It's all about you - our students

As the weeks go by, the stress is really beginning to build.  You look at the growing stack of assignments with finals looming, and you wonder how you could possibly get through all of this before the end of the semester?  The college assures you that they have a plan, they say that you'll be fine for next semester. But as week after week passes by, you are left waiting for details. Can I afford to book a trip to see family this Christmas? What is my workload going to look like this winter?

So many questions... A bit stressed out you start to look over your finances to see if you'll be able to make some cuts so you can afford to cover rent and groceries going into the spring/summer. After deciding you need to stop buying coffee and eating out, you distract yourself by flipping through social media for updates. You see a job posting in your feed and wonder if perhaps you need to go get another part-time job... But what if your winter semester is now super heavy? How will it look if you take the job and leave it when you find out about the Winter? 

Now some of you may be thinking at this point that I have been describing the stress and turmoil that the strike has had on our students.  Sadly, the emotional rollercoaster described above is how most contract faculty feel around week 10/11 of the semester. As the semester is coming to an end, they get inundated with the pile of grading to be done at no extra pay...  They are reading dozens of submissions and reports, grading final exams, coaching students for final presentations and helping their class figure out how they are going to make it through the semester successfully. 

However while all of this is going on, they are waiting to see if they will have enough money to pay rent in the winter.  They are often left to find out exactly how much they will be teaching until 2-3 weeks before Christmas in the Fall semester. Leading up to then? They often get told "yes, we have teaching but we're still finalizing schedules."  Lets just think about that for a moment.  While faculty are grading final assignments and prepping exams, not only are they in the dark about whether they have a job in the winter, they also do not have time to even search for another job due to the grading pressures.

Many faculty come on board on contract and are given the promise that "when the opportunity arises they can get in as full-time". Never is it indicated that there is no seniority for contract faculty, you apply just like everyone else who sees the posting. To make things worse, some have fallen victim to favouritism and politics. While teaching Partial-load in the college system (teaching 6-12 hours/week), you are treated as an internal candidate for hiring. All internal candidates (Full-time and Partial-Load faculty) are looked at first before going out to the general public, and this general public also includes part-time (1-5 hours) and sessional faculty (13 hours and over). What this means is if a chair or coordinator has someone specific in mind for a position, they can put you down to part-time for a couple of semesters, to prevent you from even applying as internal.

Professors get strung along with the promise of full-time, only to discover that there aren't any new positions being created. They hold on to that chance because they love it. They love being in the classroom and they enjoy working with their students. Semester after semester they wait, with the hope that they will soon find the golden ticket and they would finally be assured that they will get to teach, year after year. But for now, the majority of faculty are stuck on a contract hamster wheel they cannot get off of.

According to an analysis by TD Economists in January 2017, almost all new jobs created in Canada in 2016 were part-time. While there was job growth, the majority would require supplementing with another jobs in order to make ends meet. Think about it, how many friends do you have that need a second job? In the service sector, think about the sales rep that is "commission only",  or the regional manager that is 2-3 days per week. In health care the nurses that need to work across more than one hospital. The bank teller who also does some real estate on the side. Or the construction worker who's laid off every 4 months when the project is done. The part-time or "gig economy" is growing and the ones entering into this precarious work environment next, are our students.

To Ontario's College Students, if you want to understand why your professors are on strike you need only to reflect on your own feelings right now. This is how your contract professors feel each and every semester. The poor communication and fleeting time leads to uncertainty and growing stress. The feeling of powerlessness because there is nothing that you can do. The good folks who are out picketing have decided that it was time to stand up to the stress, the anxiety and the uncertainty created by this gig economy in Ontario. They are standing up to the growing precarity of employment in Canada. They are striking for quality learning in the college system. But most importantly, they are out there, standing up for you, in the hope of a more stable future for when you graduate and head out into the workforce. 

- Local244 -


Read more on the growth of part-time jobs in Canada:

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