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UC-AFT Faculty Bargaining Update #7 UC Irvine October 8


UC-AFT Faculty Bargaining Session #7

October 8, 2019

UC Irvine

Victory for Andrew… Every Lecturer Deserves this Benefit

We started the bargaining session by reading a statement of thanks from Andrew Tonkovich after more than 7,600 supporters signed our petition demanding that the University extend paid medical leave for his post-brain surgery recovery. UC Irvine approved the leave and Andrew is on track for recovery and a return to teaching in January. Our team followed Andrew’s expression of gratitude with a eulogy for Terry Schmidt, a UCI lecturer in Public Health and the School of Business who recently passed away from a terminal illness for which he had been denied paid medical leave. Terry was forced to give up the teaching he loved, but our proposal on Article 12--Leaves, if accepted by UC admin, would ensure that all UC-AFT teaching faculty be eligible for paid medical leave in the case of catastrophic injury or illness (just as tenure-track faculty are). UC admin has not yet responded to the Article 12--Leaves proposal that we passed in July.


UC Management Moves to Worsen Contingency and Precarity

UC admin passed an alarming proposal for Article 17--Layoff and Reduction in Time. It would erode what little job security we have now by depriving Continuing Appointees of their current right to 12 months of layoff notice or pay in lieu of notice. This 12-month notice is the closest thing to job security in our contract, and UC admin wants to reduce it to 90 days.

This article is not just hypothetical. In 2009, UC admin pink-slipped every single teaching faculty member in some departments. Getting notice of the layoff a year in advance meant that, when the first tremors of the Great Recession had subsided and UC admin rescinded the pink slips, these lecturers were still working. Our negotiated layoff protections meant not only that they kept their jobs, but that their students didn’t experience the drastic interruption of losing their teachers. Our layoff protections don’t just protect us: they also protect students from having their classes canceled at the last second.

The UCOP proposal also includes new language cutting the layoff notice requirement in half if a class is canceled because of low enrollment. Canceled classes are included in our current contract under the category of “lack of work.” UCOP now wants to carve out low enrollments as a special category of lack of work that deserves only half the notice time. But how does the University define “low enrollment”? We pointed out that departments are not funded nor are faculty salaries paid on a per-student basis, which would put the burden on students themselves to directly purchase each and every class. What’s the threshold for students to be sure their classes won’t be pulled out from under them? Students can and do keep enrolling in classes after they’ve begun--when would a judgment be made about whether to cancel a class some students are counting on taking? How many courses in a term are typically canceled now because of low enrollment? How much pay in lieu of notice has the University issued recently for layoffs because of low enrollment? How does this proposal prevent low enrollment from being used as a pretext for canceling classes for other reasons? How does the University analyze, project, and manage enrollment? Whose job is it to analyze past and anticipate future student needs? Whose responsibility is it to make sure students know about opportunities to enroll? Are we expected to advertise our classes or compete with each other for students?

The lawyers and executives representing UC didn’t have answers to these or other questions, despite our invitation to make the most of our negotiating time to really talk about these issues. They did state frankly, “We want as much ability to cancel for insufficient enrollment as possible,” and “If you reduce the amount of notice from 30 days to 14 days, it reduces the amount [of pay-in-lieu-of-notice] that goes out.” It’s clear they’re pursuing to ability to cancel classes at the last second with minimal obligations to us, and none to the students whose studies they would disrupt. They also freely admit that their goal is to value our work less highly than they currently do:

Mia McIver: What we’re negotiating is the value of our work to the University. What you’re saying is that the work of a Continuing faculty member will be worth, in this proposal, one-quarter of what it used to be in the University’s eyes.

Nadine Fishel: Yes, that’s what the proposal is.

Oh, and according to their proposal, we can volunteer to be laid off. Good to know!

UC-AFT Passes Three New Proposals: Continuing Appointment Review Process, Merit Review, and New Article on Review Criteria and Materials


Our own proposals from the October 8th bargaining session seek to make performance reviews more fair, unbiased, and focused on teaching effectiveness. Because “excellence” is a vague and squishy concept that is poorly defined in our current contract, in Article 7b we’re proposing to rename the Excellence Review the Initial Continuing Appointment Review. Trained and supportive peer faculty observation would be a part of a more holistic, balanced review process, with clearer timelines for the start and the completion of the Review and higher salary increases accompanying a successful Review. We’re also proposing a grace year for those who are denied a Continuing Appointment, which senate faculty receive if they’re denied tenure.

In Article 22-Merit Review Process, we’ve proposed fair and transparent criteria for above-minimum merit increases, merit increase increments that are designed to expedite advancement through the salary scale, and an end to some departments’ arbitrary policies and practices of putting quotas on or outright prohibiting above-minimum merits.

To emphasize that expectations for excellent teaching are consistent throughout different career stages, we’re proposing that the criteria and materials for pre-continuing reappointment reviews, Initial Continuing Appointment Reviews, and Merit Reviews be laid out explicitly in a new article. In a research-backed proposal that uses evidence-based best practices for assessing teaching effectiveness, we’re demanding that teaching faculty be evaluated based on what a faculty member can control: the time, effort, dedication, skill, knowledge, and creativity we put into teaching our students. In light of strong evidence that student evaluations of teaching fail to measure teaching effectiveness (indeed, some studies show that high SET are correlated with less effective teaching), we’re proposing that student input on teaching be formative and directed at improving pedagogy, not summative and aimed at evaluation; that students give feedback as students instead of as managers to whom the work of personnel decisions has been outsourced by administrators; that meaningless quantitative SET be eliminated; and that trained and supportive faculty peer observers and candidates' self-statements be part of a holistic review dossier.

These revised evaluation criteria will empower lecturers by setting out clear, mutual, and attainable expectations for teaching faculty and by more precisely enumerating the criteria and materials on which promotion and advancement will be based.