Rebecca’s Experience

Posted March 9th, 2015 By OCUFA

I’ve worked as a contract faculty member for four years. I currently teach a variety of film and video production courses at institutions in the GTA. I love my job because I love to help young people learn how to tell their own stories using film and video. I’ll never forget when, through hard work and encouragement, one of my students suffering with anxiety turned her C into B+ so that she could graduate with honours. I’m extremely proud of the time I overheard one of my students tell another student that she learned more in one of my classes than she did in whole semesters of other courses.

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 grade, prepare lessons and respond to students questions and concerns. It would also mean I could spend more time on my own creative practice making me a more accomplished artist that then has more to offer the students. I could also purchase a car turning my now 8 hours of commuting time each week into two and a half. On a more personal level, I would have the opportunity to nurture my relationships with friends and family without feeling under constant pressure to be searching for my next contract.

Each week, I travel 1400 kms to get to work and do 20-40 hours of additional unpaid work to support my students. In return, I have some medical and retirement benefits. This is on top of $30,001-$40,000 in student debt I owe after studying at York University to become an expert in Filmmaking. My current income is fluctuates between the poverty line to what is considered low income in the city of Toronto. I currently have no job security, which makes it hard to plan for the future, take any kind of vacation, have a family, maintain savings and sustain a healthy stress level.

Overall, I want to tell you that

Due to the amount of stress I find myself under because of my fluctuating income levels and lack of job security, I will likely find a new career path outside of academia if I cannot find a full-time position in the next five years. I love teaching and believe I am good at it, but I also want a family and my stress levels impact my health considerably. This lifestyle is not sustainable.

This flawed system also impacts the level of attention I can pay to my students, which is heart breaking. Because I am a young Professor, my students feel very comfortable talking with me about their problems, challenges and insecurities during a crucial time in their development into adulthood. However, my time is monopolized by unpaid lesson prep, grading and commuting on public transport to my various teaching assignments all over the Greater Toronto Area. I am constantly under pressure to find and secure my next teaching gig. The sad reality is that I do not have enough hours or emotional energy to support these students to the best of my abilities.

Everything I have described above would change if I had a full-time position or knew that the hard work I am putting in now would lead to one. In the current climate one could spend their entire career in this state of uncertainty. This situation not only impacts the quality of life for Professors, but also impacts their students’ learning experience significantly. If we feel that a post secondary education is of value to our young people, then we need to support ALL of the individuals that work tirelessly to make it possible rather than just a select few.

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