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Pay the part-time profs

Needless to say, the holiday spirit did not assuage the tension between the union of full-time teachers and the university’s administration.

The amount of attention that these labour discussions have received is largely due to the fact that school is in session. Over the previous summer, however, there was a different round of contract negotiations, between the part-time instructors and the university, which concluded with considerably less drama.

UNB currently employs part-time employees who teach roughly 1,500 courses per year, 20 per cent of UNB’s undergraduate classes. These instructors are often referred to as “sessional,” as they are brought in on short-term contracts and teach almost exclusively entry-level courses. There are 600 sessional employees represented by the part-time workers’ union at UNB, the same amount of staff represented by the university’s full-time teachers’ union.

I personally have never taught a first-year psychology course with upwards of 100 students, but I assume it resembles Dante’s ninth circle of hell. But despite how heavily this university relies on sessional professors, as of May 2013 a sessional professor receives a mere $5,371 per three-credit course.

To be fair, the university does offer some bonuses. If you stay as a UNB sessional professor for three years, you get a 3 per cent bonus, a whopping $161.13. Stay for five and you get an additional 3 per cent. That’s right unemployed academics, this is what you have to look forward to: give an institution a half decade of your life earning next to nothing, and be rewarded with a bonus totalling over $300! Also, available to senior sessional professors only, the university will allow you to take one free six-credit course, just in case you want another PhD. You know, because the first one is working out so well for you.

It is not, however, that the university has run out of money. In 2012 the university’s Board of Governors anointed UNB President Eddy Campbell with a raise of 8.51 per cent. Unlike the 3 per cent sessional professor bonus, a raise of 8.51 per cent on hundreds of thousands of dollars is quite substantial.

Dr Campbell, you and I have done this song and dance for the entire first semester: I point to what I consider inappropriate spending, using your aristocratic salary and fortress-like mansion to highlight the extent of the discrepancy. You complain to the paper’s masthead. My next column has a few jokes redacted and the following week it all starts again. My mother thinks I’m bullying you.

I have mentioned you by name, Dr Campbell, because under Article 12 of the sessional professors’ contract it states that all correspondence, including that of a grievance, should be addressed to “The President, Sir Howard Douglas Hall, University of New Brunswick.” Well, President Campbell, please consider this a grievance.

In the spirit of a new year, let’s make a truce. I promise that this will be the last time I mention you in this column for at least a month, starting today. I’m not enacting this truce because I’m running out of material or, despite what my mother says, because I think I’m being unfair to you.

I’m doing this because I consider the current state of sessional professors at UNB to be a tremendously important issue and I want you to have uninterrupted time to think about it.

Dr Campbell, you make between $325,000 and $350,000 per year. If we say that you make a modest $325,000, which means that – if you work fifty weeks a year, forty hours a week – you earn $162.50 an hour. As of May 2013, a sessional instructor who teaches four courses a year makes $21,484. Therefore, Mr President, what a sessional professor earns in one year, you earn in just over three work weeks.

These are the numbers that communicate UNB’s values to the world, Dr Campbell. Do they not embarrass you? They embarrass me, and the only source of institutional influence I have is a wildly unpopular newspaper column.

The UNB president’s mansion recently received a $160,000 upgrade to its front porch. Dr Campbell, if this university really wanted to save money, you could employ 28 sessional professors to stand barefoot in the dirt and hold you on their shoulders whenever you wish to venture outside to sip lemonade, look at your front lawn, and say things like “It’s nice to own land.”

For 2013, Statistics Canada marked the Low Income Cutoff at $23,298 annual salary for one person. A UNB sessional professor teaching four courses per year makes $1,814 UNDER what Stats Canada says an individual requires to achieve their most basic needs.
Within the recent contract negotiations with full-time university instructors, there was much discussion on whether or not a professor’s salary should be tied to the salaries of other professors at similar sized universities. When it comes to part-time instructors, this university isn’t even committed to tying a sessional professor’s salary to the poverty line.

Dr Campbell, I’m certainly not the mover/shaker/deal-maker that you are, but from where I’m standing it seems that you have two options: either to declare that you believe sessional professors are making a fair wage, or to publicly promise that in the 2016 contract negotiations with sessional professors all UNB staff will paid a liveable wage.

Have a nice January. Stay warm. And bask in the privilege of being able to pay your heating bill.


  1. Zedsteau Reply

    Now… To be fair. They do make ~150 dollars per hour. And if we assume that they will have to dedicate another 3 hours per week to the course… That’s still roughly 75 dollars per hour.Remember a term is only ~12 weeks long. They only work (allow for exams) 26 weeks a year. 
    450 dollars/week for (lets say) 6 hours of work per week?
    Honestly, if the part time professors were making 40’000 a year for that amount of work (not to say I do not appreciate them!!) do you not think people would be up in arms that they would be getting paid ~300 per hour (teaching 4, 3ch, courses)?

