rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

No more 'Road Scholars': National Adjunct Day of Action

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support rabble.ca in its summer fundraiser today for as little as $5 per month!

Like this article? Chip in to keep stories like these coming.


What would American universities and colleges look like without adjuncts -- those fully qualified, but temporary, academic staff members hired to teach? The simple answer is ''empty,'' since most university and college courses in the U.S. are taught by adjuncts.

Campuses in the U.S. may look empty Feb. 25 as adjuncts stage actions for National Adjunct Action Week, February 23-27. Canadian academic colleagues are lending their support to their colleagues south of the border.

''In Canada, one-third of all academic staff are hired on a per course or limited-term basis with often inadequate compensation for only the teaching component of academic life,'' said Robin Vose, President of the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) in an interview. 

''The casualization of academic staff mirrors broader trends in the Canadian economy as employers replace permanent, full-time positions with temporary, part-time jobs with less pay and few, if any, benefits,'' he added.

The University of Western Ontario Faculty Association has highlighted the experiences of contract academic staff and their challenges to make a living. Many work as "Road Scholars," such as Mark Yaniszewski who has travelled southern Ontario for twelve years, stringing together enough teaching jobs to make ends meet. 

Yaniszewski has taught at 14 universities in as many years as a contract faculty member since 1999. The dizzying numbers highlight an inconvenient truth: some of the most highly educated scholars are searching for work every four-to-eight months. Yaniszewski patrols online job boards at several universities, hoping to land the six or seven courses a year he needs to get by.

''I always tell people I teach at the University of the 401,'' said Yaniszewski, ''I go up and down the 401 every day...This summer I spent nearly $800 a month on gas because I'm on the highway so much.''

Sonia Halpern is a popular instructor at Western University. With numerous teaching awards under her belt during her 24 years at Western, you would expect better treatment and job security. But non-tenure-track faculty live under the constant threat of losing their jobs. 

''Another common misunderstanding,” says Halpern, ''is that we are transient, dabbling in academic life before moving on to something else. Not true; many have been here for years, some even for decades.''

Last year Halpern had, six classes, the largest courseload in 24 years. It felt good, but she soon realized she could not repeat that courseload again. She will try to supplement her income through public speaking engagements and teaching night courses at the art gallery downtown.

Some academic workers manage to move from four-month contracts to something resembling a regular job with benefits. In Peter Krats' case, he taught sessional courses for thirteen years, with no job security, no benefits and no pension, before finally landing a limited-term appointment at Western.

Limited-term contracts are for a longer period of time. Krats' conversion to a limited-term appointment to a maximum of five years means that the pay is higher, with health coverage and a pension plan. Unlike tenure-track professors, he is not guaranteed a permanent job, nor does include time for research. 

''The work of contract academic staff in Canada and U.S. reveal the contradictions of today’s university system,'' said Vose. ''Enrolment is growing, but instead of creating more tenure-track positions, administrations use precariously employed contract faculty to cover undergraduate teaching.''

CAUT advocates for the fair treatment of all academic staff regardless of employment status, including compensation for research and service as part of any teaching appointment on a pro-rata basis -- that is, as a percentage of a regular professor’s appointment.

Tenure and academic freedom, do research, teaching and service, participation in institutional governance, fair compensation and good working conditions, are crucial so that academic staff can offer the best post-secondary education possible.

CAUT extends solidarity to its American counterparts during National Adjunct Action Week. For more information, go to www.caut.ca.


Some files for this article were contributed by the University of Western Ontario Faculty Association (UWOFA).

Angela Regnier is the Communications Officer for the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT). A portion of this article was first published as a CAUT editorial in the CAUT Bulletin.

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.


We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:


  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.


  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.