Queen’s tries to fill demand for faculty

65 planned hires to make up for retiring teachers

The University is planning to hire approximately 65 new faculty members this coming year, in order to lessen the pressure on existing faculty brought upon by swelling student numbers and increases in professor retirements.

“Queen’s University, like all universities in the province, has done relatively little hiring in the last year and a half entirely for budgetary reasons,” said Patrick Deane, vice-principal (academic). “There is a lot of catch-up to bring it back to a desirable level.”

In May of 2005, the Ontario provincial government announced a $6.2 billion-dollar commitment to fund post-secondary schools over the next five years.

Deane said despite the increase in funding, the money the school needs still isn’t there because the money from the province can only be used for improvements to education, not for everyday operational costs.

“The increase in government funding, when added to the increase in tuition, still doesn’t bring the University’s revenue up to the level of inflation,” Deane said. “We’re still not able to make new investments overall without diverting money from one section of the University to another.”

The University changed its mandatory retirement age last May to match changes in provincial laws, which eliminated the mandatory retirement age of 65. Queen’s professors now have the option to retire later, though many are still choosing to retire at 65.

“Now [that] mandatory retirement has been abolished, it’s very hard to predict who will actually be taking retirement,” Deane said.

This year, 42 hires, were made, 10 of which were contract--non-renewable faculty who can work a maximum of up to five years. Twenty-two faculty members left the school in June.

In 2005, only 33 faculty were hired, with 29 leaving the school.

To ensure adequate faculty-student ratios in the future, Deane said, the University will set aside funds for faculty renewal.

“We need to designate specific funds, specifically for faculty renewal, from specific areas,” said Deane.

Deane said another option may be to have more graduate students teaching undergraduate classes

“It’s in our interest to give grad students the opportunity to teach,” he said. “At the same time, students should have the opportunity to study with senior professors in the field.”

Ultimately, Deane said, the number of faculty the University can hire will be decided at least in part by the amount of money it has to do so.

“We’re always balancing what financially possible with what’s academically possible.”

Deane said there is hiring going on across the University.

“I’m very pleased with the number of positions being advertised,” he said. “It’s never as many as you’d like to see, but this is a real attempt to bring faculty into areas which have suffered.”

John Holmes, a geography professor at Queen’s and Queen’s University’s Faculty Association president, said that the student-faculty ratio has decreased significantly.

“The workload for all faculty has been increasing year by year by year, recently,” he said. “This has been accentuated by continued increase in the number of undergraduate students.”

This year’s workload increase was lessened, but there was also an increase in graduate students, Holmes said.

“Yet we haven’t seen a corresponding increase in new faculty hires, so that means the workload just continues to increase,” he said.

Holmes said he doesn’t believe abolishing the mandatory retirement age will help the student-faculty ratios significantly.

“The evidence from other jurisdictions--Quebec often gets quoted as an example, and Manitoba--the average [retirement age] is maybe about one year later,” he said.

The University’s graduate studies program is planning to create 966 new spaces over the next three years.

Holmes said the increase in graduate students adds extra financial pressure on the University.

“The money that came from the province, almost all of that money has gone to graduate student financial support. There has been almost no money to hire additional faculty,” he said.

Holmes added that graduate students need long-term professors.

“For grad supervision, you require full-time, tenured, continuing faculty,” he said.

Kim Nossal, head of the politics department, said the funding injection by the government won’t make a huge difference.

“The amount of money has increased somewhat from Queen’s Park thanks to the McGuinty government’s adoption of the recommendations in the Rae report. But even that increase in funding is not going to be enough to transform the education system in Ontario,” he said. Nossal said the system still works relatively well. “In a sense, we’re stuck in a particular pattern. This pattern, some argue, doesn’t serve the interests of undergraduate students all that well.” Nossal also said that what students get is what they put into it.

“The type of university experience students pay for is what students are receiving,” he said. “It depends entirely on what kind of university you want at the end of the day.”

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