A Southern Ontario Prof Shares their Thoughts

…as we prepare for next week’s forced offer vote.

I’m grateful to have received this e-mail at ontariocollegeprof@yahoo.com, and also grateful that the writer chose to share not just their thoughts, but their thought process with us.

Please feel free to share your own. I may not agree with it; I may not agree with everything published below, but I’m happy to share opinions that are respectful and directed towards an audience of Ontario college faculty.

Well, here we are, staring down the barrel of a loaded gun once more, a forced offer vote.

One thing I can’t tell you is how my colleagues are reacting to all this. The voices I hear certainly seem vocal enough against the offer, but I also know how few I interact with these days. Not too many people have dropped by my office on their way somewhere else in the last 2 years.

I can only share my thoughts on this current offer, and hope that it resonates with you and others.

At first glance the offer doesn’t look like it’s terribly far away from a deal. I think that’s the scariest thing in this round, many of my colleagues may look at this and say “meh, close enough”. There are many things in this offer that don’t excite me personally. The progress on Indigenous participation in our system? Intellectually I can connect that it’s certainly worth having, and from the point of view of social justice I absolutely support it, but I don’t identify as indigenous so … in a contract where I get one vote to represent my point of view, maybe this doesn’t resonate with me.

Hey, they’re going to add medicinal mary-jane to the contract. Again, not something that vaguely excites me. Legalizing pot went a long way to getting Trudeau elected though. Yes I know, medicinal marijuana isn’t street pot, but it’s also not something near and dear to me.

I have to say, as a full time faculty member, a tremendous amount of the “progress” in the offer leaves me nonplussed. There’s the miserly 1% Bill 124 raise, that will wind its way through the court sometime before retirement – still waiting on the challenges to the back to work legislation by the Wynne Liberals and the cancellation of the arbitrator awarded report from the Ford Conservatives to work themselves out.

That last one though … that seems important though. In this current offer there’s the commitment to study a bunch of stuff that might be important to me as a faculty member. I see the word recommend, not the word “will implement”, but we can trust them right? They’re interested in studying the probl…. oh wait, they’re not, that’s why the last one just got canceled as a waste of taxpayer money.

They claim that the intellectual property provisions violate and are inconsistent with the Copyright Act. It seems to me that someone so certain in this position would be happy to have an arbitrator come to the table and slap our noses with a rolled up copy of the Act right? I mean, the Copyright Act wouldn’t have any specific wording in it to manage this situation since it’s so ridiculous? Now, I’m not a lawyer, but section 13(3) “Work made in the course of employment” and the discussion about “in the absence of any agreement to the contrary” is just something for the lawyers to get a kickback from “big printing” kickbacks right? I can trust that I should put my very best efforts into course materials because they’d never be given freely to Continuing Education to be delivered under a different course code by non-union employees right? There’s no chance at all the college would “accidentally” leave a copy lying around with one of these new private-public partnership deals right? I mean surely TriOS and the like have their own course that perfectly matches the learning outcomes of my courses, which allows them to deliver the under the same course code and credential right? There’s absolutely no chance that their non-unionized workforce is taking jobs out of the public system using my efforts…. right? They’ve never, ever, bundled up an entire program and wholesale sold or licensed it to an overseas institution, right? Right? Oh.

I know that their claim about less jobs if they use more partial load instead of part time employees has absolutely nothing to do with part time being classed as non-union and therefore not protected by the Collective Agreement, right? I mean a fully loaded partial load staff member, operating as part of the union, and earning a supporting wage is no more stable or reliable for either them nor for students who will know the instructor has taught the course a few times and knows the ins and outs right? That stability won’t result in less of my work day going to voluntarily training and onboarding new people who rotate in and out every 4 months, right? I mean, just look at the librarian and counselor positions that they’ve created, instead of 1 full time job, we got a bunch of lower paid, more duty, short term contract jobs. That was a big gain, right?

