An open letter to the Canadian Historical Association

From Tenure-Track and Tenured Faculty
Precarity in History is our discipline’s great challenge today.
As the Precarious Historical Instructors’ Manifesto puts it: “There is a crisis in working conditions for precariously employed history professors in Canadian universities. It is a crisis decades in the making; it has taken a profound personal and collective toll on generations of historians.”
All too often, the burden for finding solutions falls on the precarious instructors themselves – the people with the least power to make changes. When they do propose solutions, tenured faculty and university administrators too often ignore those ideas or give them a low priority.
The Precarious Historical Instructors’ Manifesto is a remarkably constructive and thoughtful document. People struggling to make ends meet and faced with broken promises and high walls on the part of their profession would be well within their rights to express anger. The Manifesto instead makes a series of sensible calls for change that would in many cases be simple to implement. Taken together, they lay out an agenda for real change and for greater justice within our profession.
The Canadian Historical Association has responded. It is a welcome step that the peak association for Canadian historians has not ignored the Manifesto. Yet the response reads as half-hearted. The CHA pledges to create “a sub-committee to examine and highlight the progress that has already been made toward addressing the concerns expressed in the calls to action, and to consider ways in which we can continue to work towards limiting precarity, and limiting the high professional and emotional cost of such employment.”
The undersigned welcome the CHA’s decision to address the crisis of precarity, but we see a simpler and more responsive solution: the CHA should work to implement the calls to action addressed specifically to historical associations. Some of these are simple: the removal of institutional affiliations can happen immediately at the 2020 CHA conference, where it would also be simple to make sure contract instructors are referred to by academic title. Others may take longer, but the work can be started now and the end goals accepted.
The CHA’s decision to address the Manifesto’s calls is a good first step, but discussion of how to do so should be done openly within the wider profession, not only by narrowing it down to a sub-committee. And the intention to listen and act can be announced now. As CHA members and Canadian historians, we urge the CHA to start acting now, and accept the calls to action for professional associations made in the Precarious Historical Instructors’ Manifesto.

Signed (in alphabetical order),
Tina Adcock, Simon Fraser University
Kristine Alexander, University of Lethbridge
Jess Clark, Brock University
Isabel Campbell
Jim Clifford, University of Saskatchewan
Michèle Dagenais, Université de Montréal
Joanna Dean, Carleton University
Karen Dubinsky, Queen’s University
Finis Dunaway, Trent University
Brian Gettler, University of Toronto
Jason Ellis, University of British Columbia
Robert Englebert, University of Saskatchewan
Steven High, Concordia University
Dan Horner, Ryerson University
Benjamin Hoy, University of Saskatchewan
Nathan Kozuskanich, Nipissing University
Catherine Larochelle, Université de Montréal
Mark Leier, Simon Fraser University
Josh MacFadyen, University of Prince Edward Island
Daniel Macfarlane, Western Michigan University
Laura Madokoro, Carleton University
Ian McKay, Wilson Institute, McMaster University
Lynne Marks, University of Victoria
Sally Mennill, Douglas College
David Meren, Université de Montréal
Ian Mosby, Ryerson University
Jamie Murton, Nipissing University
Sharon Myers, University of Prince Edward Island
Sarah Nickel, University of Saskatchewan
Carmen Nielson, Mount Royal University
Thomas Peace, Huron University
Daniel Ross, Université du Québec à Montréal
Daniel Rück, University of Ottawa
Daniel Samson, Brock University
Veronica Strong-Boag, UBC/University of Victoria
Shannon Stunden Bower, University of Alberta
Janis Thiessen, University of Winnipeg
Coll Thrush, University of British Columbia
Peter L. Twohig, Saint Mary’s University
Ali Versluis, University of Guelph
Andrew Watson, University of Saskatchewan
Martha Walls, Mount St. Vincent University
John Walsh, Carleton University
David Webster, Bishop’s University

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23 thoughts on “An open letter to the Canadian Historical Association

  1. Isabel Campbell

    Isabel Campbell, using NO AFFILIATION because isn’t that the point???? And I’ve got three (two unpaid ones so I kind of understand what life might be like without the third one that comes with a salary and a pension even if the Phoenix system has screwed me over).

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