  2. RodneyJohnDuPlessis Reply

    Zedsteau Good point, This article is comparing apples and oranges in a way. I think the lapse came in the 11th paragraph when he broke down what Dr. Campbell’s hourly pay would be based on a 40 hour work week but left the part-time figure at the annual rate.
    If it does in fact take 3 hours in class plus 3 hours outside of class for each course, then you’d have to teach 6 classes a week to work 36 hours a week. then you’d be making ~64,452 per year (if you did that each semester) and you’d only work 24-26 weeks out of the year.

    Maybe the part-time profs should work more? I think the only place for error in my reasoning here is that we may be underestimating how much work out of class they have to do. 3 hours sounds a little thin for preparing for certain classes.

  3. Fart123456789 Reply

    This author just wants to pay everyone. Let’s get real here, these are tight times in NB, which last I checked includes UNB. All of these people get paid pretty fair wages already. Since the money has to come from somewhere, maybe we should pay the profs with the money we are currently spending on the brunswickan. This guy’s opinion pieces are brutal. 

    Though the president probably doesn’t need accommodations provided.

  4. SarahAckermann Reply

    ZedsteauYou’re kidding yourself if you think it only takes 6 hours a week. As a TA when I was TAing labs, I’d spend at least as much time marking as in the lab, plus an hour of prep time a week, so for a 3-hour lab, I’d likely spend 7 hours working on it a week. 
    Profs and instructors not only have to mark and do prep, but they’re also required to hold office hours, plan the lectures, write up the tests and exams, give tutorials, answer student questions, and design the assignments. In advanced courses, they’re also required to design the course and what material shall be covered. Even if they opt for online assignments through Desire to Learn, it still takes time to set up the assignments and answer the inevitable questions about the wording of this question or that question by email.


    Given how much work TAing is and comparing the expectations of profs to that the university has of TAs, I would not doubt that instructing a course requires at least 3-4x as much time outside of the lecture hall as it does inside – more if the prof or instructor is new to the course and can’t recycle old slides from previous years, or if it’s a senior-level course that the prof is expected to design.

  5. michael90 Reply

    RodneyJohnDuPlessis Zedsteau It should also be noted that apart from the fact that the amount of prepwork for each class is substantial (as SarahAckermann rightly observes) there is also the matter that usually university administration considers two classes a semester a full course-load for a sessional instructor: even if they had time to teach more (which they usually don’t) they aren’t given the opportunity to do so. As well, their classes are usually spread out over the week, preventing them from even seeking additional work elsewhere. Furthermore, sessional lecturers often get minimal benefits, if any, no pension, and no guarantee of a job next year (as Kemick notes, its a yearly contract renewal). It’s a pretty tough way to make a living, especially as the hope of getting a tenure position vanishes the longer you’ve been out of school post-PhD.

  6. fiddleheadnb Reply

    No dental benefits
    No prescription benefits
    No pension
    Paid far below part-timers at Mount Allison & STU
    But without part-timers teaching 20% of courses for peanuts, UNB would have to close its doors.

  7. Fart123456789 Reply

    michael90 RodneyJohnDuPlessis Zedsteau SarahAckermannSessional instructors are contract workers, if they don’t like the terms of the contract they can leave to pursue opportunities elsewhere. This is probably what most of them do/are doing. These jobs are either a) supplemental to their existing income (from their exisiting jobs…government, business, admin…etc) or b) something temporary while seeking other employment.

    These aren’t jobs with a salary, they are jobs in the way that a trades person running his/her own business might land one particular renovation. The customers of these trades people want to pay as little as humanly possible for their services, why should a university be any different? It’s up to the contractor to figure out whether or not a particular job is worth their time. 
    Also, instructors don’t need a Phd, since when do you need a phd to teach students that aren’t anywhere near a phd level. Anyone with some working knowledge can teach at a university. Phd’s aren’t hired for their ability to teach.

  8. michael90 Reply

    Fart123456789 michael90 RodneyJohnDuPlessis Zedsteau SarahAckermann  You’re right that a PhD is not always necessary for community colleges/technical schools, but it is always necessary for a full-fledged university in North America. You’ve obviously never looked at the job market in academia.

    Even so, nowadays, most community colleges won’t hire anyone who doesn’t have at least PhD unless (1) the position is either  for a trades or technical skill position or (2) the candidate earned their Masters degree pre-1990 and has lots of experience in their field, publishing and teaching.
    Also, a PhD does train you to teach at a university level: you take courses on pedagogy, TA classes, and eventually create and lead your own. You are right that most PhD’s, however, are not hired for their ability to teach–which is a major failing in academia right now. 
    As I stated in my previous post, most contracts prevent sessionals from picking up extra contracts because of the large amount of outside classroom work and spread-out hours. Furthermore, regardless of whether the job is at a community college or a university the rates for sessional contracts don’t vary hugely–there aren’t hidden jobs in the market that are paying substantially more what the vast majority are. 
    There are myriad reasons why trades people can make much more money and be much more selective about what contracts they select, the least of which is that they often belong to strong unions (of which there are none in Canada–some are beginning to form in the U.S.). Sessional lecturers, as the system has positioned them, do not have the same choices or luxury at this point in time,

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