A professor, who is remaining anonymous, was previously a faculty lecturer at McGill University. From her perspective, she had done everything that was expected of a good academic. She had good student reviews, published papers, and made presentations at international conferences. So when she was suddenly told that McGill would not renew her contract, she was taken by surprise. She later discovered that her job had gone to a spousal hire. She preferred not to disclose when her contract was not renewed.
Spousal hiring usually happens when McGill provides relocation assistance to the spouses of newly hired tenure-stream academic staff by offering appointments, such as tenured/tenure track positions, contract academic staff (CAS) positions, and non-academic positions. In the professor’s case, however, the professor who negotiated the spousal hire was not newly employed.
“The husband, [who was a tenure track professor], had applied to teach [at other universities] and was offered to teach somewhere else,” the professor said. “He used his platform to re-negotiate his contract with [McGill University] so that his wife could get a job. He said, ‘If you don’t give my wife a job, I will leave for this other university.’”
At the time, the professor had been hired on a nine-month contract as a faculty lecturer, a type of CAS that are taken on to teach. Her contract had been renewed three times and she expected it would be renewed for a fourth year.
Terry Hebert, McGill Association of University Teachers (MAUT) president and professor of Pharmacology and Therapeutics, expressed that renewal of a contract is never guaranteed.
“There’s an end date in the contract,” Hebert said. “[The faculty lecturers] would know when their job will end. If I knew my contract was coming soon, I would be asking around.”
While the professor acknowledged that a contract has an end date, she expected to be notified that her contract would not be renewed.
“In theory, you say, ‘Oh it’s a nine-month contract,’” the professor said. “But when you’ve had it for three years and you’ve been doing a good job, there’s an assumption that [the administration] will let you know if they don’t plan on renewing you. And they can do this because there is no union, no protection.”
When the professor was told her contract would not be renewed, teaching application deadlines had already passed. Her phone service was suspended and her credit rating fell.
“I applied for the [faculty lecturer position] even though there was no opening,” the professor said. “I wasn’t told that, ‘This is your last year’, so that I was able to prepare. I wasn’t told until it was too late to apply to jobs. [The department] said they were taking a new direction. But there was no new direction. What they had done was hire [the spouse] and now [the spouse] is in that position.”
Faculty lecturer positions must be advertised in bulletins from the University Affairs or Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT), letters to the department heads of at least 10 similar departments in Canada, and Canadian professional journals. Associate Provost (Policies, Procedures, and Equity) Angela Campbell said that spousal hirings can be the exception to the mandatory advertising rule. McGill can offer tenured/tenure track and CAS appointments, even when they have not been advertised and have not undergone competition. According to the McGill spousal hiring webpage, hiring procedures for CAS positions have even greater flexibility than tenured/tenure track appointments.
“In some cases, the advertising process for spousal hires may not be the same as that ordinarily followed,” Campbell wrote in an email to //The McGill Tribune//.
While the position may not be advertised, the appointment must still undergo review.
“Due diligence remains essential to ensure that the academic appointment (whether CAS or tenure track) has been carefully reviewed by the academic unit that is undertaking the hire, and that the hire furthers the academic mission of the University,” Campbell wrote.