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Report from April 3 Sunshine Meeting and Call In Action

On April 3rd, we had a sunshine meeting with UC management. Sunshine meetings are legally mandated opportunities for public comment on initial proposals before bargaining begins in earnest. To enable public access to the meetings, we proposed holding them on the Berkeley campus. We were disappointed when UCOP insisted on having them behind a locked door in an office suite in Oakland. (PERB case law gives employers the sole authority to decide on sunshine locations.)

Table team members Matt Oliver (UC Davis) and Mia McIver (UCLA) traveled to Oakland to be present for the two-hour sunshine window. Since that wasn’t feasible for everyone, we invited members and supporters to call in on a conference line to express their views. We received a stupendous 42 calls in two hours.

Over and over, callers emphasized the need for UC-AFT faculty to be recognized, supported, and compensated as master teachers who provide UC students with a world-class education. They decried the high turnover rate, underfunding of classroom instruction, and demeaning working conditions that we currently experience. They also expressed alarm at the way UC admin’s proposals will take us backward toward greater precarity instead of forward toward greater stability.

If you didn’t have a chance to call last week, you’ll have another opportunity on Wednesday, April 16th, from 10 AM to 12 PM. Simply dial 669-900-683 and enter the meeting ID 966-655-309.

Below are some excerpts from the sunshine comments we heard on April 3rd.

“We love our jobs, we love the UC, we love our students. I’m an active scholar, beginning work on my fourth book. I’m under-resourced for my research, totally under-resourced for how I have to develop teaching materials for a top-tier, best-practices, UCLA-worthy way. I’m doing it to the very best of my abilities, and I’m exhausted and broke. At 54 I still have a second job. That doesn’t seem fair. I know I’m not alone.”

“I love where I am and I’m also considering moving on because these are working conditions I can’t live with anymore. Over time these conditions become an abrasion on a human being.”

“We are an absolutely critical component of the intellectual life of the institution and for students. We teach so many classes; our working conditions directly affect all of our students. Our job security affects pathways to graduation.”

“It’s very important to have stability with students to create relationships with them. I would like to know what to tell students who ask if I’m teaching another class. As a former UCLA student, I know that having a relationship with faculty is key. When students feel comfortable coming and talking to you, it makes students more engaged with their class and with the university. We need to have stability.”

“We wear the hat as social workers with students experiencing mental health crises. We deserve a fair contract and a living wage.”

“Lecturers are essential to the university. I work with students who are afraid of writing and haven’t had a small class experience in years. I’m very proud of teaching and mentoring them. Our teaching conditions affect every UC student. I’m concerned about job security and slow reappointment process. Students ask me if I’m teaching in the fall, and I have to explain that I don’t know whether I’ll have a job next year. It gives students the impression that UC doesn’t value their education.”

“The UC is on a self-destructive course. Berkeley will soon lose me and other accomplished educators.”

“When teachers are getting hired at the last minute, with low pay and high turnover, students can’t be the focus. And they should be the focus of what we’re doing. Increased job security, increased opportunities for research, reduced teaching load, small class sizes: these things contribute to students’ success.”

“Increase the valuation of our professionalism. We are master teachers. That’s not something to be ashamed of. That’s something to be proud of.”

“I’m calling as a colleague, citizen, and taxpayer who may send my child to UC. UC creates its own markets and can be a leader here in how it treats its faculty. A lot of our graduates are going to go into a job market that characterized by large actors like the UC. Precarity, low pay, lack of job security: those are not only learning conditions for our current students, but that is the market into which we’re hoping to graduate a lot of our students. Let’s not fall into a modest proposal whereby we eat our young. I hope that the UC will step up and create a great contract.”

“I have to scramble to find other work. To keep health insurance, to keep retirement benefits. All of this is terrifying.”

“Students have direct access to us as instructors. It means a lot to them that we know their names. Our teaching conditions affect almost all students. Pre-continuing lecturers face extreme anxiety. We’re teaching under a cloud of uncertainty. It’s very difficult not to let it affect our performance. Students are aware of what’s going on. There’s no excuse for leaving lecturers hanging until the last minute to know whether they’re employed. I’m discouraged that UC is exacerbating the problem.”

“Education rests on back of lecturers who are underpaid. We need more full-time appointments. The toll that working conditions take on lecturers impacts education.”

“I work with a lot of students who are first-generation or are not sure what they want to do with their careers. They come to me. Most of our department is lecturers. We provide a lot of services in addition to dedicated instruction. We provide a lot of mentoring, informal guidance, and formal connections for students to reach out to other services on and off campus. We need a living wage, full-time jobs, and consistent teaching schedules. Our relationships with students and the quality of instruction suffer when there’s not a living wage. It’s detrimental to the quality and long-term success of our students and the entire UC system.

“We need more full-time, year-long, multi-year appointments. It’s been really hard to make ends meet without a full time appointment.”

“I’ve been a lecturer for 5 years. I’ve loved my experiences here. But I would be more effective if I were paid a living wage. I don’t have time to prep because I cram additional work into summer. I don’t make enough money to live in the town where I teach. My commute takes time that I could be giving to students. I still don’t make enough money to live on my own as a professor with Ph.D. and 15 years’ experience. I would be able to concentrate more, respond to students’ questions more, be physically available to meet with students if I were paid a living wage and a more competitive salary. It’s pulling people away from working here.”

“The stress of the hiring process is really, really deleterious to teaching.”

“We’re absolutely necessary to the academic experience of UC students. We deserve to be treated fairly and with respect for the sake of students’ learning. I’m a graduate of Harvard Law School, an editor of the Harvard Law Review, a presidential appointee with a very high level of experience. We are professionals. We deserve timely contracts. I invite nationally-recognized speakers to my class. But I’m reluctant to do it when I get a contract a day or two before term starts.”

“Stabilize undergraduate education by providing professional instructors invested in career pathways.”

“UCOP’s proposal is baffling. It’s cruel and unreasonable. It works at cross purposes with the university‘s core mission. It repels teaching talent instead of attracting it. It would harm expectant mothers and those with serious illnesses and disabilities. They’re proposals to be ashamed of. Students would not be excited to apply to UC schools or matriculate if they knew about them. This attempt to diminish the quality of instruction would be baffling to them.”

“I’m a lecturer who has taught hundreds of students and I provide a strong support system for former students. Lecturers are an essential part of the UC. But it’s ridiculous for the amount of labor that we’re expected to do to receive such low pay. The hiring conditions are atrocious. We don’t get a contract until a week before the quarter begins. This doesn’t go along with the values the university says it has. It’s morally problematic and atrocious that we work under these conditions.”

“I was hired last Thursday, March 28th, for a class with 60 students [that began on April 1st]. I love teaching, love my students, but this late appointment is unacceptable. My students are waiting for textbooks. There’s an inclusive access program to reduce textbook costs, but you have to notify the bookstore weeks in advance. So my students are paying. It’s the result of weak contract provisions, weak job security. We need more full-time, full-year, multi-year appointments or students will continue to suffer. Lecturers have had enough of this suffering.”

“A teacher who only has two weeks to scrabble together course materials is not going to be at her best. A teacher who is working close to full time at another university will be overworked and not able to bring 100% into the classroom. We must have a stronger framework for fair, transparent, and timely hiring practices. When our work has dignity, students get lecturers who are well-paid, well-prepared, and able to give 100% to our students.”

“The UC sunshining document is chock full of takeaways. The list of proposals is disturbing and cruel. It’s moving backwards. Students will realize their education is being destabilized.