author: john loeppky and marty grande-sherbert | EIC and oped editor
Professors are, on the whole, mistreated by our administration. This isn’t a uniquely University of Regina problem; academics across the country are facing what amount to austerity measures, less positions, less pay, less security, less sense.
Take the recent bargaining negotiations between professors and the administration. After an outrageous first proposal (a limit on the number of classes a sessional could teach in their career with a heavy dose of attempting to remove tenure, anyone?) URFA members resisted, as one would expect. Even though it was a definite negotiating tactic, it leaves me with a sour taste in my mouth. Tenure may be a problematic facade for academic integrity, but it does protect them from administration (and colleagues’) whims. How can we expect to do work of intellectual rigor if you can be dismissed for the littlest things? Professors I’ve talked to can have all or none of their student evaluations considered during their review. Our student evaluations have an impact, but not in the way you’d expect. Many professors, particularly women or those from minority backgrounds, face horrendous abuse in those student evaluations. Not only is being sexist or racist impacting those around you when you write those evaluations, but the livelihood of the human being in front of you. The evaluations are meant to make courses and professors better. If you have a personal vendetta, take it up somewhere else. I’ve had my fair share of issues across my years in university, and it’s important to know which lane to take when problems arise. Critiquing an academic’s looks is not the way to go.
If professors strike, the blame should be laid at the feet of the administration. Some faculties are facing choppy seas. We, as students, need to balance our arguments. Our students’ union needs to resist the urge of being in the president’s pocket – as has been their habit in previous years – and we need to challenge what the campus sees a simple case of business as usual. We have sessionals with the same degree on their wall as every other teacher living below the poverty line. If the university wants to operate as something other than a business, they need to understand the value in their workforce. If we care about education, we have to care about those teaching. If we have money for signs, exorbitant administrative salaries, and needless expenses, then we can find money to pay those who make our degrees more than just a napkin with a fancy font.
The issue, I think, is that the nature of academia separates professor and student and often creates a scenario where that isolation breeds unneeded contempt. An educator may no longer identify with the challenges of students and the students may view said person as being far more wealthy than they actually are. It’s the difference between punching down and punching up. In such a turbulent environment for all of us, we need to be able to come together on common ground rather than backstabbing those who we need most.