Contract Academic Staff « WLUFA

Contract Academic Staff

March 5, 2014

Welcome to a new space for adjunct faculty

Planning, collaboration, and other issues of importance to contract faculty in Canada.

by Kane X. Faucher

The number of contract faculty members in Canadian universities is growing, outpacing more secure forms of employment, while tenure-track hiring is lagging. Members of this constituency — sometimes called the “precariat” or “academic industrial reserve army” – have, in some cases, taught for more than 10 years, PhD in hand. They work part-time in name only, as many of their other efforts at the university are unseen and uncompensated.

Members of this constituency, as well as some of our tenured peers, feel frustration by how too many universities fail to collect or publish data about contract faculty and how so many of us are paid a fraction of full-time wages for almost the same work, while universities market their graduate programs to prospective students as the path to high earnings. Of those who acknowledge the specific plight of adjuncts, many are unwilling or incapable of doing anything about it.

Faced with what can seem to be widespread labour exploitation, many of us may be tempted to seize the superstructure by force to achieve labour equality through revolution. But the issue is more complex than simply being underpaid and invisible, and the solutions require more finesse than storming the palace. If there is to be a revolution among the growing class of angry, frustrated, and demoralized contract faculty, it will involve more mundane measures: patience, strategic planning, and collaboration with faculty of all ranks. In fact, we must all be part of the solution, not simply add to the problem.

The job precariousness of learned individuals in a tough market is hardly new. In 18th- century Germany, only full professors received a steady salary; associate professors were sometimes not paid at all, and lecturers, similar to adjuncts, were paid directly by students. Immanuel Kant worked part-time as an assistant librarian while he was a lecturer for 15 years before landing his dream job of full professor in 1770 at the age of 46. Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel was 36 before he had a steady salary and 46 before he became professor at the University of Heidelberg, after having published his body weight in philosophy. These asides are not meant to justify current working conditions but rather to show that the problem of underpaid, insecure, transient employment has been with us for some time.

Who we are

I plan to use this series of columns to tackle issues of importance to contract faculty, and also to advance constructive tactics for using existing channels for setting an agenda for change. If contract faculty want to mobilize and agitate, there are much more effective ways than raging against our tenured colleagues, and ways that do not involve being divisive and disrespectful. Even if we all walked off the job tomorrow in an effort to bring university administrations to their knees, that will not happen, for there is a large surplus of graduate students that can be piped into our classrooms.

I am an adjunct, six years in, and five years out from completing my doctorate. I serve proudly in many capacities in our faculty association, commit research time to the plight of contract faculty, and actively participate in the academic life of my unit where permitted. My story may not be too dissimilar to your own: I have taught a large number of courses that receive fairly high evaluations – a common feature among adjuncts – and have made efforts to improve my own professionalization through publications and conferences. I don’t have a tried-and-true method for stepping into a tenure-track position.

Adjuncts are a varied constituency. Some are professionals in established fields like medicine or law for whom teaching is a kind of honorable supplement. For others, contract teaching is the primary source of income, and these adjuncts want to be a more permanent fixture in the faculty. Another group is comprised of graduate students. Within each of these groups, there are finer gradations.

In the U.S., 70 percent or more of teaching faculty are adjuncts. In Canada, the picture is hazier due to a paucity of collected data, but it is believed that the adjunct complement in Canadian universities stands at around 50 percent. The last time any significant data collection on adjuncts was performed was in Hidden Academics: Contract faculty in Canadian Universities, by Indu Rajagopal in 2001.

If you are an adjunct, most likely you are paid a stipend of $4,000 to $7,000 per half-course and you probably aren’t compensated for course preparation and grading. You may be considered to be working only while in the lecture theatre or during office hours. You may not have a lot of lead time before a course assignment, or even sufficient access to university resources to develop your course. At most Canadian universities (with a few notable exceptions), you don’t have benefits such as life or dental insurance. A large number of you are still paying off student debt, and may be putting off owning a home or starting a family. Some of you still have to apply every year to teach the same course you have taught for the last 10 years.

Many of you want to distinguish yourselves in research, but can’t due to lack of access to grants and a heavy teaching load. Some of you need to teach at more than one institution. You might not have access to an office. For some who have been adjuncts for more than 25 years, you have no extra compensation for length of service, and no appreciable gains in security.

Unlike adjuncts down south who have mobilized their constituency by creating sites such as The Adjunct Project or organizations such as The New Faculty Majority which hosts annual summits to discuss issues unique to adjuncts, Canadians have yet to organize a nationwide response to the plight of adjuncts.

We do have allies who pay attention to this issue, such as the Canadian Association of University Teachers and their Fair Employment Week initiative. There are also pockets of resistance that better inform ourselves and the public, such as and

In the months ahead, I plan to consider a range of adjunct issues: how to build alliances, how to raise awareness about your plight without hostility, the benefits of participating in a faculty association, how to accommodate research, how to avoid predatory publishing and conference opportunities, and how to manage the challenges associated with adjunct life, among others.

Dr. Faucher is an adjunct with the title of assistant professor of media, information and technoculture in the faculty of information and media studies at Western University.

