It is a black mark on the ivory tower, a story of insecurity, fear, jealousy, thwarted ambition, poverty and inequality. And it’s a reality that university presidents, and many professors, don’t like to talk about.Universities in Canada - which threw open their doors this week to almost a million undergraduates - are propped up by a huge army of part-time teachers, who are highly qualified and poorly paid. They have no job security or pension, and little hope of ever getting a full-time position. They go by many titles: sessional lecturers, contract academic staff, adjunct faculty.
Today more than half of Canadian undergraduates are taught by these very precarious workers, not by the big-name - and well-paid - academics that universities like to feature in their recruiting ads. The institutions simply couldn’t function without them.
Higher education has a new business model. And it affects everyone on campus - the administration, the high-end “professoriate”, the lowly sessionals and the students.
Ira Basen's documentary is called “Class Struggle.”
What follows is a close approximation of how I am going to respond the next time that I sit in an administrative meeting and have to hear about how much of a burden adjunct faculty are to the university because they
-have no institutional loyalty (because we have not been offered living wages,…
It’s time to get rid of the two-tiered system and regularize regular faculty, as this book argues. It would be of benefit to students as well as to faculty and universities themselves. Adjunct professors are known as ‘Contract Academic Staff’ (CAS) or sessional faculty in Canada. However, the points being made here are pertinent to the situation of CAS at Laurier, in Ontario and across Canada.
The trend toward employing part-time contingent faculty members, combined with slow growth in the number of tenure-track university teaching positions, is continuing to sharpen the competition facing would-be academics in the United States, Europe and some other places that were once more…
These two photographs tell ‘more or less’ the same story (bottom one has become popular on the internet).
Both raise the question that begs clarification from Senior Administrators about claims that a university degree = a professional career that supports a middle-class lifestyle.
The same people, i.e. senior administrators, who want you to pay ever increasing tuition fees (and don’t appear to be too worried if you are going to be saddled with a ‘mini-mortgage’ by the time you graduate) to get a degree for the supposed earning power it will bring you in your future career, are the same people who don’t want to pay a fair or decent wage for the faculty who teach upwards of half of your classes (maybe more) (some 52% of student spots in classes, tutorials, labs and seminars at Laurier).
Now, doesn’t that seem to be contradictory?
Consider the situation of Contract Academic Staff (CAS) or contract profs in Canada (aka adjuncts in the USA) who usually have studied for two or three degrees and not just one (some have two degrees and finished everything but their dissertation - i.e. they are considered ‘ABD’ or ‘all but dissertation’ which means they passed their comps [exams] which recognizes their expertise in 2 or 3 subject areas).
Paul Davidson, of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC), claimed in September 2012 that students will earn (on average) $1.3 million more over their lifetime than Canadians who have just a high-school diploma. That is just with one (1) degree (bachelor’s).
So, then why are so many people with 2 or 3 degrees (including PhD or MFA), not only nowhere near earning that amount of money, but also owe tens of thousands in student loans (many earn well below what Ontario university graduates are supposed to be earning in their first year after graduating from university)?
Max Blouw, President of WLU and Chair of the Council of Ontario Universities (COU), announced the average earnings for 87% of graduates at around $42,304, which is well above what CAS at Laurier would earn teaching four or five courses - and barely equal to what contract profs earn teaching six (6) courses (about $43,000+ if they have seniority in their courses).
By the way, if there are not enough jobs for PhDs, it’s not the fault of contract profs. Senior administrators at Canadian universities have NOT been hiring enough full-time and tenure-track professors. Laurier, for example, has only hired 7% more FT faculty over four years despite a 23% increase in student enrolment.
But, they did increase their management by 44%.
(Not sure how that helps either faculty, FT or CAS, or students. But someone has to pay for all those senior administrators and their benefits, eh?)
How do we show what we ‘value’ in our society? If you listen to all the talk from university presidents and organizations, like the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC) or the Council of Ontario Universities (COU) (which appears to represent the interests of university presidents), it is the economic value of a degree and the overall earnings power of a degree over one’s lifetime that we hear and see so much about in the media.
For example, in September 2012 Paul Davidson, the head of the AUCC, claimed that those with university degrees made on average $1.3 million more over their lifetimes than those with only a high school diploma.
In July this year, it was WLU President, Max Blouw, who, as the new Chair of the Council of Ontario Universities, pointed out that 87% of Ontario university graduates earn an average of $42,403 per year (six months after graduation).
'Money', one could say, is definitely one of the ways in which the 'value' of a university education is being argued to encourage young people to attend - and even go into debt - and to get their parents, the public and politicians to fund it. (And student debt is of huge concern for so many reasons, not least of which is a burden, that many commentators are dismissing as of late, which limits or constrains the possible choices for students after graduation…)
And, if it is a university education that we value in today’s 'KNOWLEDGE ECONOMY', which is another buzzword that university presidents like to wield in public, then it should mean that those with two or even three degrees (e.g. a Master’s of Science or Business Administration, a Doctorate of Philosophy) should conceivably be earning even more money than those with just one degree, right?!
Well, according to a survey of the Contract Academic Staff (CAS) Bargaining Unit by the Laurier Faculty Association (WLUFA), contract faculty earned around $17,563 for approximately 2.4 courses per year (this is an average).
