Western on hot seat to support contract faculty

London, ON, Canada / 106.9 The X

 

The voices calling for Western University to support its contract faculty members are growing.

A coalition of professors and students is calling for better pay and more job security for the staff who teach more than 40 percent of the university’s courses while making close to poverty-level wages.

“Students don’t know if they’re being taught by a contract faculty member or a tenured or tenure-track full-time faculty member, because we all have the same training. We’re doing the same work,” says Amanda Grzyb, a tenured associate professor in the Faculty of Information and Media Studies.

Supporters have started the hashtag #SupportWesternCAS and have launched a video where a number of professors and students speak out.

 

Adding to the problem, supporters say, is that contract faculty members are paid per course.

“If you were teaching, for example, five courses in a term, you might be working 72 hours a week but still considered part time, because you’re picking up one contract on another, on another,” says Grzyb. She says that often, this leads to professors stringing together a living by teaching at multiple universities, making the trip down the 401 to a different campus several times a week.

“In professional faculties like law and the Shulich School of Medicine, there’s sort of a more traditional use of contract faculty. For example, a lawyer or doctor — who has a full-time job outside the university — may come in and teach one course,” says Grzyb. “That’s very different than the sessional instructor who is patching together work across campus or universities across Ontario, just to make ends meet.”

The University of Western Ontario Faculty Association put out a report that shows over a four-year period, Western had over a $202-million surplus. Grzyb points to this number, noting that it raises questions about how the university chooses to spend its money.

“I think one question we might ask is, ‘What are the priorities of this administration?'” Grzyb says. “Is it about fulfilling the university’s core mission, and teaching, and supporting contract faculty members, or is it about using that money for some other purpose?”

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