Ok, ok, ok. You see where I’m going. This contract is far less about “what’s in it for me?” and far more about “what’s missing that affects me?”. I firmly believe that the “concessions” made by the CEC in this round would not exist without OPSEU pushing at the bargaining table. Just like last round though, they put the poison pill buried deep inside. Last time they made us walk a picket line for 5 weeks to recover Article 2 protections that they were abusing to high heaven. The result? A lot of full time positions got backfilled the way they should have always been. This is the thin end of the wedge for them. If we don’t force them to come and negotiate then they never will. I didn’t think that the work to rule campaign was working until I saw the bully tactics and the heavy handed threat to dock pay for an illegal walk out. If they really felt our work to rule campaign was this then they could and would seek an injunction in the courts. Instead they go for the scare tactic.

Remember last round when Kaplan released his decision, it was highly critical of the CEC’s tactics. Let’s get another one of those reports. After the strong NO vote last time the arbitrator very largely said that the faculty demands WERE reasonable and awarded a lot of what we were looking for. THAT’S why they don’t want binding interest arbitration. THAT’S how we scare them back to negotiating a contract.


A GTA Prof Recollects Our Last Two Years…

In a recent provincewide meeting, a question came in about why workload had become a major issue in this round of bargaining, when it wasn’t as prominent in, say, 2017.

Now, at some level that’s a simple question — it was the membership that determined that workload was the #1 priority. They did this via pre-bargaining surveys, 24 Local demand-setting meetings, and the provincewide final demand-setting meeting (that delegates of each Local attended). So the simplest answer to why workload was the new top priority in this round of bargaining is “democracy”.

The question of why faculty determined that workload was the top priority is a bit more nuanced, and a Zoom chat boxes wasn’t necessarily the best place to provide thoughtful analysis, but I speculated that the issue was set up for crisis by the increasing tendency of supervisors to max out the SWFs of full-time faculty to the 44-hour limit, coupled with the (obviously related) increase of class sizes, and that the switch to emergency pandemic learning tipped workload into a crisis situation, generally.

I received an e-mail yesterday that supported that interpretation (and that highlights the little-discussed concern regarding academic integrity during emergency remote teaching). I’m happy to share it below — I’ve edited it for length and clarity, and to remove potentially-identifying information.

Hi One College Prof,

Your recent post resonated with me and I thought I’d share my experience over the last 2 years of online education.

As the pandemic opened, none of us expected to still be in this situation, including administration. Mistakes made in the early days of this can easily be forgiven. As March became April, and the Winter semester became the Summer semester it became more and more obvious that this was not going to be a quick pivot back to the classroom. At this point, I turned to my department leadership for advice on things like delivering assessments that we could have some confidence in. There was a stunning lack of support for doing any sort of proctoring or attempting to enforce integrity standards. It is indeed a thorny issue, but that’s why leadership was needed, so that we didn’t have ad-hoc solutions being deployed. The advice I received was, “Don’t proctor, it’s not worth it”.

I suppose in a short term crisis we can accept this, and support the notion that we want to reach the students we can, and those that choose not to engage honestly will bear consequences when we return to face to face or when they reach industry. Smacks of kicking a problem down the road, but again, short term crisis measures can be forgiven.

In those early days there were many requests to overload the number of students beyond the typical 40 per section. Without physical limitations of the classroom, and with potential layoffs being discussed, many felt they needed to do their part to help out. The budget savings were found by not renewing part time contracts and by minimizing factors such as total contact hours on the SWF by increasing class sizes instead of opening and staffing new sections. Once more, crisis measures can be forgiven for their aggressiveness, and we certainly felt the pressure to make this work. One side effect of this increase in students was an increase in email support for panicked and disconnected students. That was volunteer work. We stepped up to be professional and support our students as much as possible because we do indeed care.

Enough history, however–let’s get back to the present day! These conditions still exist. Some students who have never faced a proctored assessment are nearing graduation and lack the skills their diplomas claim they have. Contract cheating is running rampant in many classes. There is still no solution for delivering assessments online being promoted by “leadership”, indeed permission must be given to proctor, and then only for the largest assessments. While some students have done well in their studies and have learned a great deal, these are often the self-motivated students we know would do well regardless of the format. My experience doesn’t suggest these are the majority of students. These students are worried that when they graduate, their diploma will be looked at with skepticism. They are worried that their cheating classmates who have obtained higher grades may edge them out of jobs. They are discouraged and frustrated with the institution of higher learning’s abdication of its responsibility to assess learning …. and they are justified in their feelings.

