The Current

Contract university lecturers strike, demand quality education

Contract faculty and teaching assistants at two of this country's largest universities are on strike this week. They're protesting salaries and work conditions and argue their precarious work is jeopardizing the quality of education Canadian students are receiving.
It's a quality of life issue for university lecturers in Canada living contract-to-contract, which is why a number of them are on strike now. But they're quick to add there's more at stake with their labour woes, including consequences for students inside the classroom. (Temari 09/Flickr)

"It's contract faculty who are doing the majority of the teaching at this university. We're not going to accept this. We'd rather go on strike" - Contract Lecturer, York University

It's been a week of strikes at universities across the country, with teaching staff from the University of Toronto, the University of Northern BC and York University out on picket lines.

Today, we're looking at the new reality of working as an educator at Canadian universities, and how those working conditions translate inside the classroom and lecture hall.Teaching assistants, and sessional lecturers are protesting work conditions and salaries which they say don't just harm them, but diminish the quality of education students receive.

The 1200 contract instructors at York who are on strike say they're responsible for nearly two thirds of the teaching load at the school.​

York U strikers want better courses for their students. (Tulane Public Relations, Flickr cc)

The 1200 contract instructors at York who are on strike say they're responsible for nearly two thirds of the teaching load at the school.​

It's a world Elizabeth ​Brulé knows quite well. She's been a contract faculty member at York for more than 20 years now. She joined us in our Toronto studio. 

According to various estimates, anywhere between a quarter and half of all Canadian university undergraduate courses are taught today by contract lecturers. ...which all may come as a surprise if it`s been a while since you sat in an Ivy covered lecture hall.

To help explain how the labour situation on campus got to be this way, we were joined by David Robinson. He`s the Executive Director of the Canadian Association of University Teachers in Ottawa.

David Wilkinson knows all to well the decisions facing Canadian universities today. He is the provost and Vice President of Academics at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. 

Do you teach or study at a university... or pay for someone to study at a university? Is this issue of contract teachers a concern to you?

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This segment was produced by The Current's Sujata Berry and Ines Colabrese.


♦ The prof who doesn't teach — our new course in Ontario? - Ottawa Citizen

♦ University labour strife underscores cost of tenured academics - The Globe & Mail

♦ Most university undergrads now taught by poorly paid part-timers - CBC News