 March 5 , 2014

Six myths about contract faculty in Canada

Let’s discard our false assumptions about adjuncts’ relationship with the university, tenured faculty and the public.

by Kane X. Faucher


Sessionals face a great deal of adversity and insecurity, but clinging to certain assumptions blinds us to the reality of our conditions as an auxiliary academic workforce — and to insights on how to improve these conditions. Here are some myths that we need to discard.

1. Tenured faculty are your sworn class enemy

You may be paid a fraction of what they are paid for performing a similar duty such as teaching, and you may have an excellent teaching record, with plenty of experience and awards. However, people rarely will act in your favour if you are accusing them of holding onto a job for which you would be better suited. Plus, should you have aspirations to be hired full-time in your academic unit, this isn’t likely to happen if you’ve spent years raining fury on the very people you would be working with in a tenure-track position.

Some of your tenured colleagues were once just like you, on precarious contracts. And ever larger numbers of tenured faculty are coming to realize that protecting the interests of sessional instructors is in everyone’s interest. Let us debunk the first myth: that all tenured faculty are of one mind, speaking in the same voice, and in the back-pocket of the administration. If we’re to have any chance at improving the conditions of contingent academic labour, we must focus on how contract and tenured faculty can work together.

2. They are doing you a favour by allowing you to teach

In a tough job market, it may seem a blessing to be given any form of employment, especially if you are one of the lucky few hired to teach in your area of expertise. But, no one is doing you a favour by hiring you on a contract: it is a mutual agreement for labour. Ultimately, you represent a cost-savings for the university. That said, avoid comparisons between sessional work and slavery, for as David Leonard points out, this rhetorical hyperbole is not only inaccurate, it is also offensive to those in the world who are entrapped in forced labour. Speak of injustice, not slavery.

3. Our interests are better served by bargaining independently

Some administrators might hope that we would split off from faculty associations and certify as our own bargaining group. But this is not a good idea. It might grant those administrations that aren’t labour-friendly a great deal of leverage to play one group against the other. Several universities do have separate bargaining units for sessional faculty, including York University and the University of Toronto, but these arrangements are not always ideal.

I think a better route is to remain in a single association while acknowledging the interests of sessionals and of full-time faculty are different. Yet, there is enough common ground to integrate faculty of all ranks and to communicate the needs of sessionals to full-time faculty. A case might be made in terms of the UBC Faculty Association that now represents all faculty. Facing what may be a growing attack on unions, smaller associations may be more vulnerable.

4. “It’s my fault.”

You may at times feel guilt or shame for being in the sessional stream for too long, and start to think that it is your own fault. Keep in mind that no matter what you did or what you now do in your career, the problem at its root may be about economic realities and delayed retirement by many tenured faculty. This has led to less hiring of new tenure-track faculty than was expected.

You are a highly qualified and underpaid professional. The fact that you aren’t on the tenure track probably doesn’t signify any professional flaws. The challenges facing academia were not your creation, and you are not to blame for how the hiring crisis plays out. Some of us have been led to believe that what we do is of lower value than the work of our tenured colleagues, but take stock in what you do: by leveraging your intellectual skills, you design and deliver meaningful lectures that edify your students. When the university boasts of its teaching excellence, take pride that you are part of what makes that statement true.

5. The majority of sessional faculty are professionals working in other fields

This is a very commonly propagated myth: that sessionals or adjuncts are performing their duties as a supplement to full time professional careers in law or medicine. If Irene Smolik’s situation is any indication of the norm, it may be closer to the truth that a majority of sessional or adjunct faculty rely on this employment as their primary source of income. Since we don’t have the data, we just don’t know for sure. For those who would like to gain job security outside academia, the rigours of teaching several courses, sometimes at multiple institutions, leaves little or no time to perform a job search, let alone prepare for an interview.

6. Public opinion is on your side

Although some members of the public profess strong sympathies for progressive labour standards, most people do not have an intimate understanding of labour issues inside the university system. When you tell people what you do for a living, they may seem perplexed that you are not highly compensated. Also, you can’t assume that the public is on side if the prevailing opinion is that faculty hold sinecure, overpaid positions that do not provide maximum value for tuition dollar. Even though this opinion may be at stark odds with the reality for both sessional and full-time faculty, convincing the public of the scale and complexity of academic labour issues won’t be quick or easy.

Dr. Faucher is an adjunct with the title of assistant professor of media, information and technoculture in the faculty of information and media studies at Western University.


March 4, 2014


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June 13, 2012

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April 13, 2012

Article – Seniority Status List

The seniority status list can be found on the WLU website:

At go to the Resources tab at the top of the page. Click on Human Resources. On the new page, click on the link labelled Employee Relations. Click on the link for WLUFA. Here, you will see WLUFA Seniority List, click on it; you will need your novell username and password to access it.

March 2, 2012

For your convenience, WLUFA has posted the CAS Roster Application Form

Due: April 15th
Members who wish to submit an application for courses before they are posted shall submit this Roster_Form_v.01_2014 by April 15. Otherwise, Members may apply for courses as they are posted.  Please see the form for more details.


Part-time Appointment Committee Training Workshop

You may view the PTAC Workshop presentation from the Wednesday, September 21, 2011 meeting here..

Created on: Friday, September 23rd, 2011

Last updated on: Wednesday, March 5th, 2014