Fair Employment a campus concern

by Faculty Association | Filed under October 2011, President's Message.

– by Paul Rogers, Faculty Association President –

Contract academics, specifically sessional members, are often on the front lines of the attacks on academic freedom, quality, fair treatment, and the value of research.  The Association has always recognized that the concerns of contract academic staff should be the concerns of us all.

Fair Employment Week (FEW) is a national event that raises awareness of the difficulties inherent in being a member of the contract academic staff. The event this year runs from October 24 to 28 and is coordinated in part by the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT).

Normally, term certain (sessional) instructors at the University are contract academics who are hired to teach individual courses; they are not expected to do research and they are not offered long- or short-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.

It is interesting to note that there are 47 sessional members employed in 2002 that are still employed as a sessional nine years later in 2011, according to information provided through the University’s Data Mart.  Also, there are 131 sessionals employed in 2011 that also had contracts in 2006. The Association is aware of a number of sessionals who have been working longer than nine or ten years from contract to contract.

It is certainly possible in some parts of the campus for students to complete a degree with most of their courses taught by these part-time “temporary” instructors to whom the University has not made a long-term commitment, and who are not involved in any research. The Faculty Association is concerned that we are increasingly creating a have and have-not campus where some academics receive much of the resources and security, while others are treated poorly. It is important to also emphasize the incredible dedication of these individuals to their jobs.  Sessionals are highly qualified extraordinary individuals who care deeply for the University and their students.

Below is a link to statistics on the rank, faculty and gender of sessionals. You will find that sessional academics compose nearly one-quarter of all academics at the University, an amount almost equal to the number of Associate Professors. In addition, over half of sessionals are female which in contrast to statistics for ongoing academics. Finally, it is important to note that there are sessional instructors employed in every corner of the University.

The Faculty Association is currently engaged in negotiations with the Governors regarding sessional instructors. These negotiations are still in their early stages but the Association is optimistic that the situation for our sessional members can be somewhat improved.

Let your colleagues and administrators know that the unfair treatment of Sessionals at the U of C needs to be resolved.

Sessional Academics by the numbers >>

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