November 13, 2003  
Volume 97, Issue 42  

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Western's "line" of faculty

Western's "factory line" is in full effect.

According to Western's Faculty Relations Office, 25 per cent of the over 1,600 faculty at Western are part-time employees, working on a per-course payment plan as opposed to a full-time salary. Furthermore, these employees, known as "sessionals," are paid less per-course than their full-time associates.

Unfortunately, the move by universities to utilize sessionals to teach a variety of courses poses numerous problems for students, as well as the sessionals themselves.

Due to the high rate of turnover that hiring sessionals will undoubtedly create, students are unable to develop a strong teacher/student relationship, and the professors who do teach these classes don't have the same experience.

Essentially, the university is operating under the same principles as a factory, contracting out employees to fill certain spots of need. Invariably the line will continue to operate, however, it's only a temporary solution which will eventually lead to an unsatisfactory product.

Furthermore, these part-time employees are forced into a catch-22: they want to acquire a full-time job to get experience, but are unable to get experience without that full-time job. This catch leads to a dead end.

Universities, on the other hand, are getting the best of both worlds. They are able to shuffle teachers into numerous positions at a less costly price, while at the same time, not be forced to offer equal benefits or lab and office space that full-time professors receive.

In addition, many sessionals end up doing work such as research and planning for free, saving the university from hiring full-time faculty to perform the same tasks.

Universities need to hire full-time faculty who can serve the needs of students most adequately and stop exploiting the people who provide that service.

The ironic twist to all this is the fact there is a supposed faculty shortage. One would think a shortage of professors would make it easier for those with PhDs to land a full-time position at a university.

With so many sessional teachers, one would think any university that wants to be competitive would snatch up the talent.

This isn't just a problem at Western, but apparently it's a problem across the country. Either universities are just trying to save money by not hiring fully to suit their needs or the sessional workers are seen to be "in training," working for an opportunity to land a full-time position.

Either way, students would hope that universities aim to maintain the best possible quality among their faculty. If a sessional teacher is good enough, why not hire them on full-time?



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