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Casual Voices: Alanna

Posted 16 January 2012 by Paul Clifton (Uni Casual)

I have worked as a casual in a university for the same school since I graduated as a mature age student with a distinction average in 1996 from the same university. The university first asked me to teach. I am now 54 years old. Some four years ago whilst I was undertaking a masters I asked the head of school for a longer fixed term contract as I was having to give up some paid teaching time to devote to further studies and my income was tenuous at best (and we all know about that). He denied me anything longer than what I had been doing (per semester contracts for ten years) and then offered a longer fixed term contract on much more favourable conditions to a young gril newly graduated with no honours.

 I made a written complaint after first attempting unsuccessfully to get some support from the head of school for my studies (as per the university policy of supporting casuals) and addressed it to the Dean and the Equity department. I have since been offered no work at all in this university after teaching almost every single semester, the same series of subjects for the same school and being used for every ad hoc job like being "interent tutor", designing new course notes, writing lecture slides for visiting professors too busy to do their own, performing free grant work for the university for a year "in order to improve my prospects etc", editing textbooks and adding media case studies, written by staff.

Now? Nothing at all except a wall of silence and cessation of all work (except the initial semester after I made the complaint which was the worst hours) because I upset the head of school.  Having recently heard the head of school was transferred to another department - I have attempted to reconnect with teaching in my old department.

I have been told not to "be too hopeful" as "priorities and values" have changed but when I asked "what priorities and values" have changed? - no answer. There is just a wall of silence.

I am a female aged 54 years old. After years of being told how much we "appreciate your teaching", "dont worry - you will always have work with us", "I wish I had one hundred of you", after me actually believing I had a career and was not just a disposable wipe I find out otherwise. With great difficulty I have obtained work elsewhere in the private sector but I miss the students and I miss teaching and it has come with great personal distress and anxiety. What happens in unis is not fair. There is no loyalty for casuals and it only takes one miserable head of school to wreck your life (and all the while they fight against their own retirement whilst forcing discriminatory early retirement on casuals whenever they see fit).

I have lived it. Teaching in unis is no career and they do not value their casual teaching staff despite all the noises they make, but they do certainly make use of you.

Last week I spoke with a friend who has also been a casual for many years. She said "I live with fear" every day. I can identify with that.

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