Contract professors at Laurentian University worried about the future

The union representing professors at Laurentian University in Sudbury says too many professors are not full time.

Contract work at universities in Sudbury no longer stepping stone to full-time status

The union representing professors at Laurentian University in Sudbury says too many professors are not full time.

The Laurentian University Faculty Association says contract work used to be a stepping stone toward full-time status.

Dr. Moira Ferguson is a sessional professor of sociology and labour studies at Laurentian. 

She says every year she has to apply for the jobs that are available.

"I've got to have my eye on all the postings that come up, all the time, compete for them and then wait and see if I'm going to have a job the following year," she said.

"That's the reality."

Ferguson says the department does what it can to treat her fairly but staff doesn't always know if a course is going to be cut and the sessional workers are the ones affected.

This is her twelfth year working as a contract professor.  She says the biggest concern is the unpredictably.

"I can't really invest in the future," she said.

NDP MPP Jamie West says universities need to be funded properly so that professors can have a secure career. (Samantha Samson/CBC News)

Some sessional workers experience anxiety to the point of illness says Ferguson and those are concerns on the horizon.

NDP MPP for Sudbury, Jamie West, says he's worked as a sessional professor in the past. 

As someone who grew up in poverty, says West, he was taught that post secondary education is a way to a promising career. But once you see the statistics about how many people doing sessional work are living at or below the poverty you realise that isn't always true.

"A lot of people think that because they have a doctorate or because they are professors they are wealthy and they have it made. They don't even know that many of them are living hand to mouth, not able to plan for the future," West said.

He says universities need to be funded properly. 

According to the Canadian Association of University Teachers, about half of all university students in Canada are now taught by contracted professors.

At Laurentian University, about 25 per cent of instructors are sessional, while the other 75 per cent have full-time status.


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