Panel speaks out against ‘2nd-class’ treatment of lecturers

Jessica Schwabach/Staff

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The UC Berkeley Academic Senate, the American Federation of Teachers and the Berkeley Faculty Association, or BFA, sponsored a “special” forum to discuss a February report that surveys the “second-class” status of nontenured lecturers on campus.

The forum was held at noon Monday in Barrows Hall and drew a crowd of more than 30 lecturers and other faculty members. It was headed by panelists Michael Burawoy, a tenured sociology professor, and Khalid Kadir, a campus lecturer.

The report, written by Burawoy and fellow tenured professor Jennifer Johnson-Hanks, noted the rise in the proportion of nontenured faculty over the last 50 years and compiled findings on the conditions faced by nontenured lecturers.

“Fundamentally, the teaching conditions of faculty are the learning conditions of students, and I think that it’s important to consider — with ever-increasing enrollment and more to pressure to put students in university — how we’re setting them up to succeed,” Kadir said.

These conditions include exclusion from their respective departments, limited office space, last-minute course assignments, dependence on student evaluations for job stability and restrictions in conducting research, the report said.

Burawoy, who is also a BFA co-chair, spoke about the drafting of the report at the panel Monday, saying that approximately half of the campus’s 846 lecturers were interviewed and that he was “horrified” by some of the stories they shared.

Burawoy stressed the expansion of the role of nontenured lecturers in the panel Monday and wrote in the report that nontenured lecturers are central to the “teaching mission” of the university. During the panel, he criticized what he sees as “unpaid labor,” while Kadir recounted his own experience discovering what he refers to as a “caste system” on campus and the impact it has had on his teaching career.

Another point of emphasis at Monday’s forum was the value of collective bargaining and the need for continued action.

“The only reason that lecturers in the UC system have any of the benefits that we do have is because of our union activity,” Kadir said at the panel.We have to fight for change — this is not going to happen on autopilot.”

The fact that UC Berkeley lecturers enjoy conditions superior to those faced by nontenured faculty at most other universities came up both in the report and at the panel event, but Burawoy said during the panel that this is “not the point.” Kadir added that we should avoid comparisons with other institutions, saying that the average adjunct professor in the United States qualifies for food stamps.

Burawoy also stressed during the panel the importance of tenured faculty recognizing what he characterized as a “common interest” with lecturers while discussing potential next steps to address these conditions.

“I see how lecturers provide an increasingly necessary role in teaching in the context of growing enrollments, but without the rights and recognition that they would have if they were also considered to be professors like me — which they actually are,” Sharad Chari, a tenured associate professor who attended the event in solidarity, said in an email.

Contact Alex Teodorescu at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @AlexTeodorescu8.