When in the academic year is it an opportune time to bring up precarious employment in academe? It occurred to me that the answer is never. In the spring we’re worried about getting rehired and don’t want to think about the worst-case scenario. In the summer we’re hoping to catch our breath long enough to conduct research, reduce our teaching load or take a much-needed break. In the fall, we need morale to focus on our students. Just before the scheduled breaks, we definitely don’t want to think about the challenges of our position, so my apologies in advance for raising this issue now.
However, I’ve come across some useful information about the sessional instructor juggling act that you might find interesting now that your marking is (temporarily) behind you. The first is the teaching newsletter, Profession, produced by the MLA. Like me in a previous post, the editors thought of Sisyphus when choosing their featured image. The link is for this fall’s special issue, but you’ll find many other well-written articles about university teaching, specifically in the field of language and literature, in past issues.
The other resource is an article in Quill & Quire on a research project by an undergraduate student at Emily Carr College of Art and Design in Vancouver that documents the punishing workload of contingent professors. Though the project focuses primarily on the difficult trade-offs of instructors in the creative industries, much of the discussion applies to all disciplines.
Both resources explore the unfortunate compromises inherent in our roles. Still, you’ll find hope alongside the angst.