As always, the faculty are bearing the brunt of this, and what do we do about it? We counsel, we listen, we suggest things like out of class projects that they can put in a portfolio to set themselves apart, or practicing their interviewing skills so that employers will be able to perceive the validity of their education from their answers. We certainly don’t shrug our shoulders and walk away.

[. . .]

What about those in the middle? Many are floundering. Many are getting the fully reasonable consequences of not being diligent students. Yet with whatever compassion we have left in our bag of tricks we are working with them, trying to support them, trying to keep them away from further depression and anxiety, trying to cram those essential bits of learning outcomes into their heads so they can try to pick up the pieces of their semester. It’s that time of year where the emails are normally a deluge, and with increased class sizes, it’s become a tsunami.

In the midst of all this, Doug Ford says we don’t have the right to bargain for a wage increase above 1% as inflation soars around us. (Probably not going to buy the teacher’s vote anyway, better to find a few bucks in the budget on the backs of the public service to pander to “the base”.)  The CEC says, “Everything’s fine, here’s our offer–take it or leave it”, but lacks the backbone to force a vote on it … they know full well that the system is running on volunteer labour.

[. . .]

It seems once more that there’s an attack on the people who actually do the work that the institutions provide – be they nurses or professors. Organized labour has always been the enemy of management that wishes to take advantage of workers because employers have always wielded a disproportionate amount of leverage on individuals. As management asks us to be compassionate towards our students, and towards their challenges at maintaining their budgets, it’s about time they turned their gaze back to the front lines and recognize that we are tired and we are fed up with demands from both students and from administration to make this online environment work with the modicum of support that’s been given. Stop trying to figure out how we’re going to go hybrid in the fall, or offer half the classes online through Continuing Education until you figure out how to restore the quality, in collaboration with faculty. Come down out of the Ivory Tower and strike a fair deal that recognizes the value of the work that is being done to support your lifestyle.

I encourage everyone to endorse the strike vote and send a clear message that we’re tired of “figuring it out” month after month without support.  Send the message that we’re tired of being asked to demonstrate compassion without some acknowledgement of the cost of that compassion. Send the message that it’s not ok to keep trying to find ways to use non-union workers to do our work by contracting out and skirting the rules

As sure as god made little green apples, if they impose a contract, it will lack article 2 that protects the creation of full time, meaningful positions.

Give the union [members] the power to say, “When we’ve hit our limit on administrative hours, we’re forwarding the emails to management to deal with”.  Give them the power to find many, many creative job actions other than a picket line to make the point that we are worth every cent [the colleges] spend on us.

A very tired [. . .] College faculty member.

Overheard at a General Membership Meeting…

The CAAT-A faculty bargaining team has attended membership meetings at 17 Locals over the past two weeks. The following was one member’s contribution to the Zoom chat. I am printing it with their permission:

I’m all for students, but I can’t volunteer anymore. It turns into hours and hours of extra grading and contact, with ballooning class sizes. I love my students and my job, but my students also deserve someone who is mentally healthy and recognized for the work [they’re] doing. I think our students–many of whom are precariously employed and dealing with the same issues–understand more than we often give them credit for.

As a reminder, Ontario college faculty can register for one of the two CAAT-A Provincewide bargaining update meetings (in advance of the strike authorization vote) here:

A Seasoned GTA Prof Writes

One of the things that I found as soon as I got involved in academic labour issues is that my sense of time changed, and I started looking at change in terms of different time frames. For example, the degree to which our class sizes are impacted by a decision that someone made in 1985, or the fact that both teams are already writing potential recommendations for the next round of bargaining into this round’s Collective Agreement (in a nutshell, the faculty team’s proposal provides for mechanisms that would guarantee such recommendations; the CEC team’s proposal would let the Employer prevent recommendations from being put forwards).

So you start to think of it as something like a chess game, only there’s a gap of years between each move. (The metaphor breaks down when you consider that arbitrator’s rulings can redefine the meaning of negotiated language, in between rounds of bargaining.)

