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UC-AFT Faculty Bargaining Session #8 UCSC October 17-18

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The Rocky Bargaining Picture Show
 

It’s astounding…

Our jobs are fleeting...

Contingency takes its toll.

When UC management wants to go backward with major takeaways (such as eliminating all rights to reappointment for pre-continuing faculty and making it easier to lay off continuing faculty), bargaining feels like being stuck in a time warp. With camp and flair, UCSC activists showed admin that they can’t just cast us off into another dimension. More than 200 UC-AFT members, undergraduate students, graduate students, and tenure-track faculty allies put on a Rocky Horror-themed rally with the message that we love teaching UC students too much to let their education get lost in time, lost in space and meaning.

Bargaining can be a strange journey. While we’re committed to open bargaining and welcome all members of our UC community and other interested observers to our bargaining sessions, UCOP’s lead negotiator Nadine Fishel kicked two student reporters out of the bargaining room and later refused to speak with them. Like RiffRaff in Rocky Horror, UC management thinks they’ve got to keep control at all costs. We supported the students’ right to be present because we believe bargaining should be transparent and accessible, especially for the students whose education is stake. UC admin’s hostility to students: really drives you insane.
 

UC Admin: “It’s not profitable for us to engage” with Faculty and Student Concerns about the Diminishing Quality of a UC Education

 

Several UC-AFT members testified that teaching faculty need robust professional development opportunities and resources in order to remain innovative teachers. One teaching faculty member called on UC admin to “provide an instructional environment that forges creativity and problem-solving.” But it’s hard to be a great teacher when your workload is crushing. At UCSC, class sizes have dramatically increased, while class meeting periods are shorter. As one of our members told the UCOP negotiators, “You can’t put more bodies in the classroom, with less time, and expect to have the same outcome. The students are not getting the same quality outcome as undergraduates did 20 years ago.”

That’s partly because UC has a serious faculty retention problem. At UCSC alone, there was a 48% turnover rate in teaching faculty from last year to now. That means that 143 teaching faculty members who were mentoring UCSC students last year are no longer in the classroom. (At UCLA the numbers are even more drastic: 800 teaching faculty members have been purged from last year to now.) Students and faculty agree that UC-AFT members teach life-changing, inspirational courses--until they can’t afford to anymore because the wages are so low and they don’t qualify for health insurance. Or simply because UCSC admin decides not to renew their contract because it would be even cheaper to hire someone new.
 

An undergraduate student provided her own testimony of how her eyes have been opened to these cycles of exploitation:
 

“The Core course here really changed my life. But by going here, I think I contribute to a system that I really strongly oppose. I have lots of ideals about what college means. I want it to be worth it. I’m disappointed, I’m heartbroken, I feel I’ve been lied to. I feel like I’m contributing to a system that I don’t agree with. I’m going into debt why? So my lecturers can be abused?”
 

Hearing only stony silence from the lawyers and executives on UCOP’s side after these moving testimonials, our bargaining team asked them to share their thoughts about what they had just heard. They refused, saying only “It’s not profitable to engage.

 

Our Professionalism Matters to Students

 

One of our UCSC teaching faculty members brought a list of the 425 letters of recommendation he’s written for students and colleagues. Susan Fellows of UCSC told us she was “not sure” that writing letters of recommendation for students is widely recognized as a type of faculty work. She said that she had stopped paying UC-AFT faculty for writing letters of recommendation. She admitted she was “ignorant on this,” saying “I don’t know why they would come to you… why would a first year need a letter of recommendation?” She implied that these letters were somehow unnecessary and that we should write fewer of them. Our bargaining team explained that students apply for study abroad programs, scholarships, internships, and jobs at all points in their education, and that we support students from the moment they step on campus to well after they’ve graduated. We would be remiss to turn students away when we’re usually the faculty members who are most accessible and who know them and their work the best.

Unfortunately, the pressure to deprofessionalize teaching at the UC continued later in the negotiations. Susan Fellows once again questioned why we need to hold so many office hours and instructed us not to respond to students when they’re stressed. The conversations we have with students during office hours can be as important to students’ intellectual and personal development as any that happen in the classroom. We cherish opportunities to mentor students one-on-one. It’s unconscionable that UC administrators regard this work with such contempt.

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UC-AFT Passes Four New Proposals: Article 7c-Continuing Appointments, Article 1-Recognition, Article 5-Description of Unit Titles and Article 10-Personnel and Review Files

  1. Article 7c: Continuing Appointments, we proposed that Continuing Appointees whose appointments are repeatedly increased with temporary augmentations have their extra classes permanently added to their appointments. We also proposed strengthening the seniority system to make sure that part-time Continuing Appointees are offered available courses they’re qualified to teach. Together, these measures would make more full-time teaching available for those who want it. Finally, in the interest of transparency and mutual understanding, we proposed that Continuing Appointees receive an annual letter documenting their classes, salaries, and benefits.

At the UC, retired faculty members regularly return to campus to teach on recall status, but they are not represented by any union. We proposed adding retired Unit 18 members who are teaching on recall to our bargaining unit, since they’re doing the same work they were doing before they retired. We also proposed changing the definition of a lecturer to include service and professional development duties, in conjunction with our Article 24-Workload proposal. Finally, we proposed strengthening our right to respond to materials in our personnel and performance review files to ensure fairness and transparency.

In their counter-proposal for Article 13-Travel, UC admin rejected most of our proposal to make UC-AFT faculty eligible for alternatives to reimbursement that other UC employees have access to (for example, direct billing of travel costs to the University). In their counter-proposal for Article 38-Severability, UC admin agreed with us that we should have stronger and clearer language for bargaining when part of our contract is voided or invalidated by legislation or judicial decisions.