This essay was originally posted on ActiveHistory.ca in March 2015.
With thousands of Toronto-area teaching and research assistants out on strike as well as a very recent faculty strike at the University of Northern British Columbia, opinion-makers have begun to draw up proposed solutions for the ailments of higher education. Not surprisingly, given the frequent attention it draws, most have targeted tenured and tenure stream faculty members as the blight on the system that is making higher education unaffordable. Over the past few weeks all three of Canada’s major daily newspapers (click here for the Globe, here for the Star, and here for the National Post) explained to their readers through ‘news’ reports or op-ed pieces that the underlying causes of the dramatic rise in itinerant labour is a result of the declining number of full-time over-paid tenured and tenure-track faculty willing to teach.
This type of editorializing – either through the guise of news or through the op-ed pages – is misguided and sets us back from actually achieving workable solutions and robust learning environments in our universities and colleges. Not only does the approach ignore research like CAUT’s, whose annual almanac this year suggests that in six of Canada’s ten provinces, universities spend more money on non-academic staff than academic teaching staff (suggesting that any discussion of costs needs to include the expenses associated with administration, student experience and student life in addition to classroom practices), but more importantly, for the purposes of this post, these attacks on tenured and tenure-track faculty mischaracterize the good work academics (and the students in our classes) are actually up to. Continue reading “Lazy Historians, Disengaged Academics, and Over Paid Professors?”