‘October 2017’

Working towards fair employment

by Faculty Association | Comments Off on Working towards fair employment | Filed in Fair Employment Week, October 2017, President's Message

– By Sandra Hoenle, Faculty Association President –

Fair Employment Week (FEW) takes place this year from October 23 to 27, 2017. Each year the Faculty Association participates in this national event that raises awareness of the difficulties inherent in being a member of the Contract Academic Staff (the primary group at the U of C being sessional academics). Universities continue to lean on Contract Academic Staff as a cheap, flexible workforce. At the U of C sessional instructors are typically hired to teach individual courses; they are not expected to do research and they are not offered long-term or even medium-term commitments beyond the individual courses. These academics often work for low pay, and with the uncertainty of whether or not another short-term contract will be extended to them.

Sessional instructors are members of the Faculty Association and voted to join the Association in 1994. Since that time, the Association has consistently worked to negotiate representation rights and protections for sessionals. We believe one strong reason for these gains has been due to the united front the Faculty Association is able to maintain through representing both ongoing and sessional academics. The Association has worked to strike a balance between trying to slow the casualization of academic work while trying to improve the working conditions of those academics while they are in sessional positions.

The Collective Agreement states that continuing appointments are to be used to meet the continuing staffing needs of the University whenever reasonably practical (Article 23.1). A copy of the Collective Agreement can be found on our website here. The Faculty Association regularly reviews the use of sessionals in Faculties and departments, paying particular attention to where there are sessionals with substantial teaching loads, who teach year after year. We have been able to work with Faculties to achieve ongoing limited term or in some cases tenure-track appointments for these members, who thereby gain increased job security and access to benefits and a pension, among other things. In this way, and through challenging sessional use generally in Faculties, the Association is working to secure ongoing appointments for as many academics as possible.

We do realize that there are situations where sessionals are likely appropriate. A professional who holds specific expertise may be hired for a particular course or there can be situations in which a Faculty requires an instructor to fill a short-term vacancy. The reasons a sessional appointment can be used are outlined in the Collective Agreement under Article 23.2. However, situations in which the bulk of courses that are required for a program are taught year after year by sessionals need to be addressed.

In the Collective Agreement we have also worked to improve conditions for sessionals. After a sessional teaches eight (8) half-course equivalents they gain the right of first refusal for courses they apply for, provided they have taught within the last five years and subject to having a good record of performance plus the requisite knowledge, skills and professional qualifications for the position (Article 23.12). Salary rates have also been set as minimums only, so although sessionals must be paid at least the minimum they can also be paid more. Salary rates for sessionals are set up as steps on a salary grid. After a sessional teaches 8 half-course equivalents they are automatically moved up to the next step on the grid. We have also negotiated a professional expense reimbursement fund for sessionals, similar to the one for ongoing academics. Sessionals are eligible for $175 per half-course equivalent up to $1,750 per academic year. Information on salary and benefits for sessional academics can be found in the Collective Agreement under ‘Schedule B’.

When negotiating the Collective Agreement, the Faculty Association has traditionally worked to ensure sessional academics receive increases to salary rates which equal or exceed those of ongoing staff. This is done in the spirit of fairness but also with the recognition that sessionals do not have the same job security and benefits that ongoing academics have.

The Faculty Association believes that sessional academics should be seen as colleagues, as fellow academic staff members, and as such should be fully supported in their work. The Collective Agreement outlines access to facilities, resources, and participation in department meetings (Article 23.8). Further support is provided by the Faculty Association Sessional Travel Grants to assist these members with making scholarly presentations and participating in other scholarly activity in their field. This type of support is not offered to sessional academics elsewhere. The application for these competitive grants is currently open (and more information can be found here).

All of this said, sessionals here and across the country inhabit a very precarious position as these academics work from contract to contract, being paid for piecework with few benefits.  The problem of reliance on casual work is not unique to the U of C. According to the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT), contract academics make up approximately one-third of all academic staff in Canada. These academics are paid on average one-third less per course than an ongoing academic staff member or roughly 67 cents on the dollar.

The Faculty Association will continue to work within our institution and with our national organization, CAUT, to improve the working conditions of sessional academics and to reduce the casualization of work in the academy. I encourage all academic staff, in your Faculties and departments, to discuss these issues with each other to help create awareness of the issues faced by our sessional colleagues.​

Sessional Travel Grants available

by Faculty Association | Comments Off on Sessional Travel Grants available | Filed in Fair Employment Week, October 2017

In recognition of the contributions of sessionals to the academic environment the Association is awarding Sessional Travel Grants. Four grants of up to $1,500 each are available. The deadline for application is January 12, 2018.

These grants serve to support the academic goals of sessional members of the Faculty Association by providing funding for a portion of travel costs related to scholarly activity in their field. The selection of recipients is at the discretion of the Personnel Committee; however priority will normally be given to those who are presenting papers, giving scholarly presentations, or otherwise playing a significant role at an academic event. The purpose of these grants is to provide these members an opportunity to profile their research, remain current in their fields, and thereby benefit the University with their enhanced expertise and profile.

