Elizabeth Van Houtte’s Experience
Social Work, Laurentian University
I’ve worked as a contract faculty member for 5 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.