Fight to save con­tract profs high­lights dis­pute

Tillsonburg News - - DRIVING - HEATHER RIVERS

For­mer and cur­rent his­tory stu­dents at western univer­sity are ral­ly­ing around three pop­u­lar full­time his­tory pro­fes­sors who have been told their con­tracts will not be re­newed at the end of the school year.

The cam­paign comes as western and its roughly 1,650 fac­ulty mem­bers have been locked in a con­tract dis­pute since June, with a strike date set for Nov. 9.

“The thing that shocks us all about these three fac­ulty mem­bers is that their classes are con­sis­tently full and these are the cour­ses our stu­dents want to take,” said sara Poulin, a Phd his­tory stu­dent at western, who has taken cour­ses from all three of the pro­fes­sors.

“so now there is the po­ten­tial that the pro­fes­sors will not have jobs, but there is a chance their cour­ses will not be of­fered next year.”

stu­dents have started a Face­book page protest­ing the con­tract cuts for pro­fes­sors Karen Pri­est­man, ge­off stew­art and Jeff va­cante, who Poulin said each taught for close to a decade at western.

stu­dents and alumni have also started an email writ­ing cam­paign to bob an­der­son, dean of so­cial sciences, and provost an­drew hry­mak.

They may even stage a protest, Poulin said.

“it was with great dis­may that i learned of the de­ci­sion not to re­new each of their con­tracts,” wrote his­tory grad­u­ate gor­don vance in a let­ter ad­dressed to an­der­son. “western’s stu­dents will suf­fer as a re­sult of the loss of three of the univer­sity’s best young pro­fes­sors.”

over the past cou­ple of years, univer­sity fac­ul­ties have been elim­i­nat­ing con­tract fac­ulty po­si­tions, par­tic­u­larly in the his­tory de­part­ment, Poulin said.

de­clin­ing en­rol­ment in the school’shis­to­rypro­gram­sis­to­blame, the school has told stu­dents.

dan bel­liveau, pres­i­dent of western’s fac­ulty as­so­ci­a­tion, said the fac­ulty and the univer­sity are still hag­gling over sev­eral is­sues to reach a col­lec­tive agree­ment, in­clud­ing job se­cu­rity for con­tract work­ers.

bel­liveau said a strike date has been set for Fri­day at 12:01 a.m. he said the fac­ulty as­so­ci­a­tion is con­cerned about the pre­car­i­ous na­ture of con­tract aca­demic fac­ulty ap­point­ments and that the po­si­tions can be elim­i­nated for ill-de­fined “oper­a­tional rea­sons” as de­ter­mined by univer­sity ad­min­is­tra­tion.

“one of our main goals in this round of ne­go­ti­a­tions is to es­tab­lish job se­cu­rity for our con­tract fac­ulty,” bel­liveau said. “ei­ther part-time con­tract or lim­ited-term con­tract fac­ulty … they may have been serv­ing for years and are still re­quired to ap­ply ei­ther term by term for their cour­ses or per­haps af­ter one- or two-year lim­ited term to at­tempt to get their term ex­tended. … That is some­thing we are work­ing hard to elim­i­nate.”

a re­cent re­port by the Cana­dian Cen­tre for Pol­icy al­ter­na­tives on con­tract fac­ulty ap­point­ments at Cana­dian uni­ver­si­ties found that pub­lic uni­ver­si­ties are re­ly­ing heav­ily on con­tract fac­ulty, with 53.6 per cent of ap­point­ments across the coun­try be­ing con­tract jobs.

at western, the re­port said, con­tract ap­point­ments make up 65 per cent of all fac­ulty ap­point­ments, com­pared to the on­tario pro­vin­cial av­er­age of 54 per cent.

Chan­dra Pasma, co-au­thor of the re­port, said pre­car­i­ously em­ployed teach­ers of­ten don’t get the same sup­port and re­sources as their coun­ter­parts, de­pend­ing on terms of a con­tract.

“The big­gest thing for con­tract fac­ulty is in­se­cu­rity and low wages. in some cases wages can be as low as $5,000 a course,” she said. “a teacher with a full course load can still be below the poverty line in some cities.”

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