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November 22, 2001 Letters





Part-time teaching sometimes a livelihood

In the student newspaper The Concordian Oct. 31, there was an article on Maria Peluso and CUPFA’s fight for a better deal in relation to full-time professors.

As a part-time faculty member, I support this effort. At the same time, the article reported the comments of Dennis Murphy, Concordia’s Executive Director of Communications, who notes that although the university is aware that some part-time professors view it as primary employment: “Financially, it is not a viable way of earning one’s living.”

Arguably, the university should have known this would happen when it signed the first collective agreement with CUPFA in 1992. Before that, part-timers were limited to four courses a year at something like $2,500 each.

With the collective agreement, the wage rose to something like $4,300, with a maximum teaching load of six courses. This was a living wage for someone who would rather teach, read and write than work in the private sector.

What should the university do? It could start by working with Ms. Peluso to bring about much-needed reform. It could also introduce hiring practices that would make those whose primary employment is Concordia feel more secure.

In some departments, people whose primary livelihood comes from Concordia compete with people who are working full-time elsewhere. Some of these full-time employees elsewhere can and sometimes do teach six courses a year.

Concordia could put a limit of one course per semester allocated to people who have full-time employment elsewhere. This is standard fare at other teaching institutions.

In addition, Concordia could see that union rules elsewhere are observed here. For example, Dawson College puts a limit of one course being taught outside during working hours per semester (if permission is granted). Concordia should respect this rule in its hiring of Dawson teachers.

Of course, Ms. Peluso, or any leader of CUPFA for that matter, cannot be expected to support such reform. No organization is quick to accept restrictions on the freedom of its own membership, no matter how measured or rational.

As for Concordia, policy is what organizations do and don’t do. The university has known about this situation for close to a decade. Concordia’s policy has been one of inaction. Of course, this will eventually solve the problem as those dependent on the income fall away. Is this solution good for the university? I think not.

Stephen Gallagher, Political Science

CUPFA defended by member

I have been a part-time faculty member at Concordia since 1989. My experience with CUPFA and its current executive is that they have done much for the cause of eliminating inequity for all who are employed at the university. I believe it is well understood that part-time faculty, as well as the staff and employees that work along with us, need to have more job security and better working conditions.

Referring to some of the comments made by Stephen Gallagher, there is no injustice being created at Concordia University with the hiring of people who work elsewhere either part-time or full-time. Engineers, journalists, chartered accountants, musicians, CEGEP teachers, artists, and many of Concordia’s part-time faculty do work elsewhere.

It is often considered quite a coup to have someone who is practising in a profession or has become a seasoned teacher of a subject elsewhere to come in and give practical lectures to our students. Hence our motto: Real Education for the Real World. Mr. Gallagher seems to be suggesting that we curtail this practice, which would be to curtail one of the selling-points of our university.

Mr. Gallagher is suggesting that Concordia adopt hiring practices that distinguish between part-time teachers that either do or don’t have full-time employment elsewhere. Policies about double employment fall under the purview of the unions and not the administration of academic institutions. That is because it would be illegal under the Canadian and provincial labour codes for an employer to seek to limit what its teachers do on their own time.

Under Section 6 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms or articles of the Quebec Labour Code, once an employee has fulfilled his or her duties with an employer during the hours required by that employer, that employee is free to pursue any legal activity desired. Section 5 of the Quebec Charter of Rights and Freedoms also protects our right to lead a life in private, without policing of what we read, eat, or do for a living.

Most part-time faculty are indeed working elsewhere, and at three or four other jobs in order to make a decent standard of living. In fact, Mr. Gallagher himself was doubly employed at both McGill and Concordia a few years ago when CUPFA had a general meeting on the specific topic of double employment. I don’t recall Mr. Gallagher making his voice heard then.

Mr. Gallagher’s suggestion that Concordia should also enforce the collective agreements of CEGEPs is impractical and unnecessary. Aside from the apparent singling out of CEGEP teachers, which is discriminatory, the issue of working elsewhere is already stipulated in collective agreements at the college level. These collective agreements are, moreover, province-wide. They are already applied with enough policing at the college level. We hardly need more police.

It is true that there are fewer sections being offered to part-time faculty right now compared to a few years ago. But I don’t believe Mr. Gallagher has come up with a practical answer to that problem. CUPFA, on the other hand, is fighting to obtain job security for its members.

June Riley, CUPFA advisory council

Thanks to volunteers at the science expo

On Nov. 3 and 4, a Science and Technology Exhibition was organized by Concordia University. This took place in collaboration with the Pointe Claire Cultural Centre at Stewart Hall.

This was the 18th year that this event was held, and over 1,200 visitors attended the exhibition during the two days. There were hands-on demonstrations by 10 Concordia departments: Biology, Building, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Chemistry and Biochemistry, Computer Science, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Exercise Science, Geography, Geology, Mechanical Engineering, and Physics.

Over 50 students from these departments explained the projects and interacted with the public. The university should be proud to have students of this caliber as its representatives. There were many other staff and faculty that contributed to the success of the yearly event.

I want to thank everyone that worked with me on this exhibition, particularly the students, all of whom did an outstanding job. Thank you very much.

Robert Pallen, Associate Professor (Retired), Chemistry and Biochemistry

Homo sapiens is not so wise

The report on psychologist Marc Hauser’s lecture at Concordia, (“Animals are smarter than we think: neuroscientist,” (CTR, Oct. 25, page 8) ipso facto raises the question as to whether human animals are smarter than they think.

We have yet to live up to our name homo sapiens, or the wise hominid. Tragically, the history of the 20th century bears witness to the enormous capacity for evil within our species, although for its opposite as well. We have yet to determine how to eliminate genocide. Its reality (seen as recently as in Rwanda) speaks far more powerfully than any theories we have to explain genocide.

Part of this history has to do with our destruction of other species and of large parts of our earth life support system. This can even be related to human genocide, as when the Khmer Rouge killed large numbers of animals in the Cambodian rain forest to exchange for weapons with China, for its traditional medicine.

George Bernard Shaw said that animals are his friends, and so he didn’t eat them. That is a good approach. The experiments described by Marc Hauser at least don’t entail killing or physically damaging the primates in question, although the future of all non-human primate species is now highly problematic.

It didn’t have to be this way. We should ponder what Henry David Thoreau told us: “In wilderness is the preservation of the world.”

Shloime Perel

We welcome your letters, opinions and comments at BC-121/1463 Bishop St., by fax (514-848-2814), or e-mail (barblak@alcor.concordia.ca) by 9 a.m. on the Friday prior to publication.