A voice within the university

Finding our voice

Researchers have had immense difficulty extracting the exact number of contract faculty working inside Canadian universities. Various studies- often using the freedom of information act- have shown that their ranks have swelled inside Canada. In the United States, non-tenured faculty are now estimated to teach 75% of the students.

If adjuncts are becoming permanent, and the 60-hour work week is increasingly becoming the norm even for ‘part-time’ faculty members, we need to have a real conversation about how to better incorporate contract faculty into the university’s institutional structure. Historically, universities were governed according to the principle of collegiality. This system continues to apply- for the most part- to tenured faculty who vote for chairs, sit on faculty committees and are represented in the senate. Collegiality rarely applies to part-time faculty, who are either not represented or under-represented inside the university’s structure of governance.

The growing incongruence between the casualization of the teaching faculty versus a collegiate structure of governance creates many challenges. Often Deans and President promote curricular reforms without consulting the part-time faculty that will have to put them into place. This problem is magnified when at many institutions contract faculty teach the majority of entry level classes with a disproportionate quotient of at-risk students.

At many universities part-time professors are either not paid for service, or are not fully integrated into departmental assemblies, faculty committees or university surveys. It goes without saying, that any institutional initiative introduced inside this type of structure is bound to fall short. The question is, how can this system be improved?

  • What institutional barriers prevent contract faculty from fully contributing to university initiatives?
  • What can be done to integrate part-time faculty better into the university’s structure?
  • What solutions are innovative universities developing for increasing the voice of contract faculty in university governance?