And in the last round of bargaining, I think that I e-mailed the bargaining team’s chair and vice-chair, when I thought that the Employer was proposing a reasonably innocuous bit of language that could end up having problematic effects about a decade later, if specific other things were to happen in the meantime.

All of which is to say that you start to value institutional memory. Right now, for example, in the face of the Employer’s ability to unilaterally Impose Terms & Conditions of Employment (16 days from now), many of our members experienced the Imposition of 2009; many did not.

So it’s in that spirit that I welcomed the following letter from a professor who leads with their experience. I have redacted any identifying information:

I started work as a full time faculty [in the late eighties]. I’ve been through the 2006 strike, the 2009 imposed terms & conditions, and the 2017 strike. After 32 years  as a faculty member, I am more than frustrated with the College Employer Council – their actions, their communication mistruths, and their callous disregard for both students and faculty. 
Given the CEC behaviour in the past, I am not surprised – but I am frustrated for everyone who has poured their heart and soul into doing their best for students during the pandemic. Doing their best for students has often been at the expense of faculty well-being and more so since March 2020. Working in a [Centre for Teaching & Learning], I’ve noted how tired faculty have become but the past 18 months, it’s been beyond tired. It’s an exhaustion that goes bone-deep. What an unfortunate time for our employer to take this adversarial stance.
It strikes me as absurd – working in a [CTL] and talking to faculty about learner-centred education, UDL [Universal Design for Learning], pedagogies of care, humanizing learning – and, especially authentic assessment – knowing full well that implementing any of these things is often beyond the scope of what SWFs allow–if, in fact, the people I’m working with are lucky enough to have a SWF. 
New faculty don’t know what they don’t know. They’re afraid–as are many faculty–of where we are heading if there is a strike. After 32 years, I’m afraid of what will happen if we don’t take a strong stance. What will happen to those new faculty? What will happen to future faculty? Will Apprenticeship and Academic Upgrading faculty be treated differently? 
In closing, let me say how much I appreciate your insightful emails and your podcast. Thank you.

In return, thank you for the kind words and also for the questions at the end, which will hopefully give me material for an upcoming post. As ever, readers are welcome to reach me at ontariocollegeprof@yahoo.com — all letters will be kept strictly anonymous.

One Partial-Load Faculty Writes…

There’s a recent article in the New York Times that I think is telling — it compares the working conditions of janitors for two extremely prosperous companies — one at Eastman Kodak in the 1980’s; the other at Apple today.
To quote from the article:
Ms. Evans was a full-time employee of Kodak. She received more than four weeks of paid vacation per year, reimbursement of some tuition costs to go to college part time, and a bonus payment every March. When the facility she cleaned was shut down, the company found another job for her: cutting film.
Ms. Ramos is an employee of a contractor that Apple uses to keep its facilities clean. She hasn’t taken a vacation in years, because she can’t afford the lost wages. Going back to school is similarly out of reach. There are certainly no bonuses, nor even a remote possibility of being transferred to some other role at Apple
Yet the biggest difference between their two experiences is in the opportunities they created. [ . . .]
They both spent a lot of time cleaning floors. The difference is, for Ms. Ramos, that work is also a ceiling.
I’m reminded of this story, now that the following letter has arrived in the mailbox from a Partial-Load faculty
I’ve been a partial load professor for close to 10 years in the same program at the same institution. I am reduced down to part-time in the summer. Thankfully I get renewed every year but am forced to wait a week before classes start to get a contract .
This year 2 positions came up that I was qualified for and as the bargaining agreement states, I would be considered as an internal candidate . After 10 years teaching I was so hopeful to finally have an opportunity to interview .
Alas, I was not granted an interview because I did not have a 3-year diploma in my field. The diploma I have is a 2-year diploma. This diploma was obtained 20 years ago at the very institution I teach for. Seems like an ageist approach to hiring considering 3-year diplomas were introduced into the Ontario college system about 10 years ago.
I am pursuing a Masters in education. I am starting my thesis in December. I am paying for through my own funds. That credential had no impact, nor the years of teaching, or the 20 years of experience I have in my field to obtain an interview.
The system is broken for the people who actually want to be full-time professors.
Thirty-five years ago, American industry didn’t have an underclass of front-line employees for which job mobility was a distant prospect.  Now it does.
Can the same story be told of Ontario colleges?

