MSVU boosting number of part-time profs

October job postings suggest part-timers are in demand

Clare Goulet says she's received support from administration in making MSVU more accessible for contract and part-time faculty. Photo: GinaBeth Roberts

Clare Goulet eagerly vocalizes her opinion on teaching conditions at the university level -- and she's had great response.

She's a contract - not part-time - faculty member in the English department at Mount Saint Vincent University.  

"Having part-time in front of it all the time -- it creates a distortion of the kind of work that's being done. ... Part-time jobs are what high school students have. If you're making a living lecturing at university you're working full-time hours."

She's careful to point out the distinction in describing her employment. Most part-timers aren't called contract faculty. That's something the English department faculty had to work for.

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Goulet says at least three more names could be added to the English department's part-time faculty office door. Photo: GinaBeth Roberts

What Goulet does experience are the same difficulties as her more commonly named colleagues.

"Many -- at times most - of the people who teach courses on contract are working a course overload," she says.

There are currently 200 part-time faculty members who belong to CUPE 3912, according to Robert Lanning, vice-president and chief steward of the union.

That's a large percentage of the teaching staff, as the Mount's website lists just over 300 full-time and part-time faculty members.

The university intends to add more even positions soon. In mid-October, the  job posting list on MSVU's website displayed 54 part-time academic positions that needed to be filled.

Part-time faculty cheaper

"The main reason is it's cheaper. It's quite inexpensive to hire part-time faculty," says Lanning.

Part-time faculty at the Mount can only teach up to the equivalent of three full-year courses. This means the maximum amount of money they can make is $30,000.

Lanning notes the annual salary for a new assistant professor is about $63,410 to teach the equivalent of 2.5 full -- year courses. That's double what a part-timer makes.

That's also a considerable savings for the Mount, which last year spent $35.6 million on salaries and benefits.

Kelly Gallant, the university's vice-president for communications and marketing, says "it's not a matter of one over the other."

"There are times with our full-time faculty that they may be on sabbatical or that they're doing research. And also part-time faculty bring different expertise to the classroom in terms of teaching classes for students," adds Gallant.  

Problems of part-timers

Lanning sees office space as a particular problem for part-time faculty members. Faculty members "simply meet students wherever they can. ... That's a particular problem because sometimes ... we need some privacy with students."

Goulet says office space has definitely improved from when she started at MSVU in 1999.

"There were 13 of us in a room with two desks and no computers."

But now there's a larger problem - computer access.

Professors must supply digital materials, but there are only three computers in the faculty lab.  

What about the future of part-time faculty?

Gallant says the October postings are just a "moment in time." She adds that most full-time hiring is done for July.

However, Lanning predicts the university will be hiring more part-timers in the near future. This is where the union's seniority system comes in. "The seniority system helps a great deal in keeping people at work. ... So that's really about the only kind of job security we have."

The current collective agreement for part-time faculty members expires in August 2012. The union intends to push for benefits, such as prescription and RRSPs, in negotiations.


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