(The survey also revealed that around 50% of respondents have PhDs, whereas a survey in 2007 revealed a figure around 35% with three degrees.)
And, if a contract professor at Laurier were to teach six (6) courses at the seniority rate of $7,214.40 per course, it would add up to a gross amount of $43,286.40, which is still below Statistics Canada’s national average salary for last year of $47,200 (everyone in the workforce, regardless of education).
Now, it might seem odd that, after both Davidson and Blouw have made these arguments to the public (via media), the 'REALITY' of the earnings of CAS at universities, where contract professors are responsible for a significant part of the university education of these future graduates, that their incomes are so low.
At Wilfrid Laurier University, as outlined on this blog and elsewhere, CAS or contract faculty are teaching an increasing number of the students (52% of all student spots in classes, tutorials, labs and seminars last year) and yet struggle to make ends meet.
(And many CAS still have student loans to pay off for studying for years in higher education in order to get ahead in the ‘knowledge economy’.)
Indeed, not only do CAS lack any health or dental benefits whatsoever, but Laurier’s top civil servant, Blouw, makes more in taxable benefits than the average earned by contract faculty (with two and three university degrees) in a year (see card no.7 above).
Somehow, the 'RHETORIC' advanced by Blouw and others does not appear to be supported by the 'REALITY' on the ground at universities like Laurier.
If we ‘value’ university education, why would we pay less to those with more degrees in the ‘knowledge economy’? (And especially those that work at its heart to produce the graduates who are supposed to drive Canada’s economy?)
With the current trajectory of spending at WLU on faculty who are at the heart of Laurier’s educational mission so low (CAS compensation cost a mere 3.3% of total revenues last year), we have no alternative but to say 'No to the Status Quo!'
'No to the Status Quo!' has a certain poetic rhythm to it, even as it expresses the sense with which Contract Academics (CAS) face the obvious contradictions between 'inspiring lives of leadership and purpose' (the marketing slogan of Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario) in the classroom AND the poor compensation and lack of benefits provided by the Senior Administration.
Of course, budgets are tight but that never stops them from hiring more senior administrators and managers and in syphoning off moneys from operations (where from salaries are paid) and putting them into capital and other funds and assets (such as property and buildings).
Yet, it doesn’t explain why students are paying nearly 20% more tuition this year than four years ago nor why, in spite of such tuition increases, class sizes have increased, course offerings have been cut or program options have been restricted (or are about to be - and are likely to face further such changes)?
The institutional per annum inflation of 5-8% is certainly not being caused by contract faculty teaching 52% of the students in classes, labs, tutorials and seminars. This is an increase from 38% in 2007. (Unless, they mean “institutional inflation” in terms of the numbers of students that CAS are responsible for?!)
Since the Senior Administration continues to expect us to provide the education that they keep charging students (and their parents) more and more for, and they in turn do not want to offer us anything that recognizes our ubiquity, or how integral we’ve become, to delivering the kind of student experience that the Senior Administration markets to prospective students and donors.
It is this ever increasing sense of responsibility of delivering the majority of Laurier students’ educational experience and engagement while having an ever diminishing paycheque (e.g. it’s being eaten away by parking fees, gas and food inflation, rising rents and so on).
Despite being so integral to Laurier’s educational mission (more than 50% of CAS surveyed have taught at Laurier for more than 5 years and the Admin have started giving out ‘long service’ awards [not compensation of course] for 15 years service ['hard labour'?] - for CAS as well…), we never know if we are working from one semester to the next, we never know if we have the same courses as last year or have all new preps, which increase the amount of hours even before the first class takes place - and assuming that the class isn’t cancelled at the last minute - or being called in at the last minute to teach a class!
We put out the fires - or the absences in course provision - and at a moment’s notice. None of this appears to count for anything, judging by the way Senior Administrators speak of us (we’ve not talked about some of their terms they use for us and about us…maybe a later post will offer you a choice selection of their ‘pet’ phrases….).
We are passionate about teaching (as we have said in the previous post and in our posters and in the first cards in our series) and we merit respect (second series of cards), but surely you cannot expect contract faculty to keep on subsidizing the expansion of the university (why such inflated tuition fees for students, then?)?
That’s why this card says 'No to the Status Quo!' and points out that the Senior Administration only seem to offer us "lives of insecurity and marginalization".
People often ask, especially given how poorly contract professors are compensated (never mind the lack of respect): ‘Why do you still do it?’
This poster was the result of several Contract Academic Staff (CAS) sitting around talking about why they still do it.
You can see in this poster the reasons why contract faculty continue to teach in spite of the poor compensation and disrespect with which they are treated.
If you are a student, wouldn’t you want to be taught by faculty who think of what they do in these ways?
Would you not think that faculty who engage you in the classroom are deserving of more than 3.3% of the revenue universities earn? (Obviously, tuition fees do not need to increase. It’s a matter of re-allocating where the revenue goes. Unfortunately, this is left to the Senior Administration of universities not to students and faculty and staff to decide.)
And, if they treat people with more education than you, as a student have, how will other senior managers in other industries and sectors of the economy, treat their graduates in the workforce?