didn’t fully engage the question of why we continue to misuse this employment category and
the people in it.
My strong feeling is that sessional labour is
appropriate for: 1) short-term employment of
our recent graduates, 2) professionals who moonlight and who provide needed curricular enrichment, and 3) those circumstances where we truly
need temporary and flexible labour. Beyond that,
our universities have become overly dependent
on sessional labour for all the wrong reasons
(typically budgetary). We need to re-examine
this, develop more flexible instructional categories (with benefits and increased security and
predictability, i.e. tenured teaching-stream professors and longer terms for instructors) and
essentially do away with the widespread exploitation of sessionals.
So my preference would be to direct the
needed budgetary resources (and yes, this will
entail sacrifices) to produce a committed and
secure instructional workforce, rather than
assuming that sessional dependence is perma-
nent and that it therefore requires that we put
band-aids on what was essentially a misplaced
strategy to begin with.
Dr. Averill is dean of arts at the University of British Columbia.
How sessional teaching affects students
an issue not raised in the article is the effect
of an increased use of sessional lecturers (I am
one) on students. Since completing my PhD, I
have been teaching at a university where the
teaching staff is approximately 95 percent sessional lecturers, at least in my department. Many
of my students follow me from course to course,
but this continuity of mentorship, pedagogical
method and course content is an uncertainty at
best, given my position.
Secondly, with no real ties to my institution,
the continuity of course content and teaching
methodology is also uncertain for students, since
sessional faculty are not expected to attend curriculum meetings, nor do they ever even meet
most of the people who are supposedly their colleagues. Long-term contracts are no solution in
this regard, since the right of first refusal for
individual courses is a far more certain form of
job security than a contract which will almost
Lastly, even though the job market and economics has driven an increase in the use of sessional lecturing, I personally am not convinced
that someone who has little time for research
due to a large teaching load can remain as effective as a teacher in the long term.
Dr. Moore lives in Guelph, Ontario, and teaches courses in critical theory, film, media studies and English literature at several
universities in southern Ontario.
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