Sessional applicants must have completed at least three (3) half-course equivalents at the University of Calgary between September 1, 2016 and December 31, 2017. Applicants must also be contracted at the University of Calgary for the Fall 2017 and/or Winter 2018 semesters. Travel must be completed by December 31, 2018.

Grant recipients will be selected by the Faculty Association based on the quality of their application and the relevance of the conference/scholarly activity to the research/field of study.

Click here for a Travel Grant application form.

National Survey on Contract Academic Staff (Sessionals)

by Faculty Association | Comments Off on National Survey on Contract Academic Staff (Sessionals) | Filed in Fair Employment Week, October 2017

The Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) is undertaking a national study on the experiences of Contract Academic Staff (CAS). Here at the University of Calgary, these academic staff members are most commonly referred to as sessionals. The survey is open to those sessional academics who taught in the 2016-2017 academic year, at one or more Canadian post-secondary institutions.

The survey consists of approximately 60 questions—some multiple-choice and some open-ended—that should take approximately 30 minutes to complete. The deadline to complete the survey is November 1, 2017.

While participation is entirely voluntary, the Faculty Association is asking for our members’ participation to ensure as many sessionals as possible are included in this study.

Sessional academics can access the survey at the following link: https://caut.limequery.org/151696?lang=en

Sessional Academics by the numbers

by Faculty Association | Comments Off on Sessional Academics by the numbers | Filed in Fair Employment Week, October 2017

Click on the .pdf document below:

Academic Staff by Faculty (Chart)
Academic Staff by Rank (Chart)
Gender of Academic Staff (Chart)

CAUT report on Enbridge Centre for Corporate Sustainability

by Faculty Association | Comments Off on CAUT report on Enbridge Centre for Corporate Sustainability | Filed in October 2017, President's Message

– By Sandra Hoenle, Faculty Association President –

Yesterday the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) released a report “Into the Enbridge Centre for Corporate Sustainability At the University of Calgary”. It is now available at https://www.caut.ca/sites/default/files/caut-ahic-report-calgary-enbridge-centre-for-corporate-sustainability_2017-10.pdf.

The Faculty Association welcomes the release of the report by the CAUT Ad Hoc Investigatory Committee at long last, as it confirms many of the concerns that we and others within the University of Calgary academic community have been raising regarding failures of governance, lack of transparency, the need for robust protection of academic freedom, and the perceptions of conflict of interest.

The Investigatory Committee consisted of Professors Alison Hearn of the University of Western Ontario and Gus Van Harten of Osgoode Hall Law School and their investigation was conducted under the CAUT Procedures in Academic Freedom Cases which are available at https://www.caut.ca/about-us/caut-policy/lists/administrative-procedures-and-guidelines/caut-procedures-in-academic-freedom-cases

The Report’s detailed and extensive findings (pp. 3-6) are of great concern to the Faculty Association.

One of the greatest concerns is the domination of the senior administration in the governance processes of the University.  The failures of the checks and balances intended in effective collegial governance are significant.

One of the failures in governance has been the Board of Governors’ and the Senior Administration’s misapplication of for-profit corporate structures within a university collegial setting.  Rather than being a place of transparency and open debate reflecting the University as a public institution accountable to the academic and broader communities, the Governors and Administration have used for-profit corporate structures to keep decision making behind closed doors and controlled by the privileged few.  The result is the type of decision making reflected in the CAUT report.

While there are many bodies within the University who share in the responsibility for establishing the currently closed decision-making climate, the President had a unique responsibility not only for creating the structures, but also in failing to act in a manner consistent with her high office. We are concerned about the lack of sound judgment by the president, who as a former Dean and academic staff member, clearly knew the importance of respecting academic freedom and avoiding the appearance of conflicts of interest.

The Report contains very important recommendations about changes in the practices of the University of Calgary (pp. 36 – 37). To avoid such future incidents as reported by CAUT, the Faculty Association calls upon the provincial government to immediately review the governance structures and freedom of information legislation.  The current provincial government’s governance review, which has been truncated in recent months, needs to be expanded to address all of the issues identified in this report.

While this issue is in the past, we now need to focus on the future and ensure changes are made to prevent further damage. Without significant structural and policy changes within the University and by the provincial government, I fear that even greater problems are inevitable.

Unfortunately, the Board of Governors continues to rely on the report prepared for them by former Justice Terrance F. McMahon and now “considers the Enbridge matter closed.” (https://ucalgary.ca/utoday/issue/2017-10-12/board-reaffirms-its-full-support-and-confidence-president-elizabeth-cannon) Appendix A of the CAUT Report provides a critical assessment of the McMahon Report.

I call on the academic community and the provincial government to review the report for important lessons for our future, and to take action. We need a thorough review of governance processes both within the University and by the provincial government.