within campus. On a more personal level, I would have the opportunity to build the career for which I was prepared including research and partnership with colleagues.

Each week, I travel 100 kms to get to work and do 25 hours of additional unpaid work to support my students. In return, I have no benefits. This is on top of $10,000-$20,000 in student debt I owe after studying at to become an expert in social work. My current income is $38,000 per year. If it was not for my husband’s limited income, I would not be able to support my children. I currently have zero job security, which makes it hard to plan for the future – especially for retirement.

Overall, I want to tell you that I am very discouraged about my future teaching at the University level. I have spent over 20 years in school, have been awarded 5 universities degrees and, yet, can not even get an interview for a tenure track position – even within the University where I have been successfully employed for the past 5 years. Hiring continues to be from “the outside” rather than from within.

I have sought out research projects and am currently conducting research in other provinces. This appears to carry no value.

There is no mentorship for me as a “professional” within the sessional setting, including an absence of feedback from and collaboration with, other faculty members. Although my student evaluations are consistently excellent, there is apparently no consideration given to this, to my experience (field and classroom), my education or my demonstrated commitment to the University and the field in which I teach. In short – I am devalued.

Andrew Robinson’s Story

Posted February 25th, 2015 By OCUFA

Physics, Carleton University

I’ve worked as a contract faculty member for 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 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.

We Teach Ontario calls attention to issues facing Ontario contract faculty

Posted February 25th, 2015 By OCUFA

University lecture halls and labs across the USA are empty today. And no, it’s not a holiday.

OCUFA stands alongside our American contract faculty colleagues who walked out of their classrooms to protest their unequal and unfair working conditions.

This isn’t an issue that’s only occurring south of the border. The CBC estimates that over half of Canadian university courses are taught by contract faculty. These professors don’t have access to the same job security, pay and benefits as their tenured colleagues despite doing the same work.

These unfair working conditions harm our students and affect the quality of our universities.Together, these conditions mean contract faculty work for less money and without any security. Contract faculty often don’t know what, or if, they’ll be teaching the following semester. Many don’t receive benefits while working many unpaid hours to support their students. They frequently lack private offices and must meet students in public or in a cramped, shared office space. The precarious nature of contract faculty work also means that these professors can’t mentor students or help them get into graduate or professional programs.

We are launching We Teach Ontario to call for fairness for contract faculty and to give their voices and stories a platform for people to hear and understand.

OCUFA wants to support all Ontario professors by making every academic job a good job. If you’re an Ontario contract faculty member, please share your experience and raise awareness about what effect this uncertainty has on your career and your students.

Maria Frances Cachon’s Story

Posted February 25th, 2015 By OCUFA

Sociology and Women’s Studies, University of Windsor

My proudest teaching moment:

I do not have one moment per say, but rather a series of smaller teaching moments. For example, those moments during a lecture when you can sense, you can feel the level of engagement amoung students. When you know they’re not only listening, but are being impacted by what they are learning. Those classes when you facilitate a discussions and students are receptive—passionate, empathetic, and willing to share. It is in these moments that the classroom morphs into an intimate and transformative space. These moments reveal the possibilities and power of cultivating a collaborative learning environment. When I receive affirming emails from students who write to tell me how a course has impacted them and most importantly how a course helped them develop a critical awareness that they now bring to their day-to-day lives. For me, teaching is a privilege and an honour—when I’m in ‘the zone’ it completely feelings like my calling.

My greatest research accomplishment:

I’m very proud of my role as co-investigator for The Tikkun Youth Project, funded by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council (SHHRC) and the University of Windsor. This is a transnational partnership among five universities and five community organizations in Ontario, Canada, South Africa and Kosovo. The project’s starting point is Tikkun Olam, the ancient Jewish concept meaning ‘repairing the world’ through acts that promote social justice. Our goal is to reach out to marginalized youth (ages 16-25) from communities particularly in need of restorative justice. We aim to facilitate youth-led ‘informed committed action’ for social justice. The project explores the ways in which marginalized youth participate in the life of a community in order to improve conditions or to helps shape the community’s future. Marginalized youth disproportionately experience social and economic exclusion, which is reinforced by systemic, legal, and institutional barriers. We seek to address these inequalities by fostering the capacity of marginalized youth to challenge the barriers they face and to advocate for positive social change.

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

The Tikkun project is a participatory action (PAR) research endeavor, which means that our work has an explicit activist orientation. PAR is a collaborative research process between researchers and communities for the purpose of facilitating community action and pursuing social change. The project is based on consideration, data collection, and knowledge dissemination that aim to enhance community engagement amoung youth and reduce systemic inequalities by involving the youth who, in turn, take actions to improve their own communities.

The challenges I face in my work:

Contract academic work is precarious and often isolating because your scholarly contributions, both research and teaching, are frequently not institutionally supported and recognized. This insecurity meaningfully pervades your working life and can be extremely demoralizing—as is the persistent refusal within the academy to validate teaching as a meaningful form of scholarship.

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