This past week, as thousands of Camosun graduates crossed the convocation stage at the first in-person graduation ceremony since the beginning of the Pandemic, I wanted to extend my awe and gratitude to all of our members for a job well done. Covid-19 robbed us of so much, like the hundreds and thousands of uncompensated hours of labour you supplied to make it possible for your students to succeed.
Just remember, the College only works be cause we do, all of us. In no small part, students succeed because we work hard at providing them with the best learning environment possible. Under some of the most challenging working conditions in over half a century, you delivered on your promise as dedicated educators. So, just in case no one else has formally thanked you, let me say THANK YOU!
But this shouldn’t be the way we are expected to show up moving forward. As we face a future with increased costs of living, looming deficits, and the encroachment on our rights, I want you all to remember that it is not our duty to supply the labour or fiscal shortfalls out of our dedication to student success. Make no mistake, we are being expected to do this more and more.
How you ask? It happens insidiously, and all under the guise of supporting students. How many of you have been asked to incrementally increase class sizes? At first, it was just one or two… and that turned into 25% more students; which then somehow becomes the new class maxima. Make no mistake, this saves the College money and because you supply more labour for the same shrinking compensation, each hour is worth less.
How many of your departments are experiencing a refusal or delay for replacing full-time continuing faculty members who take leave or retire in favour of “temporary” measures like redistributing the work amongst existing faculty or fractionating it into small assignment parcels that prevent precarious term faculty members from being able to access rights to first refusal or regularization? Even when faculty members are compensated for overloads appropriately, the contraction of our workforce puts pressure on everyone to supply more labour than our Contract should require.
The suppression of wages is a coordinated measure, it creates a situation where many or all of us begin to accept or even desire overloads as a means to combat our shrinking buying power. It also serves to exhaust and overwhelm us into being complicit; surrendering hard won rights in exchange for salary increases which are increasingly insufficient; and sets us against each other vying for scarcer and scarcer resources.
Today, I’m thanking you for putting students first, your labour made all of the ceremonies of the past week possible and we all feel the indescribable joy and satisfaction of the transformative nature of what we do. We can’t help it as educators, it is why most of us do this at all. In the future, I hope you take a time to pause and reflect on how our good natures can be weaponized against our own best interests.
But for now, we all deserve to bask in the warm glow of a job very well done and a special thanks to Mandy Hayre, Chair of the Dental Department, for sharing her photos from the HHS Convocation.
Thank you, your labour makes it all possible.