Lecturers Unite to Demand Job Security

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UCSC lecturers and librarians held a rally at the base of campus on June 1 as a part of their continued fight for a better contract with the university.  The rally included a picnic and highlighted the lack of job security experienced by lecturers. Photo by Stephen De Ropp.
UCSC lecturers and librarians held a rally at the base of campus on June 1 as a part of their continued fight for a better contract with the university. The rally included a picnic and highlighted the lack of job security experienced by lecturers. Photo by Stephen De Ropp.

About 100 people gathered at the UC Santa Cruz sign at the base of campus for St. Precaria’s Picnic on June 1. While getting their fill of spaghetti, garlic bread and other snacks, attendees rallied and informed the community about the issues lecturers face within the UC system and across the nation.

“We’re trying to become visible to our campuses, especially to our undergraduates because we teach almost half of your classes. And as such, our working conditions are your learning conditions,” said writing program lecturer Roxi Power, who is the president of the University Council-American Federation of Teachers (UC-AFT).

UC-AFT legally represents more than 3,000 non-senate faculty and 300 librarians employed across the 10 UC campuses. The union exists to support better salaries, benefits, greater job security, professional respect and workplace rights to provide quality public higher education for students.

An information booth welcomed visitors to St. Precaria’s Picnic and drivers honked in approval as they passed by activists who held picket signs and giant puppets.

Although students may know what a lecturer’s job entails, many still don’t know about how it differs from that of a professor. There’s a critical difference between the two job titles and their responsibilities, Power said.

While professors have a tenure track with guaranteed job security, lecturers must live in precariousness for six years until they are allowed to have their performance reviewed to receive better job security and a salary.

Lecturers, who fall under non-senate faculty, are categorized in two groups — those who have been lecturers for less than six years, or “pre-six,” and those who are continuing. All lecturers who complete 18 quarters, or six years, in a single department or program may undergo an “excellence review” to attain a continuing appointment, which grants more security than the pre-six lecturers who can be let go at the end of their appointments.

UCSC lecturer Phil Longo said there’s a misconception among most students that every instructor they have is a financially stable professor, but he said that’s not the case for most teachers.

“Your professors aren’t making bank. Most of us are making less than the living wage in Santa Cruz,” Longo said. “Many of us are teaching at multiple institutions. [We] have several jobs, and for me, I still have student loans I’m trying to pay back every month as well.”

While there’s a difference between the pre-six and continuing lecturers in terms of benefits and living wages, they stood together during the rally.

UC-AFT member Leslie Lopez is also one of the many lecturers across the nation who has to endure the contract’s strict conditions. Having 13 years of teaching experience in a variety of departments, she still doesn’t satisfy the requirements for the anticipated review because she hasn’t taught in a single department for six years.

Leslie Lopez holds a mock contract listing items sought by the union that represents UCSC lecturers and librarians. Photo by Stephen De Ropp.
Leslie Lopez holds a mock contract listing items sought by the union that represents UCSC lecturers and librarians. Photo by Stephen De Ropp.

“That’s the way the contract is structured right now. I am one of the people for whom the current contract is unfavorable,” Lopez said. “It’s very tough to raise a family, pay rent, stay connected and feel invested in an institution.”

Despite their qualifications, the lecturers said they have yet to be treated equally to senate faculty members. Aside from job stability, writing program lecturer Power said lecturers also want more say in the Academic Senate –– the body of faculty that makes education-related decisions.

“We’re asking for benefits and salary and we’re asking for increased participation in governance because we’re on the front lines of educating undergraduates,” Power said. “We know what they need and we’re able to help make decisions about undergraduate education. Right now we’re denied that right. We cannot vote in the Academic Senate because we are not senate faculty. We want to be treated more like faculty because we are faculty.”

After the bargaining campaign at the picnic, the UC contingent faculty — which includes lecturers, teaching assistants and graduate students — came to an agreement with the university system to extend the existing UC lecturer contract until October.