Instability of work is cause of stress for Concordia’s part-time faculty union

Concordia University Part-Time Faculty Association new collective agreement will reduce number of credits necessary for health care coverage. Photo by Alex Hutchins

New collective agreement will reduce number of credits necessary for health care coverage

Concordia University Part-Time Faculty Association (CUPFA) chair of communications Laurie Milner left a tenure position at Vancouver’s Emily Carr University of Art and Design for a part-time faculty position at Concordia.

It’s a unique situation, she admitted, but she “wanted other things in life, other than being inside one academic community.” While being a part-time faculty member allows her to work outside the university, it is also a lot more unstable than working full-time.

“The stresses for a part-time faculty member can be pretty high in terms of job security,” Milner told The Concordian. That’s because part-time teachers apply for courses at the beginning of every year, no matter how long they’ve been working at Concordia. Milner said part-time faculty often start with only three or six teaching credits a year, the equivalent of just one or two classes.

This issue is compounded by the fact that CUPFA members are only eligible for health care coverage after 50 credits of seniority, a condition agreed upon in their last collective agreement signed in April 2012.

Milner said “part-time faculty often [don’t] have coverage for nine to 10 years” because of that condition.

The union’s new collective agreement with the school—which has to be approved by Concordia’s Board of Governors—will reduce the number of credits necessary to obtain coverage from 50 to 45. The health care plan includes access to psychologists and other mental health professionals.

In a statement, Concordia University vice-president of services Roger Côté said the agreement between both sides was a “representation of the teamwork and positive contributions of all parties.”  Milner said CUPFA members are happy with the agreement, but wished the number of credits to qualify was even lower.

CUPFA’s chair of communications added that the topic of mental health has been discussed in the Department of Studio Arts’ appraisal committee where Milner said departments do a “very intensive self-reflective analysis of where we are and where we want to be.”

The topic of mental health was also discussed in a Fine Arts Faculty Council Steering Committee by the faculty’s dean, Rebecca Duclos. Milner said “she was very happy […] it was raised as one of the issues we should focus on more.”

Duclos was a part-time faculty member herself at Concordia and eventually became the dean of graduate studies at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago before returning to Concordia in August 2015.

Milner, who described Duclos as “sensitive to part-time [faculty],” said department chairs and deans have a big influence. “It’s possible that you have a chair who is not particularly sensitive or supportive of part-time faculty, and they set things up in ways that suddenly exclude you from courses that you’ve been teaching for a very long time,” Milner explained.

According to Milner, the university has lost about 100 part-time faculty members in the last 10 years because of the increase in limited-term appointments or LTAs.

These positions are described by the Concordia University Faculty Association as appointments “limited to a stated term and which carries no implication that the appointee [will] be reappointed or considered for tenure.” Milner told The Concordian that LTAs have a heavy workload which consists of six courses in their first year and seven in their second and third, which pales in comparison to the workload of part-time faculty members.

“If [part-time faculty] have been there awhile, they’re not only losing money—they’re losing the health insurance if they had it, they lose their access to the library to continue their research,” Milner said. “So the stakes are so high for people.”

Photo by Alex Hutchins

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