Nov 07 2015

The Cost of Casualized Labour

Category: Academic Freedom,Contract Faculty,NewsBob Hanke @ 11:39 pm

Casualization of Academic Labour has its Costs

(excerpted from the CAUT Bulletin, October 2015)

In the ongoing massification of post-secondary education, university and college administrators are increasingly turning to temporary or contract academic staff to teach and work in their institutions’ lecture halls, labs and libraries.

“More than 30 per cent of academic staff in Canadian post-secondary institutions are faced with short-term, insecure employment and struggle to find decent work,” notes Sylvain Schetagne, CAUT’s director of research and political action.

Living with uncertainty about when and what you might teach next creates financial, intellectual and emotional strain. Most contract academic staff live on four-month contracts and worry about finding a job for the next semester.

“The inability to plan is a major issue and a great cause of stress in the lives of contract academics,” said James Gerlach, who has taught on contract at Wilfrid Laurier University since 2006 and also serves as chair of CAUT’s contract academic staff committee. “You can teach six courses one year and two courses the next year. You can live on six courses, but not two.”

According to a 2015 United Way report, precarious workers face significant barriers to building stable and secure lives. Precarious workers face greater challenges finding childcare and addressing health and safety concerns in the workplace. They face more gender and racial discrimination and spend less time with their families and in their communities.

Unpaid work is also a widespread reality of the insecure academic job landscape. Office hours, advisement and recommendation letters, for example, are rarely spelled out in contracts, but these tasks can be part of job expectations, says Gerlach.

“Contract academic staff are paid for a fraction of the work they need to do,” he said.

To read the complete story, click here.

Tags: , , , ,

Feb 15 2015

This is Contract Faculty Time

Category: Academic Freedom,Contract FacultyBob Hanke @ 12:55 am

York Faculty in Support of Contract Faculty

Produced by videographer Alex Lisman, in conjunction with the CUPE 3903 communications committee, this new video features eight, tenured York University faculty members speaking about the obligation to engage the issue of contract faculty, the problem of precarious academic labour, the contribution that contract faculty make to teaching and research, and what the administration can do to exercise higher educational leadership and address this growing problem in the current round of collective bargaining.

To view this groundbreaking, revealing, educational video, click here.

Canadian higher education now faces an ominous situation. Increasingly, the university is being turned into a corporate business where education is viewed as a commodity. As a consequence, to quote John Ralston Saul, “democracy is weakening. Corporatism is strengthening. Certainly corporatism is creating a conformist society” (The Unconscious Civilization: 1995).

Corporate efficiency is the main force now driving York University where the administration holds all the power to implement policies with little regard to York’s avowed mission of academic pursuit, preservation, and dissemination of knowledge. York is chipping away at the collegial entity of the professoriate who endeavor to consciously shape the university in pursuit of its motto: Tentanda Via: the way must be tried.

One can easily see how York University’s commitment to its mission of  ‘social justice and collegial governance ‘ rings hollow, and the top-heavy administration is inclined to pursue short-sighted policies. An instance in point is its continual rejection of the contract faculty’s legitimate claims and insistent denial of their hopes of becoming full-time academics, despite their being fully qualified and fully utilized at a marginal cost. The contract faculty have been carrying nearly half of the total teaching load in the university, all for inequitable remuneration and inelegant terms of employment. It is obvious that the administration cannot hope to fill the classes offered in the university, unless it is prepared to water down the quality of teaching, or replace human creative minds with robotic computers, which will indeed ensure certainty of discipline and control.

The university pursuing the ‘Matthew Effect’ (Robert K. Merton:1968) seems to thrive on accumulating advantages from the contract faculty’s precarity! Is it not YorkU’s time to redress the inequities the contract faculty have bravely suffered so long, and is it not ethical to fairly integrate them into academe?

— Indhu Rajagopal, PhD
Professor, Department of Social Science, York University
Author of Hidden Academics: Contract Faculty in Canadian             Universities (University of Toronto Press, 2002)

Tags: , , , , ,

Feb 06 2015

Report Back from COCAL XI

Category: Academic Freedom,ConferencesBob Hanke @ 11:28 am

International adjuncts in solidarity: COCAL XI

Precarious academic labour transcends borders in 200-member adjunct “think tank.”

by Kane X. Faucher

(excerpted from University Affairs, January 29, 2015)

This past August, I attended the Coalition of Contingent Academic Labour conference (COCAL XI) in New York City. The biennial event, which has been running since 1998, brings together adjuncts from around the world to discuss the challenges that face “adjunctification” in higher education. For those who are interested, the 2016 COCAL will be hosted in Edmonton, Alberta. Previous Canadian cities to host have been Quebec City (2010), Vancouver (2006) and Montreal (2002). For those not familiar with COCAL, it is not an organization but a movement that empowers local labour actors both inside and outside the academy, recognizing that labour fairness is a key principle of social justice.