Open Letter from a GTA Partial-Load Prof

So the following letter has been published at the website of Fanshawe College’s Local 110  I wanted to pass it along, and I encourage you to share it with your colleagues, referring them to this page of the Local 110 site.
I’ve taken the liberty of adding a couple of links to the letter below, to provide some additional background context to the author’s points.
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At great risk to her career, a partial-load professor asked us to circulate the following letter anonymously.

Dear CAAT-A faculty members:

I know that many of you have waited quite some time for an increase in your salaries. After the proposal by the College Presidents this past winter to the Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Development requesting a hefty increase to their salaries, I know that many of you deserve an increase in your salary too. And you do.  The 7.5% increase over four years seems like a tolerable offer along with the other proposals.

Like you, over the past three years, all members of the bargaining unit have worked hard and dedicated themselves to ensuring that our students have acquired the skills they will need in their future careers. Every one of us deserves a raise. However, note that the offer by the colleges does not provide any gains for partial load, counsellors and librarians.  The proposals offered by the colleges won’t change the workload or the unfairness quite a number of our members experience.

The changes to Article 22, Pregnancy and Parental Leave, proposed by the College provides beneficial changes but considering that a significant portion of professors at GTA colleges are partial load, they will not benefit from this adjustment.  Eight years ago, I was pregnant with my first child along as well as two other full time faculty members in our department. Being partial load, I was not offered a teaching or working contract for the following semester as my due date was during the term, but the other two employees were assigned other duties until their pregnancy leave kicked in. Unlike my full-time colleagues, who received 93% top up pay and the opportunity to extend their leave for another 12 months on Employment Insurance, my only source of income was EI but my leave was cut short. Unlike my full-time colleagues, my time was cut short as my EI would have ran out before I could return to teach at the start of a semester.

Bridging health benefits over the pregnancy and after the birth was another challenge. I was informed by the college’s HR representative that I could only bridge my benefits if I had an offer of employment, a contract, outlining my return to work within the six-month time period. During my ten plus years teaching in the Ontario College system, I have never had a contract that extended beyond four months and never received an additional contract that went beyond the semester I was to teach.  My supervisor, who was very compassionate and understanding, informed me in both circumstances that a contract could not be offered: not for one until the birth of my child nor after the birth of my child to extend my benefits.  Looking ahead without coverage was fearful and left me anxious of how I could deal and pay with what could happen with a new child.  Like me, there are many female partial load faculty I have known who leave the college before the start of a semester because their due dates interfere with contract dates.  As well, when we leave, coverage is rarely ever an option. I was diagnosed with post-partum depression and while I obtained assistance from municipal resources, I look back asking how extending benefits  without such challenges and complications or having benefits for the duration of a contract period while in the third trimester could have helped me cope better. This is why the Bargaining Team’s proposal of 12-month contract for partial load employees and adjustments to bridging benefits work for us as members of a collective bargaining unit.  It extends the same protections and rights to all.

The colleges wish to continue the extend the moratorium on Article 2 grievances for another four years. At Seneca College in the Winter 2015 semester, it cut partial load employees in favour of part time and sessional. This not only eroded the collective bargaining unit at the college but also impacted greatly the income and seniority of many partial load employees who had worked at the college for a number of years. As a result, the following summer and following semesters, many former partial load employees were unable to apply for Employment Insurance benefits and since the cuts, these professors had to seek additional teaching contracts at a second and sometimes third college. Some have left the college system, all of whom were valued professors. As well, this reduction in partial load led to the increase of more part time faculty, a class of workers not protected under a collective agreement. As a result, the college was able to offer teaching contracts to employees with less seniority and experience than former partial load members. The union’s Report on Education addresses the impact that the increased use of contract employees has had on full time members.  The current Collective Agreement provides job security protection to full time professors, counsellors and librarians, but not for partial load. The Bargaining Team’s adjustments to partial load’s job security and seniority helps ensure that partial load members who have acquired the experience and expertise can continue to do so. It works for all of us.

