This theme is in relation to the (in)visible conference.
Let’s talk about wellness
Teaching is a demanding profession. Surveys of faculty at both the secondary and post-secondary level reveal high levels of stress, rooted in long hours tending to multiplying demands from students and administrators. One surprising finding of a recent survey by World University Rankings, was that over half reported struggling with mental health issues ‘a lot.’ Additionally, over 40% responded that their job impacted their personal relationships “a lot.”
One factor that World University Rankings survey left unexamined is to what extent does stress on campus correlate to the growing ‘casualization’ of the academic workforce? In the US, over ¾ of the faculty are considered ‘adjunct.’ A StatCan survey reveals that Canada is catching up rapidly.
Across Canada, defined benefit pensions and tenure positions are being replaced by temporary contracts and defined contribution plans. Many contingent faculty do not have access to employer health care plans at all. How does this economic insecurity impact the mental health of the university’s non-tenured faculty? Surprisingly, this is not a question that many university administrators have studied. For example, a recent workload survey at the University of Ottawa, left part-time professors out.
Every April at the University of Ottawa the stress level among part-time faculty rises as the postings for the next academic year are revealed. What classes will be available? Will I get the courses I have taught for years? Will I get four courses so that I can claim unemployment insurance and survive the summer? If there are not enough courses, can I find a contract in Kingston or Montreal to make rent?
Canadian Universities often embrace robust statements about their support for human rights, wellness and mental health. With the level of stress afflicting their own faculty mounting, the time has come to measure such words against tangible action. What initiatives are Canadian administrators prepared to undertake to create an environment of wellness? What common sense reforms might reduce the mounting stresses upon part-time faculty?