‘Margin Notes’: Scant Data on CAS and A Response

You can read Leo Charbonneau’s column about the scarce facts about contract academic staff in Canada. In the column, he draws upon The Record article to outline part of the issue. However, The Record made a couple of mistakes in the original story, for which I do not blame the reporter because of how complicated it is trying to explain (and write abuot) how CAS get paid and the conditions under which they labour in order to teach 52% of students in classes, seminars, labs and tutorials at Laurier.

You can read his post here – and it is worthwhile because it raises a key issue about the ‘invisibility’ of CAS, which was sparked by WLUFA’s campaign to raise contract faculty’s low or no profile: http://www.universityaffairs.ca/margin-notes/sifting-through-the-scant-data-on-contingent-faculty/

This is the text of my response:

I’m glad to see that you are raising the issue about the scant data on contingent or contract faculty. I believe it was in or around 1991-92 when Statistics Canada decided to stop collecting data on contract faculty.

Although initially called or referred to as ‘part-time’ faculty, to distinguish them from ‘full-time’ faculty, their contribution to the provision of courses at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario, has increased substantially and has become increasingly part of the permanent structure of Canadian universities, just as it has in the US.

The ‘part-time’ adjective refers more to their pay and lack of benefits than it does to the time and effort required to do a proper job of providing the university education that Senior Administrators are always so quick to claim when encouraging students to enrol and pay ever higher tuition fees.

The term Contract Academic Staff (CAS) is the term used to identify faculty in the Collective Agreement at Laurier (and the term recognized by the CAUT and used by others) but for many contract profs the term itself is felt to be one which diminishes their status, that is as ‘staff’ as opposed to (full-time) ‘faculty’, even though there are many CAS who teach more courses as well as students than ‘full-time faculty’.

However, I did want to clarify some of the misinformation or mistakes that were published in The Record article – and for which I do not blame the journalist as the details of the working conditions for contract faculty are confusing to say the least (perhaps, that’s why StatsCan stopped collecting data?).

The Administration’s spokesperson is reported as saying the number of CAS “can not exceed 35 per cent of full-time faculty which numbers 600”. This is incorrect.

The Wilfrid Laurier University Faculty Association (WLUFA) has two bargaining units, one is CAS and the other is the full-time faculty (FTF). The full-time faculty collective agreement stipulates a 35% restriction on the amount of courses taught by CAS.

This clause, however, includes a range of exceptions which add up to a substantial increase in courses taught by CAS (for example, courses taught in the summer, except for the School of Business and Economics, are not included).

Yet, a researcher for WLUFA went through the official student enrollment records for courses, tutorials, labs and seminars (not just courses per se) to add up total student enrollment taught by FT versus CAS faculty. This gave the number of 52% of total student enrollment. This is a substantial increase from 2007 when it was 38%.

Also, I was reported as saying that “some [CAS] teach up to four courses” which is incorrect. There is a limit of three courses per semester and of up to nine per year for CAS. Some teach the maximum and some teach only one.

If CAS taught six courses a year, they would earn around the average salary of what 87% of Ontario graduates earn (on average) six months after graduation with just a bachelor’s degree ($42,403), according to WLU President Max Blouw (who made that claim as Chair of COU in a media release on 23 July 2013).

Of course, that lends itself to an immediate contradiction or ‘paradox’ (if you like) of contract faculty being amongst the lowest paid professionals in Canada whilst working for the very institutions that promote themselves on the future earning power of their graduates – with only one rather than two or three degrees – appears to have escaped the purview of the media and senior administrators.

To find out more, readers can check out http://weteachlaurier.tumblr.com/ and/or https://advocatewlufa.wordpress.com/.


Herbert Pimlott

This entry was posted in CAUT & OCUFA, Contract Faculty, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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