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.