OCUFA Fights for Sessional Professors Rights

OCUFA pins are being given out to supporters to spread awareness on contract faculty fairness. [Photo provided special to the Lance]

by Samantha Fernandez
The Lance – News Editor

We Teach Ontario is the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Association’s (OCUFA) campaign to have a fair contract for sessional professors. These professors and faculty members are fighting for their place in academia, to have similar contract benefits to tenure professors.

Sessional professors, unlike tenure professors, do not have job security within the university. They get their classes right before the classes begin in September and are sometimes teaching up to seven classes a year, when they are only supposed to be teaching around four.

Kate Lawson, the OCUFA president, said they want to fight for their jobs and rights.

“We support their call for better working conditions,” said Lawson, when asked about walk-outs in Toronto. “We Teach Ontario wants to bring visibility to an otherwise invisible issue.”

Since 2000, there has been an 87 per cent increase in the reliance in contract faculty. This is a major increase, but Lawson said it is still not enough to keep up with the growing number of students that are entering universities.

“We all have interest in good jobs,” said Lawson. “We fight for fairness, social justice, and this is all in the best interests of the students.”

Dr. Frances Cachon, a professor in Sociology, Anthropology and Criminology, and sessional professor on campus, believes it is important for academic faculty and staff to have full inclusion and recognition.

“My employment is not an anomaly, it is now the norm,” said Dr. Cachon. “We are trying to raise awareness. We want to humanize the story by putting a face to the name; we are real people, with real struggles, as opposed to a statistic.”

Dr. Cachon described this tactic as “casualized labour”, meaning the academy is keeping professors so they are never really full-time. These sessional instructors are not always teaching the same courses, they are put wherever there is an open position, which means they may not even be told about the course until the week before it starts.

“When we are hired, we are hired to do one course but that is never the case,” said Dr. Cachon. “It is contract to contract and sessionals are teaching up to six courses a year.”

One of the major problems in this case according to both Lawson and Cachon is students are not fully aware of the differences between tenure professors and sessional professors. They believe when they enter the classroom, they are being taught by their professors, no matter what their contract states.

“If students can appreciate their professors, students can have an enormous impact they do not even know about,” said Dr. Cachon. “Our working conditions are your learning conditions.”

The most recent movement was Mar. 12 when the Ontario Government announced it would be launching consultations to inform and review the funding formula for universities, which will begin this spring. This process, according to the government of Ontario will be open and formal, including faculty, students and administration.This process will include employers, colleges, professional association and both the elementary and secondary education sectors and it will be focused on four main points. The first point is to enhance the quality and improve the student experience, the second is to support differentiation as expressed in each universities’ strategic mandate agreement, the third is to maintain financial and long-term stability of the post sectondary sector and the last point is to increase the transparency and accountability.

OCUFA has indicated it will actively participate in the process to voice any and all concerns of professors and academic librarians with goals to ensure “adequate resources to provide high quality and affordable higher education, supporting good academic jobs and promoting stability, equity and transparency.”

Shenikia Clarke, a fourth year Communications, Media and Film student said it is important to make connections with professors to have a heightened learning environments.

“If a large gap between students and professors exists, it affects the learning experience tremendously because it emphasizes students as merely a number,” said Clarke. “ The professors set the learning environment, and it paramount that they make it the best experience possible to promote high achievement.”

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