Panel Discussion: In Search of Professor Precarious
In October 2021, URFA’s Sessional Advocacy Committee hosted a screening of the documentary film “In Search of Professor Precarious”, followed by a rich panel discussion. Participants heard about the opportunities and challenges found in sessional employment, shared encouragement, and left with ideas of how to stand in solidarity with sessional faculty.
If you weren’t able to attend, we’re pleased to share the recording of the panel discussion and Q&A period with you.
Some ‘not so fun’ facts about being a sessional instructor
Prepared by URFA’s Sessional Advocacy Committee
- According to the 2019/2020 URFA Annual Report, the number of Sessional Instructors
employed at the U of R increased from 451 in 2003 to 609 in 2019: an increase of 35%. However, the number of faculty members only increased by 3.9% (18 hires) during the same time period. (Source)
- According to a 2014 CBC report, depending on the faculty, the salary of professors at most Canadian universities ranges between $80,000 and $150,000 a year. A contract faculty person teaching those same four courses will earn about $28,000. (Source)
- CUPE 4163 Component 3 represents approximately 450 sessional lecturers and music performance instructors at the University of Victoria. They teach 30 per cent of all university students at UVic. (Source)
- A 2018 survey conducted by the Faculty Association of the University of Calgary determined that:
- between 2005 and 2015, there was a 79% increase in university teachers working part-time;
- 53% of respondents want a tenure-track university or full-time, permanent college job;
- 69% of survey respondents feel their working conditions need to change;
- 45% of respondents reported that if they did not get their contract instructor pay, they wouldn’t be able to pay their monthly bills; and
- two-thirds of respondents said their mental health has been negatively impacted by the contingent nature of their employment, and just 19% think the institutions where they work are model employers and supporters of good jobs. (Source)
What you can do to support sessionals
If you are a sessional member of URFA, here are three ways you can raise awareness of sessional issues and encourage others to support you:
- Share your story as a sessional by contributing a short article for publication on the URFA website. Send your article for consideration to our office.
- Join the Sessional Advocacy Committee to advocate on behalf of sessionals.
- Become a sessional representative on other URFA committees such as the Council of Representatives, Equity Committee or a Joint University Committee.
If you are a non-sessional member of URFA, here is how you can stand in solidarity with your sessional colleagues:
- Watch the film “In Search of Professor Precarious” (available online through the Archer Library) and watch the URFA panel discussion above.
- Connect with the Sessional Advocacy Committee to see if there are ways you can support them.
- Read the Power Despite Precarity: Strategies for the Contingent Movement in Higher Education by Joe Berry and Helena Worthen.
- Advocate for features of sessional instructors in department communication materials.
- Support sessional instructors in applying for teaching awards.
- Read Unionization, academic freedom & sessional contract faculty by Stephanie Ross, Larry Savage & James Watson.
URFA thanks the guest panelists for their thought-provoking and motivating contributions to the panel discussion. Thanks also to the participants who joined us for an excellent discussion. If you learned something new from the film or the panel discussion, consider sharing your learning on social media so others can learn too!