Finally, we all know that librarians and counsellors are just as crucial to student success as the professors and instructors. We collaborate with our colleagues in these areas to ensure students are given the support and resources they need to succeed not just in their program but when they enter the workforce. Unlike full time professors, counsellors and librarians do not have workload calculation formula. Listening to their experiences at the General Membership Meeting has helped me understand that partial load professors are not the only ones impacted by the current collective agreement. In some colleges in Ontario, there are no librarians and there is no ratio determined for counsellors and librarians per student enrollment.  They are truly overworked and need a workload calculation formula just like their colleagues and need specifics in the collective agreement that help them do their job well.

I want us all to get our salaries increases, to receive a fair wage, to be paid for all work, and to have a fair collective agreement, but if the union accepts the College’s proposal to wait until 30 days after Bill 148 goes into effect, January 1st, 2018, we cannot ensure that these “consequential adjustments”  to ensure “revenue neutrality” requested by the Colleges will be fair. The proposals that the union Bargaining Team sets out for all our members are in line with the changes to the Employment Standards Act and set a precedent for fairness. This is why the proposals put forth by the Bargaining Team work. It works for all of us.

The Colleges’ proposals do not address any of the demands put forth by our members and this is why we need to vote “Yes” to strike to ensure that negotiations continue to address union demandsLet’s fight together to ensure fairness for all members of our collective bargaining unit.  It is about “us”, for all of us, not just some of us.

Partial Load Professor

Region 5

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Feel free to offer your feedback to the letter, or to share your reactions with the letter’s author (I’m pretty sure we can make sure that any responses come to the author’s attention), by clicking “Leave a Comment”, below.

Back-to-School Edition: The Case for Hiring Full-Time

I’m honoured to devote today’s post to a letter that I received from a full-time college prof, who argues that the ongoing health of the college system, the quality of the education it provides, and its larger role in the Ontario economy all depend in no small part on breaking the college system of its addiction to adjunct faculty.

It’s a theme I hope to come back to througout the year, and I urge all faculty — full-time or adjunct — to share their experiences and their opinions about how we can collectively address this issue.

On to the letter — my sincerest thanks to the author, and to you for reading it.  Best of luck on the first days back to school.

The Case for Hiring Full-time

I was a sessional professor at a college in 1990 for 10 months. I remember feeling like I was being literally thrown into the classroom, which I actually found quite thrilling for some reason.

I was younger then.

I went through the curriculum documents and the textbook, if there was one, and somehow managed to put together something. I was enthusiastic and smiley and the students and I had a pretty good time together. We made some movies, put together a newsletter, held debates – it was great! But I remember there was this nagging voice at the back of my mind: Is this what I was supposed to be doing?

In some ways, the teaching was easy but evaluation was another matter entirely! How do you assign a mark? What do you base it on? Whom do you pass or fail and why? Well… I passed everybody that first session. I mean, they all did their work and nobody really stood out one way or the other to me. It was either that or fail them all, I guess.

Everyone around me was so busy and no one asked what I was up to or offered any suggestions about anything one way or the other. They seemed happy with me when I appeared to know exactly what I was doing, so … well, I won’t say any more here or I’ll get myself into trouble.

I also remember how stressful it was, not knowing if I had a job next month or not. And even worse, what was I going to do 10 months later? Fortunately, there were tons of students and I got my 10 months’ stint. I had finally figured everyone out by that time, too. I even failed a few students, and not just because they never showed up.  Anyway – I figured everything out and then *poof* I had to go… Where? I had no idea.

They gave me an amazing letter of recommendation. “Outstanding”, it said. I’m so proud of that letter and still carry it around with me everywhere. I have it right here! The college and I were a fit!! I could feel it. So why did I have to leave? Why couldn’t they keep me on? And why were they always frantically looking for new people just like me to teach there?  Professors like me who won’t know what they are doing for a session or two, and who will have to leave as soon as they figure it out. It doesn’t make much sense, really!

Well, it is more than 10 years later and I’m full-time now. I wasn’t a sessional long, lucky me – 10 months at one college and 10 months at another. Now I am one of those busy ones who can’t see a name in the ever-changing horde of new sessional professors my department constantly employs.

