Fear and Insecurity Among Canada’s Contract Professors
The fear, insecurity, poverty and inequality faced by Canada’s contract faculty was highlighted in a CBC Sunday Edition episode titled “Class Struggle”. The show discussed how these “highly qualified and poorly paid” faculty members are an essential part of universities that administrations don’t want to talk about.
Although this documentary highlights ongoing tension between contract and tenured professors, OCUFA has found tenured professors often champion issues faced by their contract colleagues.
Many adjunct professors interviewed for the show voiced their doubts of ever making it into a tenured position. The “experience paradox” is an unfortunate reality for many contract faculty, where the more experience they have teaching leads to a decreased chance of ever becoming tenured. This is because many contract faculty, who are paid on a course-by-course basis, sacrifice researching time to take on more classes.
Contract faculty also struggle with a lack office space, limited time with students, unpaid service and research responsibilities, and are more vulnerable to student course evaluations. These issues – compounded with a lack of job security, benefits and fair wages – makes contract instructors feel as though they’re exploited by their employers, said Kimberly Ellis-Hale, a contract instructor at Wilfrid Laurier University.
“We really are subsidizing much of what goes on. We teach 55% of bums in seats at Laurier and we get 3.2% in terms of our salaries, no benefits. I don’t think that that’s fair or right or responsible. I go in, I do my job, I’m committed to the students that are at my university, I’m committed to the process, I take pride in doing a job well and I try not to do it on the backs of anybody else. I think that the administrators of our university need to perhaps take the same kind of approach.”
This discontent has led to an ongoing struggle affecting everyone on campus. Tension between faculty and administration and between contract and tenured professors have students caught in between. Ken Coates of the University of Saskatchewan spoke to the CBC about how students react to contract professors’ job insecurity:
“Sessionals are like a constant infusion of new blood, of new energy, of new vitality. It’s hard for the students to take a class with one professor and think, ‘That’s the best German Studies class I’ve ever had’… and they come and say, ‘I want to take a class with you next year.’ ‘Well, I’m sorry I don’t have a job next year’… ‘Well, where are you going?’ ‘I don’t know, I can’t find anything else.’ Students are baffled by this.”
Listen to the full show here.