The concept of tenure is a simple one. In exchange for paying and protecting an academic from harm, the academic provides valuable research insights and teaches students in her ways to inspire the next generation of academics. This concept of patronage is fucking ancient – Aristotle tutored Alexander the Great because he was paid by King Philip II of Macedonia to do so. Surely to shit Canada can’t screw this up, can it?
Yup! Canada absolutely can and will screw that up! Enter the university-as-business age, where students represent profits and education takes a back seat to income. Enter the contract professor. Poorly-paid, dependent on good reviews from students to keep their jobs, and unable to know if they even have work the next semester, these professors are now teaching half of all undergraduate students in Canada. In exchange for abruptly halting an ancient tradition, caker universities provide…administrative bloat. In Canada, the best use for facilities of higher learning is to provide cushy jobs to the friends of wealthy people. Gives a whole new context to the humblebragging CBC piece about Canadians have more postsecondary degrees than anyone else, eh?
The biggest reason for contract professorship growing into a full-time phenomenon is of course cost. Contract professors don’t get benefits or job security or money for doing their own research (which the contractor is of course expected to do on their own dime), Never mind that the people who teach undergraduate students are desperately poor. Never mind that low wages and limited prospects discourage higher education and thus potentially silence valuable insights. Just look at the savings. Which is what universities and centers of learning were first built for. Plato’s Lyceum was all about squeezing funding from educators and shafting the learned. For sure.
The problem has gotten so bad that even tenured profs are speaking out against the practice. And while these “adjunct” professors are suffering as they try to teach useless caker students, the administrations behind the professors just keep growing. Here’s a funny story about full-time professors protesting a $400,000 year administrative position by offering to split the job four ways. In Quebec, university administrators are making $200 million more per year than they were almost 20 years ago. Said administrations also have a hard time being honest about themselves and their rapid expansion, which is I suppose to be expected. But the point still stands – instead of funding actual intellectuals and their actual research into problems, we’ve opted to funnel funds to mid-level know-nothing administrators who think strangling the academic lifeblood of the university is a good idea.
On top of the administration’s desperate attempts to render professors as broke as possible, universities in Canada have been trying their level best to grow their student populations regardless of whether there’s actually room for those students or if those students can expect a reasonable education. The upshot of that is professors having to teach more students in ever-larger classes, which reduces the ability of the professor to answer questions and to actually teach. And on the whole, universities aren’t hiring enough professors to deal with the ever-growing crush of students.
So, to recap. Your academic achievement in Canada and subsequent desire to teach the next generation of academics is going to leave you mired in poverty and uncertainty, working alongside an unresponsive, ever-growing morass of idiot administrators, responding to reactionary cakers protesting the idea that universities produce research, dealing with a growing number of students that the school does not know how to accomodate, and without any hope that the school might one day recognize that its behavior is suicidal and instead opt to hire enough faculty to address the students being admitted.
What a deal! Who could possibly say no?