I experience the tension from the other perspective now. Before I heard, “the sessionals don’t prepare students for this”, “weren’t aware of this”, “lost this”. Now it’s, “the full-timers earn these huge sums of money and only teach ‘x’ number of hours, while we have to do all this for so much less!” And “they get paid holidays, but we have to go on EI”. It is not a nice tension and I’m sure it exists in other departments, too. I don’t know how this is supposed to make you feel, but frankly I feel embarrassed and angry.

And I notice, because I teach the upper-level students quite a lot, that the quality of the students graduating is better when they have been taught by professors whose names I know and recognize. I can see first-hand that it does make a difference to have professors on staff full-time who attend staff meetings, participate in curriculum development and discuss pass and fail benchmarks and strategies.

 So why is this going on? Why is this total reliance on contract faculty acceptable? Is it necessary, financially and logistically? Is it in the best interest of our students, our colleges and society as a whole? This is a wealthy, civilized country isn’t it? When I try to explain this to friends and family, they are shocked: Sessionals teach more hours, don’t get benefits, and can only work 10 months. However, it seems to me that if they teach the same students and classes and pay the same taxes they should get the same pay and benefits. That’s what should be happening.

We are told that there just isn’t the money to hire full-time. Companies all across the board are hiring on a more short-term contract and part-time basis. They have books to balance and that, they say, is the only way to do it. Don’t get me wrong, profit is important. Someone has to balance the books and I’m glad I don’t have to do it. (I have a hard enough time with my own finances.)

But, to take an example, I do fork out the extra money and take the extra time every day to buy and prepare decent food. It keeps me and my kids healthy and strong and, in the long term,  I know I will be spending less money on medication and health care. In other words, I’ll be saving SunLife thousands and thousands of dollars.

I’m trying to make the point here that quality makes financial sense. Quality and profit are twin sisters – they need each other and you don’t have to be a Toyota Hybrid to understand that. Of course, cars are easy to recall, but how do you recall a thousand students?

And I do see money in the college system. It’s being spent on renovations and computers and I’ve also heard of big salary increases of 11% and 15% bonuses for upper management. Wait a second! Bonuses? Why are they getting bonuses if they can’t hire full-time? But the bonuses, it seems, are profit-based, and profit they do achieve. Wonderful! Now find a way to calculate bonuses based on profit and quality, and I’m all for them.

Fortunately, I think this “revolutionary idea” seems to be catching on because, according to the newspapers, the salaries of hospital CEOs will now be based on profit and performance. Honestly, I can’t believe it took us all this time to come up with that one. Anyway, money! It seems to be there but what, I wonder, is the best way to spend it?

 I often walk through the U of T downtown campus – everyday sometimes – I love the place. And is it even better looking than it was in my day! Flowers and trees and shiny new buildings! Wow! But the last time I took a course, which was a few years ago, it cost 10 times what it did back in 1985 when I was a full-time student there. And there were 90 people in the class, whereas in 1985 I only remember there being about 25 or 30.

It was not the same intimate and intellectual experience, even though the professor was amazing. Poor guy, I remember the look on his face the first time he came into the classroom. Scratching his head, he stared at us and seemed to want to walk right out of the room again.

So these are trends we are seeing across the board. But what is better for students, we need to ask, beautiful buildings or small affordable classes? And what is better for students: professors with direct experience and expertise – ones they recognize in the hallway, have heard about from other students and can go back to for a visit and a letter of recommendation, or professors who come and go like the breeze?

More to the point, is this really smart long-term planning for the colleges? We are in a recession, yes, but refusing to hire full-time is not good for recessions. Jack Layton made that point earlier in the year. Full-time jobs mean big consumer spending. When I was a sessional, I lived in a rental, shopped at “No Frills”, and didn’t go on holiday. Now, I own my own home which I renovated (thereby keeping other Canadians employed), I shop for food at organic farmers’ markets, and I rent a cottage every summer. I had no idea getting a full-time job would change my life so much.

