The primary fact of life for a casual contingent of faculty is not that they are working part-time, but that they are dispensable; they are at-will employees who can be dismissed with little or no justification by dint of the administration simply not offering them their position for the new semester.
Secondary features include little or no office space, often little or no pay for non-classroom tasks such as office hours, committee work, professional development and campus involvement; sometimes even exclusion from these activities.
Being a teacher in higher education, particularly at the University of Delhi (DU) today is not what it was like years ago. Ashutosh Jha, an adhoc teacher who teaches political science at DU, points out: “The majority of university or college faculty held full-time positions.
More importantly, most of them attained the security of tenure, and adjunct faculty – used mostly to fill specialty positions or temporary shortages – often received the same rate of pay per class and many of the same work conditions as full-time tenure-track teachers (FTTT).”
“Beginning in the 1990s, with the introduction of privatisation and liberalisation, the fundamental shifts began to be evident. Not only did full-time hires shrink and the proportion of
faculty grow, the conditions of employment changed too. For adjuncts, job security and such peripheral
‘luxuries’ as health benefits and office space began to disappear,” Jha added.Thousands of casual teachers working on the “breadline” including permanent faculties of DU are out in the sweltering summer, protesting against the recent University Grant Commission’s (UGC) notification.
According to the protesters, besides other provisions, the notification has introduced an almost one fourth cut in the total number of their faculty involved in various colleges at DU.Crucially, the teachers’ stir is also highlighting the massive rise in the proportion of university staff on insecure contracts – fixed term and zero hours – who have little security but on whom universities depend for taking care of the majority teaching, marking and administration, out of which 50 per cent are on such contracts.
The campaign group says that the contractualisation is a scandal across the board, it disproportionately affects education without even knowing the basic tenet of the profession that the lecturers’ working conditions are students’ learning conditions.”
One of the representatives of the Left affiliated teachers group on the DU campus conveyed that “Continuous budget cuts by governments and push towards privatisation of education, has resulted in large numbers of vacant posts in State and Central Universities. The adhocism and contractualisation of teaching has become rampant.
At DU roughly 50 per cent teachers are working on adhoc basis and that is in contravention with the Ordinances, which stipulates that not more than one third can be on ad-hoc or temporary basis.” “I have been involved in various colleges where I have taught as an adhoc since years, I am not sure about my future.
My longings for teaching would end as an adhoc member of the University. The vulnerability of casual staff like me is that they even cannot buy things on loan as they are not permanent therefore the banks avoid to grant us any loans,” Ajay Kumar an adhoc teacher at DU said.
Kumar joined DU in 2005 as an adhoc and after passing a bunch of years he is still teaching as an adhoc. “I get around Rs 35,000 as remuneration, which is hardly enough to meet the need of my five-member family in Delhi,” he added.
Another, faculty member, Ashish Roy, involved as faculty of DU on contract said, “I have joined the protest against the casualisation in the University, hoping that the agitation might change the attitude of the administration and the government, but nothing changes”.
“I joined the DU in 2001 as a student, later developed interest in teaching since then I have not lived a normal happy life. My yearning for teaching came to conclusion in 2013, but the happiness of this job faded with working as a ‘temporary’ till today,” Roy added.
While explaining the need of agitation that too at the time of admissions in the University, Rajesh Jha, who represents DU Teachers Association (DUTA), said, “Many of us might label these strikes as disruptive for the reason that it hurts the normal businesses of the University but things
cannot go on as they are.
The contemporary structure of the university is highly unbalanced and unfair, with temporary workers bearing the brunt of the labour but the least amount security, therefore the agitation becomes necessary.”
Jha, who is a Joint Secretary of the DUTA, added that the aim of the strike is to ensure
better quality of education for all involved in a university, as big as DU. The key to the problems of ‘part-timers’ is not that they work part-time but that their relationship with administrations is “casual”; they can be asked to leave without cause, without even being fired.
“Not only the faculty members, who are being hired on casual basis, but from sweepers, gardeners, security guards to the college principal, all are being hired on contractual basis,” Jha added.
“Despite our inferior pay and job security, we generally don’t cut many of the educational corners we might be expected to.
We are no more likely to retreat to a multiple-choice machine-scored tests, instead of time-consuming essays, than full-time teachers. Many of us keep office hours for free and give out our home phone numbers to students.
Clearly we are doing quality professional work, albeit amidst unprofessional conditions,” said Shahid, who teaches economics in a DU college. “The impact on our campus is the feeling of a two-tiered system, the haves and the have-nots. This creates an environment of exploitation of non-tenured faculty to teach overcrowded classes and take on extra course load to secure their jobs. In the end, it affects the quality of education at the given campus,” added Shahid.
Even the full-time or permanent faculty is directly affected by massive “casualisation” of the educational workforce. Since contingent faculty members tend to shy away from involvement in campus life, fewer people are available to participate in committees and other meetings, which led to the dictatorial decision making in the university.
While explaining the impact of “casualisation” of faculty, Aditya Narayan Misra, former DUTA president said, “Academics are on permanent contracts. The rest make a living by patching together a fixed-term, hourly-paid, fractional and a zero-hour contracts, often at more than one institution not devoting time on research and writing, vital to transforming a vocation into a career, are bought with sacrifices from the schedule of a normal life which gives us relaxation, friendship and sleep.”