Every fall, the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) and its member associations including the UBCFA, organize and host a week-long celebration of contract academic staff. The events and activities during that week are designed to highlight issues affecting sessional and contract faculty on campus and, in particular, how contract academic faculty working conditions are far more precarious than they should be.
During our last Fair Employment Week at UBC (Fall 2016), UBCFA’s Contract Faculty Committee Chair, Sarika Bose, accompanied by our Membership Services Officers, set up an information booth at the NEST. As well as talking to sessionals about their issues, Sarika and the MSOs used this opportunity to reach out to both full-time faculty and students to raise awareness about the contract academic experience at UBC.
UBCFA traditionally sponsors a lunch for contract faculty during Fair Employment Week, and this year for the first time we also held a lunch for contract faculty at our Okanagan campus. We included on our guest list UBCO’s Deputy Vice Chancellor & Principal, and Provost and Vice-President, Academic. On the subject of ‘lunch’, also new in 2016 the Committee promoted “Take a Contract Faculty Member to Lunch”, encouraging our full-time faculty members to connect with their contract colleagues over a meal or a coffee. The week wrapped up with a traditional trip to the pub by UBC contract academics and their counterparts at other post-secondary institutions in the lower mainland.
Although Fair Employment Week events are important, equally so is the opportunity to again remind our university decision-makers of the critical role contract faculty academics play in the life of the University. A significant part of the campaign was the distribution of postcards addressed to UBC’s new president, highlighting just how important contract faculty are to the institution. These postcards were signed by both faculty and students and delivered during the week. The Association followed up with formal correspondence addressed to both Professor Ono and Dr. Angela Redish, Provost and Vice-President Academic Pro Tem, further bringing their attention to the ongoing problems faced by contingent academics.
As the Faculty Association moves forward on contract negotiations with the university, the plight of our Contract Faculty members will remain at the forefront of our bargaining efforts. Fair Employment Week is a means to bring to the attention of the university administration, faculty and students just how important contract academics are to the future of UBC, and a way for us to recommit to fairness in the workplace.