Dear Members:

Our email about increasing ratios of students to tenured/tenure-track faculty prompted queries about similar figures regarding sessional faculty. While we don’t have the numbers on sessionals from 2005/06, we do have those numbers from 06/07 on, and they tell an interesting story. Here’s the breakdown of numbers of sessionals since 06/07:

06/07: 225
07/08: 205
08/09: 231
09/10: 215
10/11: 236
11/12: 279
12/13: 292

Alongside this growth of nearly 30%, Continuing has gone from 24 to 33 (38% increase); and CLTAs have gone from 13 to 32 (146% increase-with a trend to 1-year CLTAs, marking a further casualization of labour). As we noted previously, this is against an increase in enrolment of 26.5% over the last 6 six years, and a 4.9% decline of tenure and tenure-track faculty.

Since all the growth in teaching staff has been in these areas, they’re the ones who have enabled the school to keep up with climbing enrolment. And the relatively high sessional complement exposes our students to a healthy mix of career practitioners and career academics. As well, this arrangement suits many sessionals with active practices.

But sessionals now do about 37% of the teaching, even though the Memorandum of Agreement limits this number to 30%. So we’re pressing this issue, and have prioritized it for negotiations. Why? How does this affect our quality of education?

As the use of sessionals grows, more and more of them burn out on a treadmill of temporary employment. As their teaching income becomes increasingly precarious, sesssionals must cobble things together at multiple schools, which gets exhausting quickly. (For some excellent context on this, see James Turk “Restructuring Academic Work” in Universities at Risk [2008].)

And more sessionals means fewer faculty for committees – so sessionals have less time for teaching because they’re juggling campuses, full-time faculty have less time for teaching because they’re juggling meetings, and creativity and scholarship suffers everywhere. (A situation worsened by the fact that, increasingly, sessionals feel pressured to do service, thus effectively working for free). So, it’s in everyone’s interest for sessionals to have a better deal, and for administration to make good on its commitment to create more full-time, permanent jobs.

Note: the MoA lets OCADFA waive the five-year cap for sessionals on a case-by-case basis, and we have told deans that OCADFA will grant any waiver they request. So, anyone who says you can’t be re-hired because you’ve reached your five-year cap is wrong. We’ve got work to do on job security for sessionals, but OCADFA’s not to blame for their precarious status.