Due to its international scope there are some acknowledged limitations such as labour laws, university and college structures, union coverage, and other issues particular to regions and specific institutions. To overcome these differences, the conference focuses on what unites contingent academic workers, and works to develop an array of tools and tactics in the spirit of collaboration and solidarity. The affectionately dubbed “COCAListas” – organizers and attendees alike – all share a strong belief in the value of higher education, resisting its commodification, and pushing back against the exploitation of our underpaid and too frequently unappreciated academic professionals. Issues of labour equity and academic freedom are treated as inseparable and essential aspects of the higher education mission.

Amidst serious and high-level policy talk there was also occasion for a collaborative poetry reading, a presentation of books written by and about adjuncts, and numerous “hallway chats” between sessions where attendees could discuss finer points not covered during the plenary sessions. Plenary speakers included representatives from New Faculty Majority (NFM), American Federation of Teachers (AFT), American Association of University Professors (AAUP), Fédération nationale des enseignantes et des enseignants du Québec (FNEEQ-CSN), as well as several faculty unions from across Canada, US, and Mexico – a veritable who’s who of academic labour organizations – all dedicated to improving the working conditions of academic workers.

To read the rest of this article, click here.






Tags: ,

Jun 28 2014

The Plight of Hidden Academics

Category: Academic Freedom,Academic Integrity,Contract FacultyBob Hanke @ 11:50 am

on TVO, The Agenda, June 23, 2014

Many of Ontario’s colleges and universities employ sessional lecturers. What does that mean for the quality of education Ontario students are receiving?

Panelists: Moria MacDonald, Marie Van der Kloet, Bob Hanke

To watch this half-episode, follow this link.

Tags: , , , , ,

Apr 06 2012

Contract Faculty Representation and Academic Freedom

Category: Academic Freedom,Contract FacultyBob Hanke @ 5:30 pm

Contract Faculty Should Agitate For Representation

How and why one professor created a contract faculty committee
by Kane Faucher
(excerpted from University Affairs, April 2, 2012)

In mid-February, I and a group of dedicated contract instructors saw our committee voted into existence as part of the governance structure of our faculty. After several months of meetings that involved itemizing our concerns, and the drafting of our terms of reference aligned with the academic unit’s constitution, we finally attained meaningful representation within our unit. This marks a somewhat unprecedented move in faculty politics, recognizing the heavy debt owed to our most vulnerable and precarious members: the part-time instructors who, in some units, teach a majority of undergraduate courses.

This is not a process that other faculties and departments can easily duplicate, unless there is political will among administrators to enfranchise their part-time instructors to combat institutionalized inequities. The first hurdle many part-time instructors face is fear – that any action they take may be perceived as insubordination and thus limit their employment opportunities. As well, they may suffer a certain degree of learned helplessness, feeling that it is impossible to alter the current structures to allow for meaningful dialogue between contingent faculty and the established members of academia.

In some ways, we can consider such agitation for fair representation according to Pascal’s wager. If one’s labour is contingent and precarious in doing nothing, then pushing for representation at the risk of not being given a contract for the following year may result in the same scenario. Among contingent faculty, there are no guarantees of future employment, and so this group has the least to lose in improving their conditions.

The cynic will be quick to state that being en-franchised within one’s academic governance structure is far from the ideals of attaining job security and benefits. In addition, this service component would most likely not be remunerated.

But, rather than viewing this as a divisive stance, part-time faculty should recognize that forming their own committee and seeking to establish a participatory role in the life of an academic program is good service experience. It also makes the contract teacher more visible in the unit and allows him to become a stakeholder in curriculum development. Moreover, it may bring together part-time members who otherwise don’t have occasion to interact. Organizational health and efficiency is improved by consulting with relevant stakeholders – which would include perspectives from “the trenches.”

What does visibility mean? It means being a welcome participant in the decision-making process, being acknowledged for professional and research contributions outside of one’s contract, having a collegial “hallway rapport” with full-time colleagues and a collective will to end classist labour divisions in academic culture. A collective stance may end instances of arrogance, condescension, outright hostility and any other marginalizing attitude from some faculty members who engage in a practice of discrimination.

To read the rest of this article, click here.

Tags: , ,

Next Page »