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Update on Professional Development Funds

#ReleaseThePDFs!

Background: Through collective bargaining, our union has opened unprecedented access to professional development funds (PDFs) for UCLA Lecturers and other non-Senate faculty (NSF).  Our contract provides for more than $70,000 in PDF grants to be awarded annually by a committee of five Lecturers and NSF who volunteer their time. Our PDFs enable Lecturers and NSF to travel to conferences, prepare manuscripts, develop curricula, and pursue other professional projects.  At other UC campuses, the grants are disbursed year after year without any difficulty.

We (their Lecturer and NSF peers and colleagues) nominate committee members and forward the nominations to UCLA’s Office of Academic Personnel, which formally convenes the committee.  For the past 3 years, Academic Personnel has been attempting to add more and more burdensome restrictions on the funding, arbitrarily making it more difficult for Lecturers and NSF to receive the PDFs. Vice Chancellor Carole Goldberg and Associate Director Esther Hamil want to impose rules on our committee that are stricter than the rules for Senate faculty committees. In the past, they have significantly delayed the PDF award process. Since we rely on this funding for our scholarly and pedagogical development, withholding funds harms not only us, but UCLA’s educational and research mission.

Current Situation: Now, they have brought things to a total halt.  Academic Personnel refuses to convene our PDF committee because they claim

A) our nominees to the committee are not academically diverse (that is, do not come from enough different departments)
B) committee members may not recuse themselves when a conflict of interest arises (so no one who serves on the committee may apply for a PDF);
C) we are undermining Vice Chancellor Goldberg’s managerial authority.

We too value academic diversity, impartiality, and collaboration with the Vice Chancellor, but we believe the existing procedures promote all three values.  Here’s why:

(A) After a campus-wide search for volunteers, our nominees come from Statistics, Writing Programs, the Lab School, Music, and Near Eastern Languages and Cultures.  We also recruited nominees from Comparative Literature, Nursing, Theater, Film, and TV, and other departments.  Those NSF declined to serve.

(B) According to UCLA Academic Senate policy, Senate faculty may (in fact, must!)  recuse themselves when a conflict of interest arises in the course of their committee work.  Our PDF committee members should have the same right of recusal.

(C) Academic Personnel does not object to any of our nominees.  Vice Chancellor Goldberg retains managerial authority because she may decline to appoint any nominee she deems unqualified.  She has not done so (because all our nominees are highly qualified!).

Esther Hamil wants to select more committee members herself. But we cannot and will not allow our members to be coerced into taking on additional unpaid committee work.  Our members decline to serve because they are overworked and don’t have the free time the committee requires, because they don’t know if they will be appointed to teach next quarter, or because they need the funding themselves.  (Academic Personnel doesn’t seem to realize that their insistence on no recusals makes it harder to find committee members because we all rely on the PDFs!)

More broadly, this is an attempt by UCLA Admin to wrest control of a process that the UC Office of the President intended Lecturers and NSF to conduct independently when we agreed on contract language.  The plain language we bargained for in Article 9 of our contract says that our committee members have the right to develop their own guidelines and procedures in accordance with campus protocol.  In attempting to impose additional restrictions, Academic Personnel is depriving us of the autonomy we bargained for.

Steps We’ve Already Taken to Resolve the Situation:

1. Members of our Local 1990 Executive Board have written letters and emails to Vice Chancellor Goldberg.  No substantive response.
2. The union has filed multiple grievances identifying how this behavior violates our contract.  UCLA Labor Relations denied one of them because, they said, no one is currently being harmed by the situation.
3. We’ve discussed the matter informally with Esther Hamil on multiple occasions.  No progress there.  
4. We circulated a petition demanding that Academic Personnel stop playing games with our funding and our contract.
5. On 2/25, 10 activists marched to the Vice Chancellor’s office to read and deliver our petition with 60 signatures and stories of urgent need for access to funding.  Special Assistant to the Vice Chancellor Robert Goldstein read the petition and was influenced by it.  However, as of this writing, we have received no response from Vice Chancellor Goldberg herself.
6. On 3/16, we met formally to discuss our outstanding grievances.  We reminded Academic Personnel that we have held up our end of the collaborative PDF process: we nominated the necessary 5 committee members, each representing a different field at UCLA.  We showed Academic Personnel how imposing new policies would violate our contract and deviate from the practices on almost all other UC campuses.  However, Academic Personnel did not see fit to meet our very basic and reasonable demands.
7. While our actions and procedures are consistent with practices on other UC campuses, Academic Personnel’s obdurateness is unheard of on other campuses.  So we must make our voices heard to persuade them to do their job.  That’s all we want: just #DoYourJobAP.

What Happens Next: At stake is not only this year’s funding cycle, but the PDF award process for the future.  It’s becoming more and more apparent that this matter will not be resolved without continued pressure from us. Our petition was the first step, but now we need to up the ante.  We need your help to plan our next step to win our funding once and for all!  We’re considering a phone campaign, a postcard campaign, or an informational demonstration outside Murphy Hall.  Please fill out this doodle to let us know when you’re available to decide on the best way forward:

Doodle: http://doodle.com/poll/mv6397ybgk6446xr

Together, we can convince Academic Personnel to #ReleaseThePDFs!