The Good Life for Adjunct Faculty in Canada

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For a couple years, a friend and one-time teacher of mine had an adjunct instructor position at the University of Minnesota. He taught a full course load, won a teaching award, and his undergraduate students crafted a Facebook page to advocate for his continued employment. He was, and is, a smart, dedicated teacher–and that rare breed of man who can cultivate and maintain a handsome, reddish beard. But he somehow wasn’t indispensable enough and, in these recession-straitened times, lost the job.

Hired from term to term, sometimes unable to obtain health benefits, and increasingly asked to do a higher and higher proportion of a school’s teaching for meager pay, the career of an adjunct professor in the United States tends to be anxious and tenuous. However, in Canada, at Vancouver Community College, part-time, non-tenured (and non-tenure-track) faculty members live an enviable life of equitable employment practices. As the Chronicle of Higher Education reports, many years of negotiation between the college and its faculty union have resulted in a situation in which, if you teach half time, you are paid half of what full-time employees make. Adjuncts are more often paid simply for credit hours worked. But there’s much more! Part-time faculty members are also paid for office hours and class prep time. Seniority works on the same scale for both part- and full-time faculty, so an adjunct can outrank a full-time employee. Health benefits are available to faculty working at least half time, and maternity leave is available after six months of contract work. Finally, the Chronicle reports that:

Perhaps the most important feature of Vancouver’s system, say experts on adjunct issues, is that it allows faculty members who were initially hired term-by-term to be promoted into jobs with more-secure status. Once they work enough days during a two-year period, and provided they do not receive a negative evaluation, the conversion to regular status is automatic. The college has about 725 faculty members–475 of whom have regular status.

My friend is making a cross-country move this summer, to yet another possibly secure, possibly insecure academic job. He’ll be teaching, which he loves, but will it be a career? Maybe if more colleges and universities had Vancouver’s answer.

Source: Chronicle of Higher Education

Image by AMagill, licensed under Creative Commons.

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