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 January 22, 1999 Volume 6, Number 9

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Sessional lecturers: how many? where?

Heather Wagg, president of the Sessional Lecturers' Union.

A cursory look over the Union's records, which are provided by administration, indicates fairly stable numbers of sessional lecturers teaching at the U of S over the last two and a half years.

In fall term, 250-270; in winter term, 315-330; at Intersession a few less than 100; at Summer Session a few more.

The increase in working members between fall and winter terms in 1996-97 and again in 1997-98 is due in part to fluctuation in the need for sessionals in the College of Education.

Sessional numbers in that College went to around 70 from about 35 between fall and winter terms of those two sessions. However, since the direct entry program in Education is being discontinued, the overall need for sessionals there will diminish.

Yes. A quick check does suggest that our numbers have increased substantially since 1988, when sessionals applied to the Labour Relations Board for certification with the Canadian Union of Public Employees. In winter term of 1988, the administration claimed some 240 sessional employees. Numbers from 1996-97 and 1997-98 suggest an increase of 25-30% in the regular session, since 1988.

Nonetheless, the urban myth that sessionals are breeding like vermin in the ruins of academe is hyperbolic. Most importantly, the view that sessionals are comparable to vermin, whether stated or implied, is extremely offensive to sessionals themselves.

Why do we care about numbers?

Sessional lecturers may not be as impressed by moderate fluctuations in their numbers, and possible interpretations of those fluctuations, as other constituencies in the University community may be. Sessionals know that they're contingency teachers, hired just-in-time and as the need arises.

It would be unwise for us to build hopes on the prevailing myth of the sessional "explosion."

Any substantial increase in numbers is over for now and has not forced the University to improve our situation greatly. What we hope for ourselves collectively we must be prepared to work hard collectively to obtain.

Furthermore, an increase in overall numbers is no consolation to particular individuals who lose opportunities to teach in a particular discipline. For them, micro-variations in a department's needs can mean the end of what looked like a long-term teaching career. And usually no gold watches and certainly no golden handshakes are there to soften the blow.

Where we teach

In the past two years between 60% and 65% of sessionals taught for the College of Arts and Science. The College of Education came a distant second, with 20-25%, followed by Commerce, Kinesiology, and Engineering. Small numbers teach each year for the Colleges of Law, Pharmacy and Nutrition, Agriculture, and Medicine (usually in the School of Physical Therapy).

A special welcome to the several Sessionals teaching for the College of Dentistry this year. No stats are available yet to indicate whether overall sessional flossing has improved since your arrival.

All sessionals deserve respect for their willingness to teach with less than ideal support from the institution. However diverse the paths that lead us here, sessionals share commitment to academic disciplines and to teaching, and that commitment cannot be "just-in-time."

- Heather Wagg

On Campus News is published by the Office of Communications, University of Saskatchewan.
For further information, visit the web site or contact communications@usask.ca

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