For educational, occupational stability, grant lecturers fair contracts

UC AFFAIRS: It’s as easy as ‘1-2-3’: UC must overhaul its gig-based educational model to adequately compensate lecturers

Illustration of students and a professor standing on a cracking classroom floor.
Genesis Cruz/Staff

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The UC system would collapse without lecturers. And yet, members of the University Council-American Federation of Teachers, or UC-AFT, have been contractless for 18 months

UC-AFT is the unionized bargaining body of the UC system’s librarians and non-Senate faculty, and it is mostly composed of the university’s 4,259 lecturers. These lecturers teach 42% of student credit hours, and yet year to year they are at risk of losing their jobs. To provide needed job stability for lecturers and generate educational stability for students, the UC system must overhaul its gig-based educational model. 

Currently, lecturers have their contracts renewed annually until they have taught for six years, at which point they are hired as a continuing lecturer. But with most lecturers contractless, they miss out on necessary protections, such as grievance mechanisms, and they are not granted the benefits of being lecturers, let alone those of tenure-track faculty. Even under a contract, the university is able to fire a lecturer without providing a reason, creating an easy space for discrimination to worm its way into hiring practices. 

The system of academic evaluation that the university has proposed is a “1-1-2-2” year plan, according to which lecturer contracts would be reviewed and renewed four times before lecturers receive continuing lecturer status. But these many reviews create more work and are more expensive for the UC system, especially in comparison to the “1-2-3” year plan UC-AFT proposes. A single year is also not the most accurate way to gauge a professor’s performance, particularly in tumultuous times such as these.

The stress of not knowing whether they will be employed come next year or even why they may lose their job undoubtedly impacts a lecturer’s health and their ability to focus on their students. Especially amid a pandemic in which job insecurity is pervasive, the UC system must treat its educators better, not just for their health and security but also for the students they teach.

In order to maintain its status as a group of elite colleges providing high-quality education, the university must compensate its lecturers fairly. People, especially the talented experts the UC system generally employs, need an incentive to teach at the university. These educators should want to stick around, and they most definitely should not be afraid of the system they work in.

Moreover, students form relationships with lecturers, and many wish to collaborate with them on long-term projects. However, because of the high turnover of lecturers, this is not always possible. The current educational model has created an unstable workforce, which is unsustainable and detrimental for students, lecturers and administrators.

Taking lecturers for granted puts the UC system’s educational model in flux. Students need teachers in stable situations that can wholeheartedly support them — the quality of education at the university depends on it.

Editorials represent the majority opinion of the editorial board as written by the fall 2020 opinion editor, Katherine Shok.