Fair Employment an ongoing concern

by Faculty Association | Filed under October 2012, President's Message.

– By Paul Rogers, Faculty Association President –

In March 2012 the Association took a snapshot of its membership which revealed that 23.1% of academic staff at the U of C at that time held term certain (also known as sessional) positions.  Across Canada this type of position is more typically referred to as contract academic staff, and it is a class that is growing both nationally and internationally.  This growth is of significant concern to the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT), which is why CAUT annually plays a coordinating role in Fair Employment Week (FEW).

FEW (this year’s incarnation runs from October 22nd to 26th) is a national event that raises awareness of the difficulties inherent in being a member of the contract academic staff.  Contract academic staff are often on the front lines of attacks on academic freedom, quality, fair treatment, and the value of research.  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- 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.

The Association is concerned that we are increasingly creating a have and have-not campus where some members of the academic staff receive much of the resources and security, while others are treated poorly.  It is important to emphasize the incredible dedication of these individuals to their jobs since sessionals are highly-qualified individuals who care deeply for the University and their students.

In recognition of the work sessional members do and the contribution they make to the institution, the Association is launching a new one-time program of Sessional Travel Grants in conjunction with FEW.  The purpose of these grants is to provide these members with an opportunity to profile their research (work some continue to do even though they may not be compensated for it) or attend conferences to remain current in their fields.  Three grants are available to be awarded (eligibility criteria and deadlines for application are available here).

Not much has changed over the past year regarding the statistics on the faculty and gender of sessionals. You will find that sessional academics still compose nearly one-quarter of all academics at the University, an amount almost equal to the number of Associate Professors, and are employed in every corner of the University. In addition, over half of sessionals are female which is in contrast to statistics for ongoing academics.

The Association has always recognized that the concerns of contract academic staff should be the concerns of us all.  Please 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

<< Sessional Travel Grants available

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