English Matters

ACCUTE Letter to Chairs of English re: Contingent Faculty and Tenure/Promotion During COVID-19

April 1, 2020

Dear Department Chairs and Heads:

I am writing to you as the President of the Association of Canadian College and University Teachers of English (ACCUTE) in collaboration with the Canadian Association of Chairs of English (CACE) to make two critical requests in this unprecedented time.

Firstly, please advocate for the rights of contingent faculty who often lack the protection and advocacy of union membership and are, by nature of their contracts, especially vulnerable to challenging economic times. The reality is that many institutions of higher learning will be looking for ways to cut costs immediately. Some universities in Canada have already announced that they are cancelling all intersession and summer-term courses, typically the ones taught primarily by contingent faculty. Moreover, because of the rapidly shifting working conditions, precarious instructors face added challenges including inadequate access to internet, the absence of necessary equipment to transition to and sustain on-line courses, as well as a potential lack of space and uncertainty regarding their safety and security when working remotely as poorly compensated faculty. 

We recognize that many of the following suggestions are not necessarily within the control of individual department leaders; nevertheless, we strongly urge that department chairs and heads take the following steps for supporting contingent faculty whenever possible: 

  • Advocate within your institutions for compensation for the unexpected additional labour of converting courses to remote/online platforms
  • include contingent faculty in all communications about policies related to faculty and institutional supports for remote/online teaching
  • suspend student teaching evaluations for this semester
  • extend or advocate for the extension of multi-year or rolling contracts, especially for those whose contracts end in the spring of 2020
  • protect ownership of course materials created by contingent faculty in the move to online learning
  • defend the academic freedom of all faculty, including contingent faculty
  • support the needs of contingent faculty who fall ill, whose families become ill, and/or who are juggling childcare obligations while continuing to teach
  • relax departmental supervision loads of individual instructors in the current climate

Secondly, please urge your institution to commit to adjusting the tenure and promotion clock for tenure-track faculty because of Covid-19. Our colleagues now find themselves in the impossible situation of shifting their teaching entirely online, continuing their research without access to their offices, libraries, archives, or other key supports, and undertaking service tasks remotely, all while caring for family members (including small children), looking after those who may be sick, and trying to establish a routine in the midst of chaos. Many universities have already instituted a “stop-the-clock” policy that automatically grants those who are pre-tenure or applying for promotion a twelve-month extension regardless of where they are in this process. If you are uncertain of how to effectively advocate for this, or would like guidance, please do let us know and we will assist you. 

We would encourage you to share this letter with the Dean, Provost, Vice-President, and/or President at your institution as you see fit. In addition, reaching out to the appropriate unions on campus to express support for the work they are doing ensures open lines of communication; you may want to ask that they alert you to any changes in collective agreements due to Covid-19.

ACCUTE and CACE are here to advocate for our members and support faculty and chairs through this difficult period. Please do not hesitate to reach out if our offices can help you in any way:

ACCUTE office: info.accute@gmail.com or jandrews@unb.ca (Jennifer Andrews, ACCUTE President)

CACE office: jenkinsj@ucalgary.ca (Jackie Jenkins, CACE President) or jallard@brocku.ca (James Allard, CACE VP)


Jennifer Andrews, Professor and President of ACCUTE (2018-2020)

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