Protesters rally for job security, benefits, compensation for lecturers

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Jennifer Tanji/Staff

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Outside California Hall on Wednesday, approximately 100 lecturers, faculty members and students rallied to push the University of California to accept their proposals for lecturers’ job security, benefits and compensation.

That same day, the lecturers’ union, the University Council-American Federation of Teachers, or UC-AFT, held a bargaining session with the UC Office of the President at the Clark Kerr Campus.

Protesters sang songs, led chants, made speeches and read spoken-word poetry to express their dissatisfaction with the university’s treatment of lecturers.

Lecturers are nontenured faculty who work on contracts from one semester to two years in length, which are negotiated by the UC-AFT and the university. The UC-AFT is amid contract negotiations that have persisted throughout the year.

The protest began at noon with a speech from campus history lecturer Robert Chester, who said, in reference to the insecurity of lecturing appointments, that “for the welfare of the students and the faculty, the university must make the humane treatment of lecturers a priority.”

In the first six years of teaching at the university, lecturers — unlike tenured ladder faculty — do not have any guarantee that their contracts will be renewed, which is known as precontinuing.

After six years, lecturers undergo a performance review to determine whether the university will give them a continuing appointment, which provides greater job security.

Lecturers have said they often do not know if they will be appointed for the next semester until, in some cases, a month before instruction begins. Some lecturers seek out other employment as a backup plan in case their position is not renewed.

“Our working conditions are your learning conditions — if I’m stressed out trying to find work elsewhere in the coming semester … that’s time consuming, that affects prep time and that affects your state of mind,” Chester said, who is precontinuing.

Rather than seeing lectureship as a career, as some speakers at the rally did, the campus has said that lecturers are contingent faculty who fill gaps in the schedule.

“(Lecturers) often fill in for regular faculty who are on leave, provide additional teaching to cover surges in enrollment, and teach large undergraduate classes,” said UC Berkeley spokesperson Janet Gilmore in an email in October.

Protesters took issue with a 1.5 percent raise in salary over four years that the university had previously proposed in negotiations. Katherine Renfro, a librarian at the UC Berkeley School of Law’s library, called it “an effing insult.”

Michelle Squitieri, a field representative for the UC-AFT Local 1474, which represents UC Berkeley, said the raise isn’t “remotely close to the rise in the cost of living.”

Protesters also called for Social Security benefits for part-time lecturers, who they said do not receive them. According to Squitieri, lecturers must teach for a certain amount of time each semester to receive Social Security benefits. UC-AFT President Bob Samuels said that getting those benefits was one of his goals for the negotiations.

After roughly 45 minutes, the protesters left to join a march in solidarity with students at the University of Missouri against racial discrimination on campus.

In an email, UCOP spokesperson Kate Moser said that the negotiations are ongoing and that “we have reached tentative agreements on some issues, and we are working hard to resolve the remaining issues.”

At the rally, Samuels said negotiations were going “very slowly.”

According to Mia McIver, a lecturer in the writing program at UCLA and member of the negotiating team, the union is pushing for three items: job security for lecturers, benefits and Social Security for part-time workers and a greater pay increase.

A small compromise was reached in October, where the two parties agreed to extend their current contract, which was set to expire, until Dec. 10.

“I’m optimistic in the long term,” McIver said. “It remains to be seen with this round of bargaining, but in the long term, I’m definitely confident.”

Austin Weinstein covers academics and administration. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @aweinstein5.

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  • Becky Newsom

    What better way to learn about your future contingent career than from a contingent lecturer! Another shameful UC practice. Meanwhile, senior admins get lifetime pensions after 5 years.

  • Rana Maneri

    How does Harvard deal with this issue? On one hand, students should get famous faculty like Harvard. On the other hand we have the issue of lecturers who come to Berkeley and steel our real estate and stay in our city. If the University is going to hire, and these people are going to live in Berkeley taking away from those born in Berkeley, making more homeless youth, then they should pay the most educated and get the best faculty in the world. If lecturers aren’t professors then they can’t live in Silicon Valley or Berkeley and only make it worse to the town and city of Berkeley. It is a complex issue but until Cal beats Harvard or Stanford (the Harvard of the west) we need to hire better faculty, not lecturers. Berkeley is not very diverse and we have an abnormal student body who is mostly Asian. There are few black students, few white and Latino. Mostly Asian which is making Berkeley a less American place to be. Most of the demographic is Chinese and I am not sure if anyone cares about our own California population! Both Harvard and Stanford and most schools have a balanced demographic. However, Berkeley has become a very difficult place to enjoy because so many native people are being displaced by lecturers, transient students and exchange students often lecturers who are rude to students and biased. I pray the University examines these contracts very carefully because I am having a great deal of problems with lecturers. They lack good judgement and some are just not ready or educated enough to run a class room. At Harvard Lecturers are Fellows. They are becoming professors, Here at Berkeley I am not sure if they are actively becoming professors or just bringing down the educational system and institution built by George Berkeley after adding Harvard.

  • CalAlum99

    Complain about UC salaries being too high…complain that contract rates aren’t high enough. Pick a side already.

  • Honestly, I think there needs to be less job protection for terrible lecturers. Not only in the university setting but also in primary education. Tenure lets too many terrible lecturers stay on way too long at the expense of students.

    • Chris Hables Gray

      Honestly, why are you commenting when you don’t even know that lecturers do not get tenure? Ever. You are thinking of professors. And that is part of the problem. While some professors are great teachers, they are hired and retained for their research. Lecturers are hired and retained for our teaching, even though some of us do great research. The different values
      the UC admin puts on teaching and research is reflected by how they treat professors and lecturers. Lecturer working conditions are the students’ learning conditions.

      • Yes and even still some terrible lecturers stick around for too long. Have you heard of a fellow in the Bio dept who runs the Biology 1AL course with the initials MM? Yeah those guys stick around for way too long and are terrible lecturers.