The conservative (and also, even more depressingly, Conservative) tsunami about to hit the nation is unlikely to do the Canadian post-secondary sector a world of good. Already under siege (thanks in no small part to two Communications professors out in Ontario) expect funding to be slashed and the already untenably precarious situation of the Canadian professor to become even more grossly traumatic.
Canadian schools churn out a vastly disproportionate number of graduate students to jobs available. Heavily encumbered with debt, these students struggle mightily to get a break that mostly never comes. There are not even close to enough tenured positions to go around. Teaching in any position that is not tenured is almost never worth either the money paid or the punishing amount of labour involved. The whole idea is to burn you out and replace you as soon as you break down: you’re a replaceable part, and a cheap one at that, nothing but a drill-bit at the Rona.
Switching out full-time salaried positions for part-time bit work, where exactly the same work is paid at ¼ of the full-time wage, is legal, I guess, but it’s the post-secondary equivalent of electoral gerrymandering: you tweak with things under the hood where most people never look, you get the result you want.
If you’re one of the lucky few, and you snare a tenured position, that’s when the trouble really starts. You can check out any time you like (a lot of professors seem to check out while lecturing, an impressive trick if you can manage it ) but you can never leave (Don Henley sees all). You literally can never leave. There’s no job to leave to. You were lucky to get the one and you’re not to get another one, not ever. Under the column labelled “Things I Will Not Do to Keep My Job” there’s nothing but empty space. What surprised me about the stitch-up nature of my job interview was that no one else found it remarkable. Banality of Evil and all that, I guess. But it’s a tweak with consequences both wide-ranging and long-lasting: hiring professors not so much because of what they know, but because of who they know, or because they pose the least threat to your job security, deadens both the intellectual and collegial environment vital to healthy learning. Students, especially, benefit when institutions hire diversely and rigorously. They suffer the most when departments choose instead to dip repeatedly into the sycophantic friend-pool. Actions such as these further erode the public’s trust in its institutions and leads to the rise of populism. When you are perceived to be hiring for behind-the-scenes reasons, and not because you care about scouring the country to try and find absolutely the best and most interesting people to teach your students, people can tell, they can sense it. Universities get a bad reputation: all professors get tarnished with the same brush.
In many Communications Departments—this is true—professors place a studded black collar around their necks and chain themselves to a hook on the wall before turning on CNN, so instinctive and violent is their kill-response to images of Donald Trump on the TV. They would tear him apart limb by limb if they could, they’d eviscerate him before his own family in the name of all that is good and progressive. They seem entirely oblivious to the obvious correlation. Trumpism exists because the public has concluded that traditionally left-leaning institutions such as universities, such as the Liberal Party of Canada, operate like families, intimate and Mario Puzo-like. Everyone’s in it for themselves, and no one seems to believe what they’re selling. You take as much as you can for as long as you can, that’s it. In such a environment—whether actual or perceived—you can schedule as many lectures as you like about Trump, you can feel good when you thump that pulpit—I mean podium—and maybe you even mean it; the cumulative contribution of the North America post-secondary sector has not been to halt the rise of the alt-right, but to facilitate it. It's all just theatre of the well-paid, and short-sighted, self-righteous.