Academic Council approves recommendation to utilize more lecturers

In response to the approved $650 million in cuts to the University of California, the UC Academic Council approved a recommendation at the end of last month that calls for utilizing more lecturers to teach classes systemwide to save money.

At its meeting on June 22, the council — the administrative arm of the Academic Senate — approved a recommendation to the UC Office of the President that calls for using more lecturers instead of hiring new professors as a cost-cutting measure in the face of increased cuts to the UC.

Despite the council’s recommendation, UC Berkeley expects to hire both new professors and lecturers to meet enrollment needs, according to Dan Mogulof, campus spokesperson.

The purpose of hiring new faculty members would be to keep in line with the campus’s history of steadily increasing both tenure and tenure-track professors, he added.

According to Mogulof, there are currently 1,533 permanent and tenure-track faculty members on campus. While the number has been fluctuating over the past 10 years, it has generally been on the rise, he said.

He added that there are 668 lecturers on campus, which also represents an increase over the last few years.

According to Mogulof, some of the differences between lecturers and faculty members on campus deal with job security, attendance at faculty meetings, research opportunities and resources available to them.

While the Academic Council approved the recommendation, Fiona Doyle, chair of the campus division of the Academic Senate, said the campus needs to maintain its educational standard by both retaining and employing new professors to bring additional perspectives to research on campus.

“There are other things we can do to make education cheaper, but we do not want to do this by taking professional steps from knowing that we are providing a good product to our students,” Doyle said.

But Robert Anderson, vice-chair of the systemwide Academic Senate, said the increased utilization of lecturers will likely affect all UC campuses.

“Hiring faculty has been curtailed, and that is unlikely to substantially change, but at the same time, we are taking more students, and it is critical that these students be able to get classes,” Anderson said.

In terms of the UC system, looking at the number of professors and comparing it to the number of lecturers misrepresents the full extent of a lecturer’s impact, according to Bill Quirk, director of communications and education at University Council-American Federation of Teachers, a union representing non-Academic Senate faculty members, lecturers and librarians across the UC.

“Within the UC, one-third of the teaching is done by lecturers, so students will probably be taught by a lecturer at least once within their time at UC,” Quirk said.

Wendy Brown, co-chair of the Berkeley Faculty Association and a campus professor of political science, said that hearing that the university might be going down this route is disheartening.

“This is a sign of continued deterioration in universities all across the state of California,” Brown said. “Lecturers are some of our finest (teachers), but students come here to work with research faculty.”

But Virginia Abascal,  who has been a lecturer at the UC Berkeley School of Law for the past 15 years, said she would like to see more lecturers on campus because they “are vital to the classroom.”

Abascal said she understands why the Academic Council recommended the utilization of more lecturers, because hiring lecturers saves the campus money.

According to Jonathan Lang, a campus lecturer and campus local union president for the UC-AFT, lecturers are “cheaper” to the university because he said they are usually hired on a term-by-term basis.

“They are very attractive, especially when the university does not have to make a real commitment to them,” he said.