Consider the following: a person teaching University courses who lives in her car because she can’t afford rent; another who has had a full course load for 31 years at two Canadian universities and still can’t make ends meet. These are not the images that come to mind when we think of the highly-qualified professionals who have dedicated their lives and careers to the education of our University students.
But this is the reality facing one third of all University academic staff in Canada. They are “contract academic staff”, and may teach a few courses, have a 10-month appointment, or anything in between. On average, they make 33 per cent less than regular tenure stream Professors, yet they teach half of Canada’s undergraduate students. They have mostly short-term contracts, work extremely long hours and struggle to find time for research.
According to Statistics Canada, the number of contract academic staff has grown by 200 percent since 1999, while the contingent of regular Professors has increased by only 14 per cent during the same period.
In Nova Scotia, most cannot secure enough courses to earn a living wage. Many teach at multiple Universities, and often don’t know from one term to the next if they will have employment. Some are given less than a week’s notice before teaching a course that they have never taught before. Our best and brightest students deserve a robust learning environment, and often do not know that the person they call “Professor” is struggling to make ends meet and is given inadequate time for course preparation.
October 23 to 27 is Fair Employment Week: an initiative of the Canadian Association of University Teachers. This year’s theme is Make it Fair: Opportunity. Security. Respect.
Clearly, we have a long road ahead of us. The Dalhousie Faculty Association calls on students and regular academic staff to support their colleagues in the fight to make Universities fair for all academic staff.
President, Dalhousie Faculty Association