Monday, October 24, 2016

Putting a Face on Contract Faculty Members: A Recent Study

Guest post by Kate Lawson for CAUT’s Fair Employment Week

Most of us would agree that academic jobs should be good jobs. But many of us have little knowledge of the real working conditions and academic background of contract faculty members, colleagues who are also known as “sessionals” or “part-timers.”

A recently published study by C.C. Field and G.A. Jones from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) provides much-needed data about who contract faculty are at Ontario universities.

If you think that “sessionals” teach “part-time” by choice, that they lack a terminal degree, do not engage in research, or teach “on the side” because they have a full-time job elsewhere, then you are thinking of what Field and Jones call classic sessionals. In their study, classics sessionals comprise 24.8% of those surveyed.

By contrast, 61.3% of contract faculty are what they term precarious sessionals who rely on their income from instructional work.

Field and Jones state that they use “the term ‘precarious’ for two reasons: first, many are working full-time equivalent workloads (when courses are available) on a semester-by semester basis, with little or no job security; and second, these sessionals are likely to be either hopeful or disillusioned with the idea of having a full-time permanent career in the academy.”

So who are the “precarious sessionals,” according to Field and Jones?

  • They are likely to be female (60.2%); 
  • They are likely to hold a PhD (70.94%); 
  • They are likely to work on short-term contracts of less than 6 months (53.9%); 
  • They are likely to aspire to a full-time position with benefits in the academy. 

Do “precarious sessionals” work part-time?

  • many are working full-time equivalent hours and course loads; 
  • 63.1% teach an average at least two or more courses per semester in the winter/fall.

Is the “precarious sessional” pool a transient one?

  • Field and Jones report: “One of the most surprising findings is that sessional faculty are not as transient a group as one might have anticipated. In fact, over 15% of our sample have been working for more than 15 years as a sessional instructor. Only 12.6% of respondents reported that they had worked one year or less, with 26.12% having between 2 and 4 years of experience, and 26.8% having between 5 and 8 years of experience. Those with 9 to 14 years of experience make up the final 17.8%. Roughly one-third of all respondents had 9 or more years of experience as a sessional instructor.” 

Do “precarious sessionals” engage in research?

  • 37% are pursuing an active program of research, even though research is typically unremunerated. 

What are the effects on individuals of short-term contract work?

  • 89% find short-term contractual employment to be a source of considerable personal strain (compared with only 29% of classic sessional faculty). 

What do contract faculty earn through teaching on a sessional, part-time, or contract basis?

  • roughly 45% of sessional faculty earn less than $19,930 (the Low-income measure after tax);
  • 25.6% earn between $19,930 and $39,999; 
  • 17.3% report a middle-class income of between $40,000 and $79,999; 
  • 2.6% of respondents earn more than $80,000

Field and Jones’ study also provides a lot of useful suggestions for department chairs at places such as UW. For example, in order to help improve the working conditions for contract faculty, chairs can try to ensure that they have:
  • Contracts issued well in advance of the teaching term; 
  • Timely access to learning management systems, photocopiers, the library, and professional development opportunities; 
  • Private office space so that contract faculty can meet students; 
  • A stable email address; 
  • Invitations to department meetings; and 
  • Supplies such as whiteboard markers, paper, and letterhead. 
If you care about the quality of higher education in Ontario, you should care about the working conditions of contract faculty members. I urge you to read the study in its entirety.

Field, C. C. & Jones, G.A. (2016). A Survey of Sessional Faculty in Ontario Publicly-Funded Universities. Toronto: Centre for the Study of Canadian and International Higher Education, OISE-University of Toronto.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

City of Waterloo Neighbourhood Strategy Consultations

The City of Waterloo is developing a neighbourhood strategy and is looking for faculty to participate.

What do you love about Waterloo neighbourhoods? What are your great ideas for making Waterloo neighbourhoods even better? 

The city is looking for 12 faculty members to join a discussion and share their vision for even stronger, more connected neighbourhoods in Waterloo! 

October 17, 12:00 p.m. to 1:20 p.m. in Needles Hall, room 3043. 

The City of Waterloo will welcome the first 12 people to RSVP to Janet at

Please bring a bag lunch, coffee and cookies will be provided. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Faculty Performance Evaluations To Get an Overhaul

The University of Waterloo is presently considering amending the Memorandum of Agreement to change the way in which faculty members are evaluated. While discussion of student evaluation of teaching abounds in the academic community, faculty performance evaluation has so far received little attention in comparison.

In this context, UW brings a substantive but positive proposal to cut performance evaluations for tenured and continuing faculty back to only every other year, and increases the transparency of the review process. Pre-tenure and definite term faculty members will still submit activity reports and receive feedback every year.

Evaluating each Faculty member is a very time-consuming exercise; spacing it out to every two years will free up time for both administrators and faculty members to address other pressing issues.

The full text of the proposed changes and answers to questions you might have are provided on FAUW’s website. The FAUW board of directors endorses these changes and believes that they are in the best interests of our members.

If you’d like to learn more or discuss the proposal with board members, we invite you to a town hall meeting on October 5, so you can make an informed decision before voting. The poll will be open from October 3 to October 14.

–√Člise Lepage

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Welcome back to campus from FAUW!

