'Sessionals' getting shafted?
By Dan Perry
At the Canadian Association of University Teachers' Fair Employment Week sessions, one of the items up for discussion was universities' use of sessional - or part-time, as they are called at Western - faculty.
"We know that the universities are relying more and more on contracted and casual labour to provide undergraduate education," said CAUT organizing and collective bargaining officer Vicky Smallman.
Alan Weedon, Western's vice-provost for policy, planning and faculty, defined part-time faculty as the people who are teaching one full course. A similar number, he said, are teaching less than one full course.
Western's faculty relations office confirmed approximately 25 per cent of the over 1,600 faculty members at Western are part-time employees.
Tracking down information on the divide in university hiring practices can be particularly difficult, Smallman noted. "I have no stats to give you across the country," she said. "There's a variety of reasons that there are no statistics and one is that universities are notoriously unreliable in giving Statistics Canada information about contract faculty. We know there's an increasing number."
Weedon stated data collection on contract faculty was fairly new to his office, but he said the ratio of part-time to full-time faculty has been fairly stable.
"Instead of hiring people with established relationships with universities, they're hiring more and more sessionals when these sessionals should be getting permanent employment," Smallman said. "We don't believe sessionals should be paid any less than permanent faculty on a per-course basis."
"As a part-time person, you get paid per course; if you have a limited full-time position, you get a full-time salary," said Albert Katz, president of the University of Western Ontario Faculty Association. "If you were a part-time person teaching five full courses, you could be making more money than one of the limited [full-time] contracts."
"Students are still getting quality teaching out of sessional professors. The problem is a lot of sessional faculty end up doing a lot of work for free," Smallman said. "For example, research to keep current, curriculum development, service on university committees [and] student advising."
Katz said salaried faculty members have three responsibilities: teaching, research and service, and the time spent on each priority commonly breaks down in a 40:40:20 ratio, respectively.
"Some of these part-time contracts have given 80 per cent for teaching, zero per cent for research and 20 per cent for service," he added. "That leaves some part-time faculty teaching five courses with very little room to actually get research done."
"We're not trying to trash sessionals," Smallman said. "They're very dedicated to the university and need to be given every opportunity for permanent employment, and they need to be treated fairly."