To Be Fair: UBC’s Lecturers

Categories: Bargaining, Bargaining Unit, Bargaining Updates 2022, job security, Lecturers, Workload

Lecturers are the fastest-growing cohort of UBC faculty, highly qualified academics and professionals, performing key work central to UBC’s mission.  Why, then, are they chronically over-worked and insecure?  These are two of the issues facing Lecturers that we are addressing in this round of bargaining.

Lean on Me:

One key goal in this round of bargaining is to give Lecturers the security they deserve.  As fully-trained academics, with teaching, professional, and scholarly expertise, Lecturers have much to offer this university and its students.  We would normally expect that such gifts of effort and talent would be met by a similar commitment from the university, and yet UBC has at present no requirement that even long-term Lecturers have more than one-year appointments.  Our proposal is to remedy this lack of reciprocity: Lecturers who have taught more than six years at UBC should, we propose, earn appointments without term.  This means that at after six years of doing the work at the high level UBC expects, we can say to our colleagues in Lecturer positions “yes, we know that you can do this work, and we need you; yes, we do not need you to wait anxiously every spring to see if we still need you.  You can count on the work the way we count on you.” 

We recognize that sometimes course and program-requirements can change significantly, and that our teaching needs can likewise vary. Our Collective Agreement already acknowledges this by allowing for Lecturer appointments to be ended mid-appointment, or the appointment may not be renewed, if operational needs require it.  We think that this provides units and the University with sufficient flexibility to manage their teaching responsibilities and cohorts.  Given this key proviso, we do not think that UBC should ALSO need to limit the term of Lecturers’ appointments, especially when a six-year pattern of both available work and excellent performance has been established. 

We know of Lecturers who have been at UBC for more than 15 years who are still on one-year appointments; we know of Schools who insist on only offering one-year appointments, even to long-serving Lecturers; and we think that this constant uncertainty is both gratuitous and unnecessary.  If we need Lecturers, and if we value what they provide to our students, our programs, and our mission, then it’s time for us to own it.


Making it Work:

On top of insecurity, Lecturers especially suffer from an unrelenting work-schedule.  In the Faculty of Arts, Lecturers are often teaching 3/3/2, which can mean that their schedules allow for almost no breaks in the year: not enough time for their vacation, and certainly no time for proper professional development, reflection, focus on service or curricular projects, or the like.  Many report only the occasional week between 4 different teaching terms to recharge, reorganize, and regroup; some report NO days without work over a two-year period!  This is clearly unsustainable, especially for colleagues who expect of themselves, and from whom we expect, professional development, investments in teaching and subject-matter expertise, curricular innovation, and dedicated service.  We are therefore proposing in this round for Lecturers, as for other salaried UBC faculty, protected time: at least 1 month/year in addition to their guaranteed vacation time.  Nobody can flourish without renewal-time. Lecturers want to teach with energy, expertise, and enthusiasm, and they need the resources of time to do just that.  There are, we know, many units on both campuses which are far-seeing and professional enough to already provide these windows of opportunity for Lecturers; this proposal will simply guarantee that every Lecturer at UBC has a sustainable academic schedule and a reasonable work-life balance.

Lastly, we are also concerned about a fairer allocation of merit awards to Lecturers; we’ll share more on this in our forthcoming merit/PSA/CPI bargaining advisory.