Myth of the part-time professor

What is a ‘part-time professor?’ At the University of Ottawa this title applies to those professors bound by the APTPUO agreement. Given the title ‘part-time,’ one would be forgiven for thinking that a part-time professor works less than 40 hours a week. In fact, some ‘part-time’ professors at the University of Ottawa work more over 60 hours/week. Teaching, after all, is a demanding profession. There is no finite limit to the time a dedicated teacher will invest in success of their students’ success. A recent CAUT survey showed that 66% of part-time faculty desire a permanent position, but they are forced to work less. In Canada, this trend towards ‘casualization’ of the professoriate; transforming tenure positions into contract positions with substantially less benefits represents a decade long trend.

Creation of a class of non-tenured faculty

The more relevant question is not what is, but who is the part-time professor? Surveys show that considerable diversity separates the ranks of non-tenure stream faculty. Some are full-time teachers on contracts. Some are professionals — like lawyers or entrepreneurs — that volunteer to teach a course or two. Others might have a long-employment history at an institution, but struggle to pay their rent or feed their families.

‘Part-time’ is not a reference to actual hours worked, or the quality of a professor’s teaching. Rather, ‘part-time’ is an indication of employment status. Although a PhD is the basic qualification for university instruction, the ‘part-time’ label has enabled the University to discriminate and pay PhDs out at half the normal rate of tenured professors. In fact, creating non-tenured classes of faculty represents a foundational pillar of the budget of Canadian universities. It has led to a two-tier system, where tenured faculty are compensated as professionals, are offered job security and have full access to university services, while a second class of equally qualified professors is instead paid as seasonal workers on a piece-work basis. This hiring process reduces APTPUO members with fifteen years or more of service to contractors whose rights extend to the length and wording of their next teaching contract. They have to pay for their own computer, photo-copies and sometimes snag tables at Starbucks to meet with students.