As we work on securing improvements to the working conditions of teaching-focused faculty at the University of Waterloo, FAUW is interviewing lecturers across campus to find out more about their experiences at Waterloo—and how potential policy changes might affect their work.
Clive Forrester has been a lecturer in the Department of English Language and Literature since 2016.
The work of lecturers varies across campus. What does it include for you?
I was hired as a lecturer in the Math Initiative, which is an agreement between the Faculty of Math and the Department of English to offer dedicated sections of ENGL109 – Intro to Academic Writing just for math and computer science students. In addition to ENGL109, I teach a variety of courses dealing with either linguistics or technical writing.
My research is primarily in a branch of linguistics called “forensic linguistics” which investigates the interaction between language and law. I’m particularly interested in courtroom discourse, and a few years ago I served as an expert linguist in a Toronto murder trial.
I’ve had different service roles over the years in the department, including coordinating the awards ceremony, coordinating the department research series, and running teaching squares for faculty in the department. I also have a YouTube channel where I upload videos related to linguistics and writing.
What parts of your work are you most passionate about?
Teaching linguistics is certainly one area that I’m passionate about. Recently, I got the opportunity to develop a new course, “Language, Life, and Literature in the Caribbean,” to be taught as part of the Black Studies Diploma. Though a few years away, I’m looking forward to teaching that course and developing similar ones in the future.
What was the experience of becoming a continuing lecturer like for you?
Now that I’ve been appointed as a continuing lecturer, I can say the road to continuing lecturer status has been dotted with uncertainty. In the absence of a clear formal policy that outlines the progression from the initial appointment as a definite-term to a continuing appointment some five or six years later, everything happens on an ad hoc basis. So, there are no defined milestones to hit, no mid-progression check-in, and no specified date by which an applicant to continuing status needs to be notified. Aside from the undue anxiety this could cause a lecturer, it’s not hard to imagine that a lecturer in such a position might decide to simply take a new appointment somewhere else. In either situation, the department stands to suffer—lecturers anxious because of job security or lecturers leaving for the same reason.
How does your department benefit from you having that job security?
Currently, I am the only Black faculty member in the department and one of two that teaches linguistics. Students have voiced their desire to have more courses in linguistics, and perhaps even a minor one day. I believe I am integral to fostering this development, as well as lending support to undergrad or grad students who are doing research on an aspect of Caribbean language.
Teaching stream faculty at UofT and McMaster have professorial status, and there’s a committee exploring something similar for Waterloo. What would it mean for you to have professorial status and tenure?
I believe this is important since all the lecturers in the English department also conduct research, yet our job description doesn’t allow for credit in this area. The kinds of benefits that come with professorial status such as tenure, sabbaticals, and credit for research would be a worthwhile change for lecturers at UW.
What would it mean for you to have a term dedicated to professional development every couple of years, or a sabbatical every few years?
A professional development term, or a sabbatical (separate from the usual non-teaching term every sixth term) would be greatly beneficial. I’ve managed to have two book-length manuscripts under review since the pandemic, all while teaching a lecturer’s teaching load, with no support for research and no sabbatical. Doing that meant focusing on work to the detriment of personal life.
From your perspective, what is—or isn’t—working in terms of career development for lecturers at Waterloo?
I believe there are good supports for teaching at Waterloo but more could be done in terms of the support given to lecturers who have a research profile and need support in that area, too.
How do you make a difference at Waterloo?
I think I make a difference to the University and the Kitchener-Waterloo region by being one of the handful of Black faculty members at the University. A part of my research looks at how speakers of the Jamaican language are understood inside a courtroom, and presently I am the only researcher doing this, so I’ve had the opportunity to act as a consultant on several cases. As a member of the Caribbean Association of the Waterloo region I hope to encourage more students of colour, particularly Caribbean descendant students, to pursue higher education at UW.