On Monday, August 18th, the University of Western Ontario Faculty Association (UWOFA) launched a series exploring the uncertainty and instability faced by contract faculty. Titled “Standing in the shadows of the academy,” the project uses stories and video to feature contract faculty who struggle to make ends meet, despite being exceptional teachers and researchers.
“This is an ethical issue,” said UWOFA president Alison Hearn. “The university administration has a duty to adequately support teaching – a core mission of the university. And that means properly compensating the excellent work of our contract academic staff.”
Contract faculty currently teach about 40 per cent of Western’s courses, and account for about 36 per cent of UWOFA’s membership. Similar situations exist at campuses across Ontario. As enrolment has increased, administrators have increasingly turned to precarious faculty appointments to meet their teaching needs. Contract faculty must often lack even basic job security and must work with no benefits and few resources
“You have to remember that these are people’s lives, too,” said Sonia Halpern, a contract instructor at Western featured in UWOFA’s campaign. “Contract faculty have to eat and pay mortgages and rent. It’s tough-going for a lot of us.”