A crowd of about 200 supporters clapped and chanted the words “Which side are you on?” and “Too much, magic bus,” to draw attention to the lecturers’ demands in their upcoming contract renegotiation. The demonstration began at the Quarry Plaza on Oct. 22 where supporters dressed for show in graduation gowns, sang, and held posters and puppets. Demonstration leader and lecturer Roxi Power believes theater is an effective art for engaging students in activism.
“We want to draw people into important issues,” Power said. “Often art can do that and really articulate these mutual interests between students and non-senate faculty because really what’s at stake is the health of undergraduate educations, so we need to build coalitions [with students].”
Since the University Council-American Federation of Teachers (UC-AFT) contract is set to expire on Oct. 31, UC Santa Cruz lecturers demanded reasonable class sizes, job security and stability with a fair salary and benefits. Unlike professors, lecturers and adjuncts teach the majority of core and lower-division undergraduate classes. They have less job security and pay. They also don’t receive automatic contract renewals.
Lecturers are non-tenure faculty and are known as adjunct or contingent faculty. In addition to a lack of job security, contingent faculty have little to no governance in curriculum planning or access to faculty meetings.
UC Office of the President spokesperson Kate Moser said the university’s negotiations with UC-AFT are ongoing, and progress is being made at the bargaining table.
Supporters took their passion and enthusiasm from Quarry Plaza to the UCSC Staff Human Resources building by bus to gather outside of the Employee and Labor Relations Office. With a microphone in hand, Power lead the crowd in song and discussion on the unfair treatment of contingent faculty.
Second-year Alice Malmberg, an advocate for lecturers’ rights, attended UCSC’s previous lecturers’ demonstration at the base of campus last spring quarter.
“Lecturers represent the quality of the education that the undergraduates are getting and it’s not fair to them that they make up three quarters of the classes we take and yet they’re treated like crap and they have very little to no job security,” Malmberg said. “I think we need to invest more in them for our education.”
Several members of the United Auto Workers (UAW) Local 2865 attended the demonstration as well. The UAW is a union that oversees the working rights of academic student employees like tutors, teaching assistants and graduate student instructors.
Aaron Wistar, a member of UAW Local 2865 and teaching assistant in the community studies department, said he’s a supporter of lecturers’ rights because he faces many of the same challenges as a teaching assistant.
“I have over 70 students and it’s very difficult for me to spend more than three or four minutes grading a paper, which is not an education,” Wistar said. “Our workload makes our work more stressful and we don’t have the resources that we need really to provide a quality education students deserve when they’re paying tuition that has been tripling over the past ten years.”
The large turnout of students, lecturers and faculty supporters at the demonstration left Roxi Power optimistic about the growing transparency of lecturers’ working conditions.
“I believe we’re getting our message across about the importance of job security for lecturers,” Power said. “I think we’re appealing both intellectually and emotionally to people when we describe actual working conditions.”
The crowd cheered when UCSC Director of Academic Employee Relations Susan Fellows stepped out of her office during the demonstration in solidarity.
“She tends to be an ally,” Power said about Fellows’ sign of solidarity. “She understands that we have a lot of passion and motivation to make this campus live up to the pride that we all feel in it.”
When asked if he thought the lecturers demonstration had been effective, second-year Collin Couch said that although most of the staff stayed inside, he hoped their message was clear to the few who did step out.
“They sat down and they acknowledged us,” Couch said. “More importantly, I think for the representatives and the university to see that there are a lot of people willing to come out here on a bus and to hold signs and chant is an important thing for the university and for people who are the actual core group of the university.”