We at FAUW hope you had a fantastic summer, full of lots of research and course prep and writing…right?

To help you kick off the new school year, here are some tips on how to get the most out of your Faculty Association:

1. Find out who your FAUW reps are

Browse the new board and staff member bios on our website and get to know who we are and what we do.

2. Stay in touch 

Stay up-to-date on what FAUW is doing and issues affecting faculty at UW through our blog and social media accounts (we’re on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+).

Sign up to get blog posts delivered to your email.

Find out about gender and equity events and news by subscribing to the Equity Update newsletter.

3. Make sure you’re a member

Become an active FAUW member by signing up on our website (you are already represented by us and paying dues, but need to fill out the membership form once in your career).

4. Join the Council of Representatives

We are looking forward to enhancing our communication with members this year, in part by redefining and revalorizing our Council of Representatives. If you have are interested in representing your unit on the Council, talk to your Chair or to Bryan Tolson, FAUW’s vice president.

5. Attend a new faculty event

A special welcome goes to our new faculty members! We have events designed for you coming up on October 19: come meet new colleagues, eat, drink, and compare notes! Not-so-new faculty are also invited to welcome your new colleagues and share tips for adjusting to Waterloo. Stay tuned to our website for more details soon!.

6. Save the date: don’t miss these other FAUW events

7. Tell us what’s up

We need to know what issues our members are facing so we can address them. There are a number of ways you can let us know how we can help:
  • Provide feedback in response to emails and social media and blog posts about what we're currently working on. Your comments will reach members of the board and inform FAUW's position.
  • Bring new issues to our attention via social media, this blog or by getting in touch with any of our board members.
  • If you're dealing with an individual workplace problem, contact the Academic Freedom & Tenure Committee for personalized support.

8. Browse the archives

See what we've been up to over the last little while by browsing past blog posts and news items on our website. Or use the tags to delve into a particular issue.

Wishing you a productive and enjoyable fall semester,

The FAUW Board of Directors

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

CAUT Discussion List on the Copyright Act Review

In anticipation of the upcoming parliamentary review of the Copyright Act, the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) has created and is hosting a listerv called copy2017a.

The purpose of the list is to facilitate communication among individuals in the education community about the 2017 review.

If you would like to join the list, please contact Paul Jones (, CAUT’s Education officer.

By way of background, the purpose of copy2017a is to facilitate discussion of topics of interest to individuals in the education community about the 2017 Review of the Canadian Copyright Act. List members share information about what is happening at the local, provincial, national and international level, and participate in developing advocacy strategies to ensure copyright law respects and furthers the interests of the education community.

copy2017a is a bilingual discussion group and correspondence is encouraged in French or English. copy2017a is not to be used for the posting of job advertisements.

Postings to the list should be addressed to

All postings must include the identification of the sender (name, institution and email address).

Participation in this list is open to individuals. The list is not moderated. Any messages inappropriate for general distribution should not be posted. Participants should be aware that any messages posted or replies to messages posted are automatically distributed to all those on the list. Anyone wishing to communicate to individuals on the list is encouraged to send a private message, rather than utilizing copy2017a. Any participants who post material found to be defamatory or who violate any list rules will be removed from the list.

Friday, August 19, 2016

New Report on Sessional Faculty in Ontario

Researchers at OISE have prepared a report on sessional faculty for the Ontario Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development. Sessional faculty are defined in this report as faculty members who are either hired course by course or on short-term contracts. The report studies sessional faculty at 12 Ontario universities.

The report is available on the Centre for the Study of Canadian and International Higher Education (CIHE) blog.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Salary Anomaly Working Group Results Released

By now you will have received notification of the Salary Anomaly Working Group final report. FAUW has posted highlights from the report and a Frequently Asked Questions page on our website, which we will be adding to as more questions come in.

On behalf of the FAUW Board, I would like to thank the Working Group for the extraordinary amount of work they put into this task. It is my understanding from talking to those on the committee that this group represented the very best of processes at UW. While they came from diverse parts of campus and constituencies, they were committed to the twin tasks of both identifying anomalies and designing processes for now and the future and they did so in a very collegial and effective manner.

I would like to thank Lynne Taylor in particular, who co-chaired the group with Jean Andrey. Lynne has continued her work on this project into a well-earned sabbatical. I also thank our other two FAUW representatives, Cecilia Cotton and Benoit Charbonneau. Cecilia in particular continued to respond to questions and address issues despite being on parental leave since May. As well, I thank all other members of the group for their hard work: Jean Andrey (co-chair and Dean of Environment), Christiane Lemieux and Bill Power. The degree of cooperation and goodwill on the Working Group is to be commended. Finally, it is my understanding that staff assistance (Human Resources’ in particular) on this project was always gracious and highly effective, without which this review could not have happened.

My final comment relates to our relationship with the university administration on this issue. These processes don't always run smoothly at any institution. Most gratifyingly, when the Working Group submitted its report to the University administration and FAUW, the Provost in particular accepted the findings immediately. It was seen by all parties as quite simply the right and necessary thing to do. It is a real pleasure to be able to report this.

—Sally Gunz, FAUW President

Read the report (PDF)
Read the highlights
Read the F.A.Q.