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UCLA Churns Lecturers by “Capping” Appointments in First Six Years


In the most recent case of churning in the Social Sciences division at UCLA, the Cesar E. Chavez Department of Chicano and Chicana Studies attempted to cap the appointment of a lecturer who has received excellent reviews as an instructor in the program.  Capping appointments prior to the sixth year review is in direct violation of Article 7 Appointments in the Lecturers’ contract.  UC-AFT has filed numerous grievances at UCLA to defend against this practice, which is known as “churning” or “post-six avoidance.”  

When lecturer Alejandro Covarrubias, Ph.D. was told by the Chicano/a Studies Department Chair, Abel Valenzuela, that he was being “capped” and that he could not teach more quarters in the department, UC-AFT immediately filed a grievance not only because his appointment termination was a violation of the contract, but because this case is part of a much larger pattern of lecturer churning in the Social Sciences at UCLA.

The last lecturer to receive a continuing appointment in the Social Sciences Division without union intervention was in 2009-10. 

Since 2007, 23 lecturers reached their 10th quarter teaching in departments within the Social Sciences. None of these lecturers have reached Continuing Appointee status as required by Article 7B of the Lecturers’ contract when a lecturer has taught more than 18 quarters. Only one lecturer has reached the 15th quarter Needs Assessment without union intervention.   

So, what is going on in the Social Sciences Division at UCLA?

In July 2009, Alessandro Duranti became Dean of the Division of Social Sciences. Soon after, the Division attempted to layoff all continuing appointees, and they did not reappoint any pre-six lecturers that year.  UC-AFT intervened and successfully fought off dozens of pink slips and helped get many pre-six lecturers reappointed.  It now appears that Dean Duranti has a new strategy of blocking access to continuing appointments in order to limit lecturer positions in the Social Sciences.  However, the Dean cannot carry this out on his own; the department chairs are forced to inform the lecturers that they no longer have a job when they reach the upper limit “cap” set by the Dean.

In the Covarrubias case, the department has now agreed to complete a Needs Assessment and to review Dr. Covarrubias for a continuing appointment. 

Dr. Covarrubias had this to say about the progress with his case since UC-AFT got involved, “After the thoughtful intervention of my union, my department has responded professionally and graciously. I suspect that if any records exist regarding my case they will be thoroughly transparent; especially, as such records may provide insights to patterns of labor practice, which may help us make UCLA a better place for all workers and students.” 

UC-AFT has requested information from the department that could clarify the rationale behind the original decision not to cap Dr. Covarrubias’ appointment.  To date, the department has refused to provide information from the period of time that is relevant to the case.  The department claims that it has no further responsive documents, which means that they have no e-mail record of Dr. Covarrubias’ appointment for the last two years. One can only conclude that the Department of Chicano and Chicana Studies is withholding evidence and seeking to avoid being perceived as an opponent to its lecturers, the union and the lecturers’ contract.

Department Chair, Abel Valenzuela, has the authority to release all information requested by UC-AFT. In fact, he is obliged to do so. UC-AFT is filing an unfair labor practice charge with the Public Employment Relations Board to ensure that he and others produce these documents.  In other arenas, Dr. Valenzuela stands as a champion of labor, serving on the UCLA Institute for Research and Labor Education advisory board and the Restaurant Opportunities Center United (ROC United) Board and researching primarily issues of immigration, labor, and poverty and inequality. 

So, what is going on in the Social Sciences at UCLA under Dean Duranti? It’s time for Senate faculty, particularly those who claim to support workers’ rights and fairness on the job, to defend their faculty colleagues from administrative policies that undermine job security and hence, the quality of instruction in their own programs.

The practice of churning lecturers in order to avoid granting them a continuing appointment is a disservice to students in particular, as well as the entire academic community at UCLA, and it must be stopped.

UC-AFT will continue to file grievances and unfair labor practices, as well as apply old-fashioned organizing pressure until we secure justice for the Unit 18 Lecturers in the Social Sciences Division.

The Social Sciences Division comprises many departments:

Aerospace Studies

Afro-American Studies

American Indian Studies



Asian American Studies

Chicano & Chicana Studies

Communication Studies



Gender Studies



Military Science

Naval Science

Labor and Workplace Studies

Political Science

Social Thought