CUPE Local 1356 Blog

Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 1356. We have three Collective Agreements as Local 1356, 1356-01, and 1356-02. The membership is comprised of the full-time and part-time workers of York University the Local website is at 1356.cupe.ca This Blog will include Local information and information garnered from sources other Universities, Colleges, Post Secondary/Tertiary Education and news sources supplying information.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Let's not forget the 'other' UPEI professors

The Guardian (Charlottetown)
Wed 05 Apr 2006

During the ongoing discussions of labour negotiations at UPEI, one group of professors has been largely overlooked - sessional instructors.

Sessional instructors are the most poorly paid, the least secure, and the least supported professors at UPEI. 'Sessional' essentially means 'temporary', and sessional contracts used to be offered as stop-gap measures when unexpected needs arose. Nowadays, the university relies on sessional instructors for a significant proportion of its regular course offerings.

According to a recent UPEI document, the university assigns 313 sessional courses over the year - which is equivalent to 40-50 full-time contracts. In the English department, one of two departments in which I teach, 23 of the 52 courses listed in the timetable for the current semester are offered by sessional instructors.

Why is UPEI so addicted to sessional employment? The official buzzword is 'flexibility', but we sessional instructors know what that really means: sessional instructors are both cheap and easily exploited. Here are some facts about sessional instruction at UPEI:
  • There are currently 119 sessional instructors at UPEI - or one sessional instructor for every two full-time professors.
  • Sessional instructors are paid $3,800 for each course taught. If they teach as much as is permitted and available over a year - usually five courses - they would earn $19,000 in a year.
  • UPEI saves $1,262,000 in salaries alone and $1.6 million in salaries plus benefits by hiring poorly paid, 'temporary' sessional instructors instead of full-time faculty (at a base salary of $47,000).
  • When sessional instructors aren't actually teaching (for example, in the summer), they are not paid. Since the sessional 'stipend' covers only the term itself, if instructors wish to prepare their courses ahead of time (and of course they do!), they must do it for nothing.
  • Unlike other faculty members, sessional instructors do not have a professional development allowance to help them attend conferences and workshops and buy books that would support their teaching. Given their low pay, they perhaps have the greatest need for such help.
  • Some sessional instructors do not have offices in which to meet students and carry out their work.
  • Some sessional instructors have been teaching steadily at UPEI for more than a decade, but the university persists in regarding them as temporary workers with whom it has no ongoing relations.
  • Until the Faculty Association became a union, the university refused to allow anyone to negotiate contracts on behalf of sessional instructors.
  • The university refuses to consider sessional instructors as 'faculty' with an interest in the nature of the institution and a voice in its governance. The word 'faculty' in the current collective agreement is specifically narrowed to include only full-time teachers.
  • Because of the university's increasing use of sessional instruction, as
    enrolments have risen, the per student cost of full- time instruction has actually diminished - along with per-student government funding.
  • In recent years, UPEI has massively overspent its budget for part-time instruction - while underspending its budget for full-time instruction.

The sessional professors whom I know are hard-working, dedicated, bright, and creative. They love meeting students in their classrooms and offices, and they are stimulated and rewarded by their work in their own disciplines. They put their heart and soul into their teaching because
they believe in it - and are all the more demoralized as they see sessional teaching ever growing and never recognized, never fairly rewarded, and never adequately supported at UPEI.

I hope that Islanders will keep in mind the sessional component of university teaching as they consider the levels of public funding for UPEI.

Dr. Kay S. Diviney teaches in the Departments of English and Music at the University of Prince Edward Island.
  • (Information from various UPEI and Faculty Association sources.)


© 2006 Transcontinental Media G.P. All rights reserved.

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