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CAUT Bulletin Archives

December 2003

Faculty Act to End Exploitation of Part-Time Educators

Nationwide week of action highlights issues facing contract staff.

Faculty associations nationwide rallied in October in a concerted effort to publicize how universities are shortchanging contingent academic staff members.

"Part-timers are trapped in a life of economic hardship and grim working conditions," said Vicky Smallman, CAUT's organizing and collective bargaining officer, who moderated events as they unfolded across the country during the five-day campaign.

"They have no job security or rights, no benefits and poor wages. One of the main goals of Fair Employment Week was to inform students, faulty and staff about the plight of these teachers."

She said despite a steadily growing number of contingent workers teaching graduate and undergraduate courses, they're often "invisible"on campus.

"Most don't have office space, or telephone numbers or e-mail," Smallman said. "They're not listed in course outlines and not mentioned on web sites. Students don't necessarily know which of their professors are working on contract. Even department colleagues may be unaware of contract academic staff, their backgrounds, their career goals or their issues."

Faculty associations used a variety of creative tactics in educating their campus communities about the less than optimal working conditions of contract academic staff.

The University of British Columbia Faculty Association put up 500 silhouettes of "invisible academics" on lawns and buildings around campus, set up an information display featuring sessionals' biographies and publications and distributed peanuts to represent sessional wages.

The University of Regina Faculty Association showcased a poster series on bulletin boards throughout the campus promoting the achievements of their sessional members. Posters asked questions like "Do you know ... there's a sessional in English who won the 2002 Saskatchewan Book Award for nonfiction?" with a reminder that half of Regina's classes are taught by sessionals who have no job security.

At Wilfrid Laurier University, the faculty association used the week to encourage part-time and full-time members to get together and learn more about each other and held a "cram-in" where people were squeezed into a tiny office to underscore the inadequate workspace typically provided to contract academics.

The Windsor University Faculty Association sponsored Linda Janakos' documentary Teachers on Wheels and featured a pre-screening DJ performance by a sessional instructor from communication studies, spinning protest songs in a heavily-trafficked area and firing up the crowd with his commentary about social justice and the plight of sessionals on campus.

Part-timers tend to be exploited, Smallman said, and Fair Employment Week raises important issues that people should talk about.

"I hope the campaign changes the way people think about contract educators and how they impact the rest of the campus," she said.