Troubled State of UC Lecturers

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UC lecturer and American Federation of Teachers local chapter president Mike Rotkin said the UC system is a corporation.

“They began looking for cheaper and more flexible employees,” Rotkin said. “The UC will deny it, but over half the teaching at UCs is done by lecturers.”

Although both lecturers and professors teach courses throughout UC campuses, the distinctions between the two are often blurred.

Initially, lecturers were hired as temporary faculty based on specialization or to cover professors’ leaves of absences. The contract for lecturers lasted one year and a lecturer could stay a maximum of eight years before they were required to leave the UC system.

As of May 2014, 498 professors, eight Security of Employment lecturers who have the equivalent of tenure and 209 lecturers make up the UC Santa Cruz faculty. A UC-wide personnel report puts the number of full-time lecturers at 2,099.73 and professors at 8,722.51. These numbers do not include part-time positions.

In the 1980s, the American Federation of Teachers’ first contract with the UCs established a six-year review that allowed lecturers to stay after six years of employment as continuing lecturers. An Excellence Review given after the sixth year offers lecturers the opportunity to become a Security of Employment faculty lecturer.

Before the six-year mark, lecturers undergo yearly competence reviews in which the dean decides — based on the budget, “demonstrated competence” of the lecturer and curriculum of the department — whether or not a lecturer will be needed the following year, said Anne Callahan, the academic human resources manager for the humanities department.

Departments plan their curricula a year in advance and then send them to the dean of their respective departments for approval.

Once professors write the curriculum for the following year, they assess whether or not the staff of professors will fulfill all of the necessary positions. The lecturers, however, do not get to write the course curriculum.

“It can be an alienating experience [when professors] don’t ask for lecturers’ opinions,” UC lecturer Rotkin said.

The humanities division, which has 74 of the 209 lecturers on campus, uses lecturers who have the ability to interact with curriculum planners for language and writing courses. Most colleges use lecturers for their core courses.

“It depends on the department,” Callahan said. “[In the humanities], they at least get consulted.”

If not all of the positions in a department can be filled by Senate members, or if a department relies on lecturers, then the hiring process for lecturers begins.

After the dean approves the curriculum and need for non-Senate faculty lecturers, the department contacts the Academic Personnel Office.

“We are the mechanism of running recruitment,” said academic personnel principal analyst Nancy Furber. “We get information from a department for what is appropriate when a unit determines it needs to hire. We work with the department to ensure fair hiring.”

While many departments like humanities rely on lecturers to teach their courses, the position of lecturer is not secure. If an opening for a Senate faculty member emerges, a professor has priority over lecturers for classes.

“Lecturers can be laid off if the need goes away,” Callahan said. “If a Senate member is hired, that need goes away.”

For some lecturer positions, this notice can come as early as 30 days before the start of instruction.

“Lecturers are second-class citizens in the UC system,” UC lecturer Rotkin said.

Professors, in addition to teaching four courses annually, have one course equivalency for academic-related service responsibilities and are expected to conduct research. Security of Employment lecturers teach six courses, receive two course equivalents for service-related responsibilities and do not have research expectations. Lecturers do not have research or service expectations and must teach eight courses to be considered full time.

“It’s not true that lecturers don’t do research — we just don’t get paid for it,” Rotkin said.

Although lecturers are not required to engage in research, their fields often require knowledge of current findings and processes. Callahan mentioned lecturers do independent scholarly studies while they teach and often hold doctorates.

“Their research is along the lines of pedagogy,” Callahan said, referring to their need to stay up-to-date in their fields to teach.

The lecturers’ contract with the UC is currently being renegotiated. Some of its goals include confirming Social Security benefits for part-time lecturers, getting more notice for layoffs and receiving reviews for all qualified instructors, not just lecturers.

“It’s sensible to have lecturers and people on the tenure track,” Rotkin said. “We would just like to be treated a little more seriously.”