Just think of all the big purchases college sessionals and part-timers are dying to make, and how that could help the economy. More than that, think of all the kids they could be having, who they could eventually send to colleges and universities like ours. I used to be one of those single mothers taxing the system. Now thanks to my full-time job, I have enough money in RESPs to send my daughter to McGill. That’s where she’s going in September, and I’m very proud of her.

We need to hire more full-time professors in the colleges. It just doesn’t make any sense not to. No matter how you look at it. It needs to become a financial priority and the money can and should be found. It would be better for the students, all of the professors, the colleges and even … for society as a whole.



A Partial-Load Veteran in the GTA…

…reminds us of the degree to which current hiring practices in Colleges and Universities are dissuading the brightest and most motivated people in society from pursuing professorship as a career.

I am an 11 year veteran of the partial-load trenches and I would gladly give up any increase in pay over the next 3 years just to get the same work-load conditions of my full time colleagues and vacation pay. I also teach part time at a university, and there are semesters when I work more hours than my full time colleagues, have to travel to 2 locations to do it, with no fixed office to work from. Yet I still have to work during the “vacation” months in order to pad my salary and get me through the rest of the year.

I have considered seriously that I should just give up this teaching “habit.” But like all junkies, I happen to enjoy it! My supervisor, colleagues and students are all great. I just can’t quite afford to do this job.

The part-time position I hold at the university was previously a full time one that has now been split in 2 for the obvious cost-cutting reasons. I have definitely scaled back on the amount of time I put into certain aspects of my teaching, simply for my health and sanity’s sake.

It is time for the province and colleges to stop subsidizing education on the backs of part-time and partial-load employees. So as much as I love my students and would not want to compromise their year in any way, I have voted in favour of this strike, and would vote against the colleges’ “final offer” if it comes to that.

I suppose that part of the question is whether a society that truly believed in the value of education would not value the individuals who provide it enough to ensure their ability to continue in their role as educators.

A Partial-Load Prof from Northern Ontario Writes…

…to remind us that the current offer does nothing to strengthen the weakest among us:

I am PT/Partial Load depending on the semester. I love my work! I enjoy my students. I am currently in my fifth consecutive semester of instruction – if I am not available for “my” course it will go to someone else, with no promise of return. I enjoy my breaks between semesters as a chance to rebuild my energy for the next round – because I give out a lot of my energy in class, in preparation so that I can be the best I can be, and in marking for as many as 124 students. I would like to call these breaks a vacation but that would imply vacation pay, to which I am not entitled. Unlike any other Provincially-regulated worker outside of the College system I am exempted from the basic entitlements of the Employment Standards Act (by Order in Council – rule by appointed members of Cabinet). This is discriminatory on human rights grounds, as my choice of work/employer – and that employer’s need for my skills – requires me to forfeit basic rights extended to all other workers. I am paid for my work, I in turn pay all deductions as any worker would, and I am covered by WSIB and the Occupational H&S Act.
I request from my bargaining agent (I have one when I am Partial Load) that we begin with the basic rights of all other workers. 4% vacation pay on every cheque would help bridge me through those unpaid breaks between semesters.

One Prof Writes…

As a partial-load prof, I often feel the tension between giving my students what they need and doing my best with the time I have.  I am not compensated for the dozens of emails I send my students each week that provides them with further thought and feedback.  I literally read dozens of items (articles and books) in preparation for my classes, not including the countless hours at home marking and evaluating their work.  While I love what I do, it’s becoming increasingly burdensome, and to the point that I can’t do certain things that I feel I need to do to help my students learn (I can’t, for example, allow them re-writes, since it would take a long time to re-mark those assignments).  I’m hoping for full time soon, but unfortunately my college is in a ‘no hire’ position at the moment.  Having worked hard to update my credentials (an MA in Humanities and a B.Ed) at my own expense (colleges do not reimburse partial-load faculty for courses taken outside the college), I have not been granted an opportunity to even apply for full time work, even though college enrollment is up 10% across the board.

A strike seems to be the only option, and the only way to get a proper settlement and get our voices heard; the college management is not willing to listen, and I would venture to say, is condescendingly numb to my concerns.  It’s not a fun time during summer when I need to scramble to find extra hours here and there to make ends meet.  That never seems to be a factor in their proposals.