Academic appointments slashed

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The windows of second, third, and fourth floor faculty offices in the Administration-Humanities building are seen from below. Large red “X”s cross out many of the offices 
Oh, so you think it gets better after you graduate?  lee lim

U of R academic positions in downward trend since 2021, workforce report finds

by shivangi sharma (news writer) & allister white (news editor)

In 2023 a notable reduction in the number of academic positions was recognizable nearly across the board at the University of Regina (U of R) and its federated colleges. Information about the reduction was released to the public in the U of R’s 2023 academic workforce report. 

In May 2023, CBC reported that the U of R was undergoing “workforce adjustments,” including layoffs. The U of R also offered many early retirement incentives and eliminated vacant positions. This news came to light as Saskatchewan’s Minister for Advanced Education, Gordon Wyant, claimed that “The U of R didn’t ask for any additional funding.”  

All in all, the Faculty of Arts suffered the highest cut in academic positions. The Faculty of Science saw a small increase in the number of positions available. In short, academic positions are being slashed while tuition rises progressively. The questioned raised is this: why are students paying more and receiving less at the cost of both ourselves and our faculty members? 

Academic appointments made by the U of R are based on the collective agreement between the U of R and the University of Regina Faculty Association (URFA) which represents all U of R academic staff members. 

The 2023 academic workforce report showed a 2 per cent decrease in academic appointments for 2023. This decrease was measured by combining figures from the U of R, First Nations University, Campion College, and Luther College. In total, 497 academic positions were appointed in 2023 – the lowest number of appointments made since 2020. Statistics inlcuded with the report also show that the number of academic positions have been declining steadily since 2021.  

This dip in the number of positions has so far only affected academic staff. The number of positions for non-academic staff has remained approximately the same for the years 2021-2022 and 2022-2023, as per U of R workforce demographic reports. 

In 2009, Dan Clawson published a paper titled “Tenure and the Future of the University,” examining cuts like those at the U of R and their impacts on research institutions. Clawson explained, “The fundamental rationale for the tenure system has been to promote the long-term development of new ideas and to challenge students’ thinking,”  and that “tenure is needed to provice faculty the freedom, […] to challenge conventional wisdom.” As a result of this link between tenure positions and student learning, the quality of education is likely to plummet alongside cuts to positions.  

The move away from tenured positions typically means an increase in part-time positions, with no little to no time or funding for research. In 2019, a study authored by Chris Hubbard-Jackson found that part-time faculty experienced burnout at higher rates than tenured faculty. “If part-time faculty experience burnout a few times a month,” Hubbard-Jackson explained, “there is a stronger likelihood of the student learning environment and students being negatively affected.”   

Why the burnout? Hubbard-Jackson states that nearly 80 per cent of the part-time faculty who participated in his study indicated part-time faculty working conditions such as “low pay, a lack of benefits, not having an office space, a lack of job security, teaching a large number of courses each semester, a lack of institutional support, being undervalued, grading, odd work hours, and limited student interaction outside of class” as impacting factors.  

URFA’s sessional advocacy committee explains that, at the U of R and its federated colleges, sessional staff only qualify for employment insurance under certain circumstances, though “most ses­sion­als who teach four cours­es over a two-semes­ter peri­od will be eli­gi­ble to receive a week­ly ben­e­fit.”  

Courses can be cancelled by the university prior to their start dates, and sessional lecturers are compensated one-quarter of the course stipend. Even this stipend is conditional; it’s only applicable if the course is cancelled less than one month before it is scheduled to begin.  

While sessionals experience incredibly high rates of burnout, often as a result of the terms of their employment, they do not have access to a health and wellness expense account. Tenured and tenure-track professors both have access to such accounts. As tenure and tenure-track positions are cut, so are the benefits and securities that go along with such positions.  

Alongside them? Opportunity for part-time faculty and those with dreams of working in academia.  

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