February 28 is OCUFA’s Bill 148 Social Media Day of Action

Adapted from a message from Ontario College and University Faculty Associations (OCUFA)

February 28 is OCUFA’s annual social media day of action. The day provides an opportunity for faculty, students, staff, and supporters across Ontario to get the issues of precarious work and fairness for contract faculty (sessionals and definite term lecturers, in Waterloo terms) trending on various social media platforms.

This year’s day of action will be use the momentum generated by Bill 148 to build more support for contract faculty in the lead-up to the provincial election in June.

The goal of the day will be to get as many people as possible to tweet and post Facebook messages to their provincial election candidates. The messages will highlight priorities for contract faculty at our institutions, the need to close gaps in Bill 148, how precarity for contract faculty can affect the quality of education, and where we go from here. Continue reading “February 28 is OCUFA’s Bill 148 Social Media Day of Action”

News From Your Board: December 6 Fall General Meeting Recap

Peter Johnson, Faculty of Environment representative to the FAUW board

The FAUW Fall General meeting is always an enjoyable time to get together with colleagues, discuss important issues in an open setting, and, of course, eat pizza and samosas. This year’s fall general meeting was no exception, with a lively crowd present. The meeting was chaired by Kate Lawson, with reports from president Bryan Tolson, treasurer Dan Brown, and the FAUW standing committees, including information on 2018 elections for six faculty representatives on the Board of Directors. Heidi Engelhardt gave a detailed report (PDF) on the Provost’s Advisory Committee on Student Mental Health (PAC-SMH), and is requesting feedback online.

On a lighter note, the winners of the FAUW Office Contest were revealed! Eight winners were selected for categories such as “Most Distracting Office,” “Most Spartan Office,” and “Most School Spirit.” Congrats to all the winners and everyone who submitted photos. I’m already at work on improving my office for a future contest by making my own custom desk (homemade furniture seemed to be a requirement for winning). I’m not sure what category this will qualify me for, but perhaps my plywood sheet balanced on milk crates could win for “Most like still being in grad school”?

Lastly, the floor of the General Meeting was opened for discussion. One main topic was who FAUW currently represents, and what various groups on campus FAUW could or should represent. Comparisons to other associations around the province were made, with some strong points about how research professors and sessional instructors should be represented. This is clearly a significant issue, particularly when considering precarious forms of employment. FAUW’s position on representation for these positions is currently under discussion, and work in this area is progressing.

Putting a Face on Contract Faculty Members: A Recent Study

Guest post by Kate Lawson for CAUT’s Fair Employment Week

Most of us would agree that academic jobs should be good jobs. But many of us have little knowledge of the real working conditions and academic background of contract faculty members, colleagues who are also known as “sessionals” or “part-timers.”

A recently published study by C.C. Field and G.A. Jones from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) provides much-needed data about who contract faculty are at Ontario universities.

If you think that “sessionals” teach “part-time” by choice, that they lack a terminal degree, do not engage in research, or teach “on the side” because they have a full-time job elsewhere, then you are thinking of what Field and Jones call classic sessionals. In their study, classics sessionals comprise 24.8% of those surveyed.

By contrast, 61.3% of contract faculty are what they term precarious sessionals who rely on their income from instructional work.

Field and Jones state that they use “the term ‘precarious’ for two reasons: first, many are working full-time equivalent workloads (when courses are available) on a semester-by semester basis, with little or no job security; and second, these sessionals are likely to be either hopeful or disillusioned with the idea of having a full-time permanent career in the academy.”

So who are the “precarious sessionals,” according to Field and Jones?

  • They are likely to be female (60.2%); 
  • They are likely to hold a PhD (70.94%); 
  • They are likely to work on short-term contracts of less than 6 months (53.9%); 
  • They are likely to aspire to a full-time position with benefits in the academy. 

Do “precarious sessionals” work part-time?

  • many are working full-time equivalent hours and course loads; 
  • 63.1% teach an average at least two or more courses per semester in the winter/fall.

Is the “precarious sessional” pool a transient one?

  • Field and Jones report: “One of the most surprising findings is that sessional faculty are not as transient a group as one might have anticipated. In fact, over 15% of our sample have been working for more than 15 years as a sessional instructor. Only 12.6% of respondents reported that they had worked one year or less, with 26.12% having between 2 and 4 years of experience, and 26.8% having between 5 and 8 years of experience. Those with 9 to 14 years of experience make up the final 17.8%. Roughly one-third of all respondents had 9 or more years of experience as a sessional instructor.” 

Do “precarious sessionals” engage in research?

  • 37% are pursuing an active program of research, even though research is typically unremunerated. 

What are the effects on individuals of short-term contract work?

  • 89% find short-term contractual employment to be a source of considerable personal strain (compared with only 29% of classic sessional faculty). 

What do contract faculty earn through teaching on a sessional, part-time, or contract basis?

  • roughly 45% of sessional faculty earn less than $19,930 (the Low-income measure after tax);
  • 25.6% earn between $19,930 and $39,999; 
  • 17.3% report a middle-class income of between $40,000 and $79,999; 
  • 2.6% of respondents earn more than $80,000
Field and Jones’ study also provides a lot of useful suggestions for department chairs at places such as UW. For example, in order to help improve the working conditions for contract faculty, chairs can try to ensure that they have:

  • Contracts issued well in advance of the teaching term; 
  • Timely access to learning management systems, photocopiers, the library, and professional development opportunities; 
  • Private office space so that contract faculty can meet students; 
  • A stable email address; 
  • Invitations to department meetings; and 
  • Supplies such as whiteboard markers, paper, and letterhead. 
If you care about the quality of higher education in Ontario, you should care about the working conditions of contract faculty members. I urge you to read the study in its entirety.

Field, C. C. & Jones, G.A. (2016). A Survey of Sessional Faculty in Ontario Publicly-Funded Universities. Toronto: Centre for the Study of Canadian and International Higher Education, OISE-University of Toronto.

New Report on Sessional Faculty in Ontario

Researchers at OISE have prepared a report on sessional faculty for the Ontario Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development. Sessional faculty are defined in this report as faculty members who are either hired course by course or on short-term contracts. The report studies sessional faculty at 12 Ontario universities.

The report is available on the Centre for the Study of Canadian and International Higher Education (CIHE) blog.