KPU faculty concerned about upcoming changes to casual contract hiring policy

Job postings, interviews, and reference checks may add extra work for instructors wanting to hire students

The new hiring process will take up to two or three months to complete for KPU research assistants. (Shutterstock)

The new hiring process will take up to two or three months to complete for KPU research assistants. (Shutterstock)

Kwantlen Polytechnic University is planning to implement a new hiring policy in April for students entering casual contract positions, leaving some instructors with concerns. 

The policy will add new steps to the hiring process meant to minimize risk and make it more transparent, increasing student awareness of job opportunities and how to apply for them. 

However, for some instructors, this could result in a lengthier hiring process. KPU instructors were notified about the changes by email in December. Present and future research assistants, work-study students, and casual service contractors will be affected by the changes, along with instructors offering such positions. 

“The entire committee is concerned,” says Valerie Vezina, chair of the Arts and Research Committee at KPU. “Many assistants also have concerns because it’s a lot more work for them to handle.” 

With the current hiring policy, instructors start by asking students if they wish to be research assistants. Students are then given employment paperwork to fill out and complete the process.

The new hiring policy adds more steps that could take up to two or three months to complete. Instructors are required to put out a job posting and conduct interviews. Background and criminal record checks for top candidates are also recommended with student consent but not mandatory for all positions.  

“Bringing student hiring in line with other hiring processes at the university does put this on a similar timeline to those other processes,” wrote KPU vice president of human resources Laurie Clancy in an email to The Runner. “This was unavoidable if the university was to meet the objectives of the revision.” 

On Dec. 7, an email sent out to faculty said that KPU’s HR team spent months meeting with departments and leaders to discuss what led to the changes being made. 

“As part of the revision process, Human Resources consulted with the deans’ offices and departments that are responsible for hiring the students,” Clancy wrote. 

Vezina and KPU student research assistant Jacqueline Walker say that they weren’t aware that anyone in the faculty of arts was contacted. 

“We’re the most active faculty when it comes to research, and we haven’t heard of this until it was announced,” says Vezina. 

“Nowhere in the communication can I see an option for this to be debatable or amended,” says Walker. 

“Instead, there’s an emphasis on, ‘We’re trying to make this as smooth a transition as possible,’ though no one consented to that transition, or about how it would impact them or their research.” 

There are also concerns about how a three-month hiring process may cut down on paid hours students could have to work on research projects with instructors. 

“For myself and other students working on projects with instructors, when our research assistant contracts are up, the upcoming process will be for our job to be posted, then candidates shortlisted, then interviews conducted, until months later when we may begin a contract. Not because instructors want to go through this or because it makes sense for this type of work, but simply because it is the new HR process,” says Walker. 

Reference checks are another new requirement students need to fulfill when applying for casual contracts. 

“If you’re an international student and have no experience here in this country, how do you get a reference letter?” Vezina says. “In the name of giving chances to everybody, we’re actually impeding a number of people from being able to complete this.” 

In terms of issues where an applicant’s situation may limit the usual process, there will be an attempt to make appropriate accommodations, Clancy said in the email. 

Instructors were encouraged to reach out to their faculty’s council with concerns about the new hiring policy. Vezina reported her committee’s concerns to the Arts Faculty Council, and several motions were recently passed, including a call for the suspension of the planned changes to the hiring policy for the faculty of arts.

At this time, the policy will still apply to students entering a casual contract position in other faculties.