- A Sessional Manifesto
WE ATTENDED A JOINT Session OF "SITUATING SESSIONALS" AT ACCUTE and the Committee for Professional CONCERNS
AT THE CONGRESS OF THE SOCIAL Sciences AND Humanities, UNB FREDERICTON, MAY 2011.
THE FOLLOWING is a RESPONSE to ideas raised at this SESSION. THE INSIGHTS and SUGGESTIONS BELOW are shaped by HAVING BEEN SESSIONAL LABOURERS at various universities over the years and by COMMENTS BY other SESSIONAL LABOURERS. [End Page 25]
This DOCUMENT is intended, if possible, to be an errata slip for collective agreements and is infused with the reflection that although working conditions of sessional labourers affect everyone in a department this panel did not attract that kind of broad audience. There is a need to disseminate as widely as possible the problems that beset sessional workers at universities.
The Sessional Manifesto
Institutional POWERS have aligned to discipline sessional instructors: administrations that exploit sessional labour for increased institutional profit; departments that unload supra-contractual work on sessionals under the auspices of professional development; TENURED FACULTY members who treat sessionals as second-class intellectuals, failing to respect their contractual limitations; students who are increasingly aware of, and eager to exploit, the relationship between course evaluations and the renewal of sessional contracts.
In the face of the above facts, two new realities must be articulated:
I. Sessional instructors have emerged as a primary component of contemporary secondary education.
II. Sessional instructors, in the face of exploitation and alienation, must proclaim their RIGHTS within the context of Canadian postsecondary institutions.
The time has come for a sessional manifesto that defines contractual RIGHTS, discusses professional concerns, and provides a voice of solidarity for the benefit of the thousands of academics working without the psychological and economic security of tenure-track positions.
Society of the Sessional
The sessional instructor is under constant interpellation by the disciplinary gaze: those colleagues whose surveillance leaves sessionals feeling like future employment is at stake with each conversation; those students who, based on signifiers such as [End Page 26] shared office space or a roster full of first-year courses, intuit that their professor is of lesser value than the "real" professors who teach upper-level courses; those friends and family who wonder why, after obtaining PhDs, sessionals continue to earn less per annum than entry-level government employees. The society of the sessional is dystopian.
THE PARADOX of the INSTITUTIONAL PARADIGM
The CAPITALIST MODEL that drives universities is in opposition to democratic values. While sessional instructors teach students about EQUITY, JUSTICE, ETHICS, and DIVERSITY, they do so in the knowledge of a crippling hypocrisy: the institutions that ask them to promote these values refuse to practice them. Cynicism bred by this hypocritical environment threatens the integrity of postsecondary education.
Tenured and Tenure-Track Faculty Must Help Improve Working Conditions for Sessionals.
Those who have been sessionals and who are now tenure-track or tenured have an OBLIGATION. In stable positions, they can speak for those who do not feel comfortable speaking (for fear of threatening their jobs or potential letters of reference).
THE RIGHTS DENIED to Sessionals or the Problems which Beset Sessionals
Access to intra-university funding is often DENIED to sessionals; therefore, the inability to travel to key forums means that many sessionals are not able to showcase their work and bolster their professional reputations within the job market.
Too frequently, sessionals are equipped with office space that FAILS to meet the requirements of a full-time academic.
Often, sessionals are required to teach overload courses with little, or no, remuneration. This adds to burn-out. As well, sessionals are often required to TEACH a large number of different courses. Preparation time, therefore, is more demanding for the sessional than a permanent hire. Sessionals might also teach summer courses in order to pay bills when a contract ends; this detracts from research time.
Often, departments suggest that it will benefit sessionals to engage in work outside teaching because such "experience" might "look good" when sessionals apply for tenure-track positions. The latter WOULD create significant problems: [End Page 27] 1) sessionals, because of such pressures, might not draw attention to the fact that they...