Never believe the old saw that bad news coverage is better than no news coverage at all. That’s what lecturers learned on Tuesday, May 1, when the Nexus printed its unfortunately titled “Lecturers Ask for Higher Pay” article. Instead of running through all the mistakes in the article (and I thank the Nexus for the corrections run on Wednesday), I would rather use this space to tell the campus who lecturers are and why we want to maintain the educational integrity of the UC.
Lecturers are nonsenate, nontenured faculty, given one- to three-year appointments despite the fact that most have Ph.D.s, years of teaching experience and healthy research and publication records. There are over 200 lecturers at UCSB, and similar numbers on all the UC campuses, in almost every department. We teach nearly 50 percent of all undergraduate courses.
You might not know who we are because the University pretends we don’t exist. You see, we aren’t even officially in the UC budget. Our salaries come out of “subzero funding” – lovely name, no? That’s how the University pays the teachers of half the classes here. And yet it insists that doesn’t hurt the quality of education.
When the University goes to the legislature in Sacramento, it asks for instructional funds by saying, “We pay starting assistant professors, level three, $53,500, to teach four, at most five, courses.” With all that money the University turns around and pays lecturers – the people who do half the undergraduate teaching – 40 grand on average to teach nine classes, not four.
And a bit more about our pay: Tuesday’s article quoted a UC official as saying that, “Lecturers on average make over $51,000 a year … ” It seems this official knows that if you feed a young reporter a lie in a quote, then he most likely will not challenge you. But as an officer for the University Council-American Federation of Teachers (UC-AFT), the union that represents lecturers and librarians, I have to challenge the statement. From the statistics given to UC-AFT from the University itself, we determine our average salary is approximately $40,000. So, either the UC has given us misleading raw data or it miscalculates when converting that data to statistics. On a personal note, as a lecturer here for seven years, and after two merit raises, I make less than $38,000, the minimum salary that our State Senator Jack O’Connell is wisely proposing in a bill for K-12 teachers.
How does paying university teachers less than high school teachers aid the quality of education? Instead, the University says we are temporary. That we’re endlessly replaceable. The UC makes lecturers who have worked here for 10, 15, 20 years reapply for their jobs every three years. In a climate like this, many lecturers spend their time here looking for other jobs. It’s not easy to be a devoted teacher when you have to keep one eye on the door.
If we had more security, a lighter workload and a bit more pay, we could keep providing the quality education UCSB students deserve. But we’re at a breaking point, trying to bargain for a new contract for 14 months, working without a contract since last June.
The latest slap in the face relates to Summer Session pay. For years, all teachers whether tenure-line or lecturer got paid 8.5 percent of their annual salary for each Summer Session class. Now that the University is moving to year-round operations and wants to attract more professors to teach in the summer, UCSB has offered tenure-line profs a pay rate of 11 percent of their yearly salary for each course. The University has flat out refused to discuss raising lecturers’ pay to the same percentage (which, as a raw figure, of course, would still be much lower than the salary of a tenure-line prof). How can we not deserve equal pay for equal work?
Or is this just one more sign from the administration that it finds our work unimportant and therefore believes quality education for undergraduates doesn’t matter? UC-AFT and the lecturers we represent refuse to believe such a thing and ask you to help us fight for you.
George Yatchisin is a lecturer in the Writing Program and president of the University Council-American Federation of Teachers Local at UCSB.