Jan 11 2013

Hidden Sessionals

Category: Contract FacultyBob Hanke @ 6:20 pm

Sessionals, up close
Sessional instructors are now a crucial part of the teaching equation at most Canadian universities. Some say it’s time to include them more fully in the life of the institution.

by Moira MacDonald

(excerpted from University Affairs, January 9, 2013).

They are called sessional lecturers, part-time instructors, contract or contingent faculty and chargés de cours. Some are fresh out of graduate studies, others may have taught for years. Whatever their name, these non-tenured, non-permanent teaching staff share a common desire for better recognition, pay and treatment that more closely resembles how institutions treat full-time faculty.

University Affairs has assembled a sampling of what the pay, benefits, job security and other key work-related conditions look like for sessionals at a range of small, medium and large Canadian postsecondary institutions. Most were randomly chosen, while ensuring geographic representation. York University and University of Toronto were deliberately picked because they have a reputation among sessional teachers and with faculty associations for some of the best contracts for sessionals in the country. Vancouver Community College, which is neither a university nor a member of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada, is included (in a separate chart) because its contract with sessional staff has been described as the “gold standard” by the New Faculty Majority, a group of academics in the U.S. that has organized to improve the working conditions of sessionals in that country.

In the charts, salary scales presented are base rates; various academic departments may have their own arrangements for compensating contingent faculty. And, although universities employ a host of different kinds of non-permanent academic staff – including graduate students who may use sessional teaching as a way to gain experience – these charts focus on the teaching members who are no longer students and who teach on a course-by-course basis.

Pay is always a factor and, as our charts show, there is a wide range. But as important a benchmark as it is, it may not be the top job concern.

“The biggest one is job security. Its absence is profound,” says Leslie Jermyn, chair of the contract academic staff committee for the Canadian Association of University Teachers. She currently works on a 24-month, contractually limited appointment, teaching three full courses a year at York. A sessional teacher since 1993, Dr. Jermyn began teaching two years before finishing her PhD.

Her career is emblematic of a way of life. What once was a stepping stone for a PhD en route to a full-time, tenure-track appointment – or an interesting way to use a master’s degree – has become, for many, a way to earn a living. Some teach at more than one institution and in more than one city. To be sure, there are also those who do the job as a complement to full-time work in their fields, including business people, lawyers and civil servants.

To read this rest of this article and see the charts, follow this link.

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