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CAUT Bulletin Archives

May 2002

Poor Pay for Sessionals

I would like to add to Patrick Grassick's excellent article "A Few Thoughts About Sessionals" (Commentary, Bulletin, May 2002).

In September 2001 after having worked part-time since 1998 in the Quebec CEGEP system, I entered the Ontario university system as a "sessional." In spite of having substantially more academic credentials and teaching experience than when I started in the CEGEP system, my salary was considerably less. Comparing courses of roughly similar duration, the pay offered at the Ontario universities represented a drop of 31-48 per cent in my pay during my last year at John Abbott College.

Just how badly paid are sessionals? In the Ottawa area I rotate between three universities. The value of each one of my 2001-2002 contracts (based on one course per term) is as follows: University of Ottawa: $4,257, Carleton University: $4,056, and Saint Paul University: $3,276. Not covered is course preparation, setting and marking assignments, exams, office hours for students and participating in meetings. Given all the other responsibilities associated with a university career (research, writing, presenting at conferences) the sessional hourly rate comes out to slightly better than delivering newspapers.

It would be useful to have a gender breakdown of sessional employment on a province-wide and national basis. I suspect, based on the trends demonstrated in the status of women supplement (Bulletin, October 2001), sessionals would be highly female-dominated, even more so than that shown for lecturers (503 women vs. 369 men). Not only are these women getting paid substantially less for doing the same job as their male, tenured counterparts, they are also missing many years of being able to pay into a pension plan.

Clearly, the universities are taking their own monetary problems out on their weakest members. The obvious solution is to pay sessionals the same prorated salary as full-time professors. If this would happen, we would see more and more sessional workloads converted into permanent positions as universities scramble to retain proven, competent and reliable instructors. But it will only happen if full-time professors see that this is as much to their benefit as in the interests of sessionals.

Janet Tulloch
Religious Studies, Ottawa