CASA: Casual, Adjunct, Sessional staff and Allies in Australian Higher Education
The amount of resourcing that is going to go into universities is not going to increase dramatically in the next few years. But if we are to provide a quality education for our students, we are compelled to look at all of the people who teach in universities, not just the permanent teaching and research elite.
Professor Rob Castle, introduction to RED Report (2008)
We set up CASA in February 2014 because we were both looking for a new space for casual, adjunct and sessional staff and their allies in Australian higher education to share resources and experiences, and to learn from each other.
Australian universities have been unprepared to deal directly with the impact of long-term casualisation, including on student learning and the professional futures of postgraduate students. Casualisation of teaching in particular has evolved as a consequence of many other strategic decisions and initiatives, with the result that we now have many long-term casuals in universities whose experience is not reflected in the way that universities plan.
Casualisation doesn’t just affect academic work; there are casually hired workers on short contracts in universities contributing to research, administration, project work, IT and maintenance. Unlike salaried staff, casuals are in constant negotiation about their employment, and regularly deal with the insecurity of contract renewal and funding continuation. Casualisation offers flexibility to some, but to others is experienced as underemployment, just-in-time hiring, and a sense of marginalization from the permanent workforce. Casuals typically don’t have access to leave entitlements, often cannot apply for internally advertised positions, and if they can access onsite professional development at all, often do so on their own time. (2015 update: we’re really heartened to see how many institutions are now developing policy for paid professional development, and even some modest leave entitlements.)
Social media networks are enabling more casual and sessional university staff to speak out about their experiences. We have set up this blog to bring some of these resources together, to promote these new voices, and to connect the experiences of Australian higher education casuals to those in other national systems. Australians are good at working together online, and we’ve been inspired by Australian blogs The Thesis Whisperer and The Research Whisperer as models for using social media to curate ideas and conversations about the future of higher education.
We’d like to acknowledge the encouragement and support we received in 2014 from the NTEU, and take this opportunity to promote the very important union resources available for casual academics at Unicasual: the NTEU website for Australian casual and sessional academics. If you’re on Twitter, do follow @unicasual for regular updates. We continue to work with the NTEU to ensure that we don’t waste your time by duplicating services or resources, but we maintain CASA as an independent activist space. We know that many casuals are not NTEU members.
We are also, of course, grateful to Universities Australia for the nudge that their don’t-mention-casualisation 2014 conference agenda gave us to contact each other, and get this done.
We’re all in this together.
Kate Bowles (@katemfd) & Karina Luzia (@acahacker)