Unreliable CAS contracts spark independent tour company

(Photo by Nick Lachance)

While Jason Sager, a part-time history professor at Wilfrid Laurier University, has been lucky enough throughout the past few years in securing work, he has recently stretched out from his academic profession and started up a tour company with a friend, Chris Enns, called Capetian Tours.

While he has secured academic work for the upcoming year, the future still remains unknown.

“One of the difficulties faced by any non-tenured academic is finding enough work,” said Sager. “It is not uncommon for someone to work at one university one year and then have to move elsewhere because the courses they taught, for whatever reason, are not available and thus they need to move elsewhere.”

And even if contracts are found, contract academic staff (CAS) work still poses many difficulties.

CAS professors only get paid $7,000 per class they teach, unless they hold seniority, which results in a slight bump up to roughly $7,200 per class.

And with cuts to arts departments becoming quite common, less work for contract academic staff is available, and prospects are bleak.

As a result, Sager’s desire to start a tour company became two-fold.

“Mostly because it’s been an idea I’ve had for quite a while and I thought it would be fun to use the skills and knowledge I acquired for something else,” Sager explained. “While I still love what I do which is why I have stayed with it for as long as I have, I think starting a tour company that specializes in historical and cultural aspects of Europe lets me broaden my horizons, [and] I really think that in this economic climate it’s important to remain flexible.”

With Capetian Tours, Sager hopes to blend elements from his teaching experience into his tours.

“In some ways giving a tour is not all that different from giving a lecture: you still need to give your audience the information about what they are seeing, whether it be a gothic cathedral or some important event that took place where they happen to be standing,” he stated.

“In a classroom, you need to be able to not only convey information but convey it in a way that hopefully generates an interest to learn more; this is one of the reasons I like giving tours, it allows me to present the things I really enjoy to other people.”

For now, Capetian Tours is only a summer project where Sager gives tours of France throughout his off-months. In the future, he is also hoping to expand into other parts of Europe.

“Our ultimate goal is to create more lengthy tours throughout Europe based on cultural and historical themes, for example one of the tours in the planning stage is a ‘Song of Roland’ tour which would be based on the medieval romance where we would take people throughout southern France and northern Spain,” he explained.

However, for the time being, Sager hopes to continue to dedicate the majority of his time to teaching.

“I see the next couple of years laying the groundwork; if we are successful, then perhaps a transition into this may become a reality,” he concluded.

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