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From the Bulletin archives / CAUT Bulletin May 1995

From the Bulletin archives / CAUT Bulletin May 1995

Weakening the tenure system: The misuse & abuse of sessional appointments

According to Statistics Canada, the number of full and part-time sessional teaching appointments has grown to the point where in 1991-92 there were about 25,000 part-time faculty employed by universities across Canada. This is one of the most dramatic changes in university employment practices in the last 20 years.

The abuse of such appointments threatens the Canadian university teaching profession in a number of ways. Sessional teachers, particularly part-time sessionals, are often paid less than tenure-track faculty to teach regular degree credit courses. This undermines the standard of living of the professors as a whole, by lowering its average compensation. On many campuses it also provides university management with additional bargaining power, since administrators can credibly threaten to meet enrollment demand through increased use of low-cost sessionals if full-time faculty do not moderate their demands.

No less significantly, the misuse of sessional appointments poses a number of threats to the quality of university education. First, it dilutes the protection of academic freedom of Canadian university teaching staff. Sessional teachers, particularly part-time sessionals, often do not benefit from contractual academic freedom clauses. Moreover, sessional appointments circumvent the tenure system, which has long been one of the key protections of academic freedom.

The abuse of sessional appointments poses other threats to the quality of education as well. Because of competing demands on their time, many sessional instructors do not have the same opportunities as their tenure-track counterparts to keep abreast of recent developments in their field, to broaden and deepen their knowledge, and to develop as teachers and scholars.

To read the full article that appeared in the CAUT Bulletin May 1995 issue visit


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