UC Administrators Get Failing Grade

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    Members of the UAW present the Chancellor’s Chief of Staff, Ashish Sahni, with a mock report card which grades the UC administration. Photo by Isaac Miller.
    Members of the UAW present the Chancellor’s Chief of Staff, Ashish Sahni, with a mock report card which grades the UC administration. Photo by Isaac Miller.

    Teaching assistants and fellow students gathered at Kerr Hall to deliver a “report card” to Chancellor George Blumenthal, Monday while the the same report cards were delivered to UC Chancellors systemwide. The evaluation, graded and signed by 6,000 members of UAW Local 2865, graded administrators on sharing the budget crisis burden equitably, prioritizing excellent education, making the UC affordable and accessible, and showing leadership in an effort to remedy California’s budget problems. UAW Local 2865 represents 12,000 teaching assistants, tutors and readers across the University of California system. More than 300 signatures came from union members at UC Santa Cruz.

    The same report card was delivered to the University of California’s Office of the President last week.

    Each receipient was given failing grades in all categories but demonstrating leadership, in which they were given an “incomplete.”

    “It’s horrible,” said Ian Steinmia, a third-year College Ten student, of the administration’s handling of cuts to education. “I’m in one class … [where] there are no official teaching assistants or sections.” Steinmia’s class, Bio-Molecular Engineering 80H, has over 200 enrolled students.

    Students at every campus have had their student fees increased after UC Regents voted last year on a 32 percent increase.

    Students protested the handling of the budget crisis with occupations, sit-ins and class boycotts.

    Oct. 7 will be the next day of protest, called the National Day of Action to Defend Public Education.

    According to information released by the UC in 2008-2009, Academic Student Employee (ASE) hiring decreased by 2.2 percent while a San Francisco Chronicle analysis of UC salaries showed an increase in hired executives of 6.3 percent.

    “The UAW’s statewide leadership put the report card together after surveying a majority of their members regarding the budget cuts and their effects,” said fifth-year graduate student and UC Santa Cruz campus chair of the United Automobile, Aerospace, Agricultural Implement Workers Union (UAW) Brian Malone.

    “[The report card] is basically focusing on the core instructional mission of the UC — prioritizing instruction, keeping UC affordable and accessible for students, and also fighting for public education at all levels in the state,” Malone said. “The Office of the President takes Chancellor Blumenthal seriously and we’re asking him to be an advocate for quality of education and for a fair contract for the TA’s.”

    Though no one on campus could comment on the status of system-wide negotiations, UCSC spokesperson Jim Burns said administrators support student employees.

    “The state’s decision to underfund the University of California by nearly a billion dollars in recent years has impacted employees of the 10-campus system and certainly impacted students,” Burns said in an e-mail to City on a Hill Press. “That’s why UC, including campus chancellors, have regularly advocated for a restoration of those cuts and a reinvestment in public higher education.”

    The delivery of the report card coincides with the September 30 expiration of the UAW’s current contract with the UC. Negotiations over the new contract began in late June with initial salary proposals. However, a counter wasn’t offered until two months later at the end of August.

    “I haven’t seen [the UC] taking it very seriously — they’ve been uninterested in meeting, they’ve canceled a number of bargaining dates … and when they do show up, they almost never have anything to say,” Malone said in a follow-up e-mail to City on a Hill Press.

    Unfair Labor Practice charges have been filed against the UC for failure to provide relevant information necessary to the bargaining process and for engaging in surface bargaining.

    These charges are over union members’ access to information concerning their economic proposals — childcare, leaves and fee remissions — that would allow them to assess the impact to UC. Malone said, UC representatives say they are unable to afford graduate students access to these proposals and will not reveal what the cost would be. Union representatives say this lack of transparency is holding up the bargaining process, as the UC has given increased wage proposals that are conditional on the withdrawal of the UAW’s economic proposals.

    Items up for negotiation include fewer cuts to teaching assistantships, and the UC’s ability to cut teaching assistantships without first consulting the union.

    “We’ve talked a lot about limits on class sizes to prevent these gigantic sections … ” Malone said. “A recent report by UC’s own vice chancellor for research and graduate studies identified that UC lags behind its peer institutions in graduate student compensation by a full 7 percent.”

    The report card is the latest in many actions by students to show their opinions of the UC’s handling of the budget crisis .