Supporting CAS

Graphic by Fani Hsieh
Graphic by Fani Hsieh

Students attending Laurier will almost certainly be taught, at some point, by a part-time or contract faculty professor.

I bet this number has dropped now that their collective agreement with Laurier has ended on August 31, 2016. As a result, there have been ongoing discussions between Wilfrid Laurier University Faculty Association (WLUFA) and Laurier’s senior administration for the last four months.

The outcome of these negotiations will have an effect on us as Laurier students and for the livelihoods of the Contract Academic Staff (CAS). It is important that we, the students, must become engaged in these discussions.

If we are engaged, we can provide a sense of accountability. This ensures a better scrutiny of WLUFA.

WLUFA represents all faculty at Laurier, thus it includes both full-time and contract faculty. This is problematic, predominantly because a union has an inherent problem. The interests of one group, in this case the full-time faculty, benefit directly from ensuring part-time faculty get a smaller slice of the pie.

This is not to say that WLUFA is actively trying to ensure negotiations are not fruitful, but rather to highlight potential conflicts that arise within the union. I think this conflict further arises from finite number of allocated dollars for salaries and benefits for all professors on campus with one group (full-time) benefitting substantially more than the other (CAS).

This predisposition could manifest in discrete ways during the negotiations. If WLUFA must make a decision of which group needs are to be prioritized, full-time or part-time, they are going to choose full-time, especially when their negotiations are set to occur next.

This internal difficulty is where students must take action. We can hold WLUFA accountable,  ensuring the demands of contract faculty are being fought for during the negotiations, thus providing support to a consistently undervalued part of Laurier.

Many of you will have seen the contract academic staff office posters around campus. This poster campaign was to highlight “the lack of typical and appropriate office space for contract faculty at Wilfrid Laurier University,” said WLUFA’s Facebook page.

This campaign is important because it showcases the negative effect a lack of resources can have for contract staff and our student experience. We, as students, should be concerned with ensuring contract faculty have more resources, such as consistent office space, because this directly affects their ability to maintain contact and assist with students in their courses.

If I want a more private or a more professional setting to speak with my professor over academic matters, I cannot effectively do this in a room that may have multiple other people.

Students also need to stand with contract faculty in the push for one-year contracts. While contract faculty are hired on a per-course basis, this precarious situation hurts students.

Professors that are able to have a sense of better job security are not only going to be happier instructors, they can also begin thinking long-term, to the benefit of their students. If a contract professor teaches the same course, they are able to make more modifications and improvements over time without having to worry about whether they are even going to be teaching the same course in terms to come.

These contract negotiations give our student voice a chance to take charge of our education and ensure the livelihood of some great professors.

This can all be done by ensuring that WLUFA enters these negotiations with a renewed resolve;  a strong show of support by students would help in some part to achieve this.

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