Lecturers deserve better benefits, greater job security

UNIVERSITY ISSUES: Current union contract negotiations should improve lecturers' job stability

Lecturers represent a vital portion of the University of California’s teaching community. As such, they deserve to receive benefits comparable with those of other faculty and staff employed by the university.

Improved benefits, job stability and shared governance are the three platforms that the University Council-AFT, a union representing many nontenured lecturers in the UC system, is fighting for in its ongoing contract negotiations with the university. The lecturers’ current contract, which was set to expire at the beginning of June, has been extended until Oct. 31 while union leaders and UC representatives work out changes to the new contract.

With the current contract, the university can choose not to reappoint lecturers at the end of any appointment period during their first six years of employment. Only after six years (or 12 semesters at UC Berkeley) may the lecturer be made a continuing appointee, meaning that he or she gains an indefinite contract with a set percentage of time.

Lecturers, who are hired on a contract basis to teach classes in departments across the university, carry a disproportionate responsibility to teach classes. Lecturer-taught classes make up more than 33 percent of undergraduate class-credit hours, though the number of lecturers equals only about a quarter of the number of tenure-track faculty at the university. Bearing the weight of teaching more classes than normal faculty do, lecturers provide students with a valuable teaching-focused learning experience that should be acknowledged in the changes made during the contract discussions in ways that benefit both lecturers and students.

One way to do this would be by implementing lecturer appointments that last longer than the common one- or two-year periods. Longer-term lecture appointments would not only decrease noncontinuing appointees’ yearly concern of getting rehired but would also provide lecturers with the time and peace of mind needed to focus more on crafting a high-quality learning experience for students. Currently, fewer than half of lecturers at the UC campuses are continuing appointees, creating a system with less stability and fewer chances for advancing the personal development of both teachers and students.

Over the next several months, as negotiations continue, we hope that the university will recognize the importance of all members of its body of educators and will choose to invest in the livelihood and skills of those who take on a greater share of the actual teaching that happens on every UC campus. Doing so would only benefit the university and its teachers and students, providing all with a richer, more vivid academic experience.

Editorials represent the collective opinion of the Senior Editorial Board as written by the opinion editor.

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