Job at last for top prof

June 14, 1996

The embarrassment is over for York University now that Canada's 1995 professor of the year has been awarded a full-time job.

Although she was an award-winning teacher prior to this distinction from the prestigious Council for the Advancement and Support of Education, Diana Cooper-Clark had to reapply annually to teach her classes, just as she did when she began as a sessional lecturer at the Toronto university in 1970.

York administration blamed the university's austerity measures for her not being hired sooner. Vice president Ross Rudolph said the teacher, who has taught 149 courses over the years, only started applying for full-time jobs recently. "When she did apply for a position, it was her colleagues in the department, not the administration, who were deciding whether or not to hire her," said Mr Rudolph.

But Ms Cooper-Clark said she rarely applied for available full-time positions because she could almost always predict who would get the openly posted positions.

Richard Welland, head of the union that represents York's 550 contract teachers and 1,100 teaching assistants, said the longer a contract teacher works without a full-time position the more they get pegged by some with a reputation as being "damaged goods".

The union is one of the few university part-time faculty associations to have a category where long-standing part-timers are eligible for tenure positions. With four years or more of teaching at least three courses, contract faculty at York are given priority over other equally or less qualified candidates for full-time postings.

"This conversion gives jobs to a lost generation of scholars and teachers," said Mr Welland. The measure does not cost the university any more than it pays now hiring faculty from outside.

This measure had temporarily been a sticking point with the full-time union and led to a two-year grievance over the post Ms Cooper-Clark will fill this autumn.

The professor, who teaches in the humanities and English departments, said that her joy at being hired full-time was marred because she knew of all the good people left behind in the contract sector.

However, conditions may be getting better for part-timers according to United States academic David Leslie, who conducted an extensive study of the part-time university professor in North America. He says he has been hearing positive developments concerning the growing ranks of contract workers, since co-authoring a book on the subject in 1993.

"There has been a change in the tenor of people of good conscience who want to make better use of part-timers," said the Florida State professor and co-author, with Perdue University's Judith Gappa, of The Invisible Faculty: Improving the status of part-timers in higher education.

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