Every October the Canadian Association of University Teachers organizes a week where faculty across Canada take action on campus and social media to recognize the important contributions contract faculty make to postsecondary education and raise awareness about the challenges they face. Principal among these concerns are that many contract faculty have to reapply for their jobs every term, are hired to teach courses for which they are paid less than their full‐time tenure‐stream colleagues, and lack access to benefits.
This year’s Fair Employment Week was special, as it occurred right in the middle of a hotly contested federal election.
Regional meetings held in Southwestern and Eastern Ontario
As part of Fair Employment Week, OCUFA’s Contract Faculty-Faculty Complement committee held two regional meetings at Queen’s University and Western University, with the goal of connecting the struggles of contract and full-time faculty. The alarming increase of precarious academic work on campuses, and the decline in faculty renewal and increase in full-time faculty workloads are two sides of the same coin.
The regional meetings included a panel of presenters from both locations, joined through a video link. Kimberly Ellis-Hale, an instructor at Wilfrid Laurier University and Chair of OCUFA’s Contract Faculty and Faculty Complement Committee; Ann Bigelow, a lecturer at Western University and OCUFA Treasurer, John Ciriello, President of the University of Western Ontario Faculty Association; and Carolina Cancelliere, a professor at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology. The panelists discussed the cuts and problematic policies introduced by the Ford government and their experiences. The panel was followed by local strategy discussions for supporting contract faculty, and building solidarity between full-time tenure-stream and contract faculty on campus.
OCADU professors mount special “The Gleaners” art exhibit
For Fair Employment Week, members of the Ontario College of Art and Design Faculty Association (OCADFA) mounted a special art exhibit to draw attention to the challenges faced by contract faculty at OCADU.
“This installation is a reminder of the struggle that many workers still face at universities and colleges across Canada, including OCADU,” said Surendra Lawoti, Interim President of OCADFA. “It’s time for OCADU to step up and show our contract faculty members the respect they have earned after years and years of hard work and dedication.”
OCADU prides itself on hiring practicing artists, but often fails to foster an employment environment that supports and encourages their art practices to flourish. Created by Ines Scepanovic, “The Gleaners” art installation uses imagery from Francois Millet’s 1857 painting, The Gleaners, which depicts three impoverished farm workers collecting grain left behind after the harvest.
“Most of us are familiar with the iconic figures of The Gleaners,” said Bill Leaming, Associate Professor in the Faculty of Liberal Studies at OCADU. “In this installation, these figures represent sessional instructors and the working conditions they must endure to survive. This exhibit shines a spotlight on the callous and hard-hearted economic calculus at work in education today.”
Events across Ontario
Many Ontario faculty associations hosted events on their own campuses to raise awareness about the need for university administrations to create good jobs on campus that provide contract faculty with fair working conditions and opportunities for research.
Many faculty associations set up tables and used the opportunity to build solidarity with fellow faculty members, staff, and students.