I am a lecturer.
I have been privileged to teach at UCSB in that capacity, serving some 2,000 students, my colleagues in the law and society program and the campus community since 1997. I have been honored for my efforts as an outstanding faculty member by the students. The reason I am writing this letter is not to tell you why I am joining the picket lines Oct. 14 and 15 but why I am not, at least not during my scheduled lecture. I will be out in full force and fury Oct. 14 but will arrive on time Tuesday afternoon to continue a commitment that I started and hope to continue for many years to come.
I support my lecturers’ union, our agenda and our right to be treated fairly and in good faith at the bargaining table. Many issues need to be addressed, such as increasing workload, larger classes and, not least of which, a pay raise that was mandated by the legislature many months ago and has yet to be enacted. I come from a family of union supporters. My great-uncle helped found the Congress of Industrial Organization in the early part of this century and my father had a 100 percent pro-labor voting record in his 25-year tenure as a state senator in Massachusetts. He never crossed a picket line, even when a fund-raiser to honor him and help to remove enormous campaign debts was at stake. The plight of the local restaurant workers’ union took precedence and he went a little longer paying off the bills. I believe in fair compensation and benefits for work well-done. We lecturers merely want recognition for the importance of our work, both morally and financially.
Which brings me to why I’m not leaving my students in the lurch on Tuesday. I take teaching very seriously. It’s not a job, it’s a mandate. I’m still one of these dreamy-eyed post-’60s altruists who believes in changing the world one human being at a time. The University affords me the opportunity to cultivate not just ideas, but ideals; to nurture not just minds, but people. I consider it a privilege to have that much of an impact on other human beings. I still harbor the belief that why we are all here at UCSB is to keep the world a little bit saner, a little bit more aware, a little bit more committed to salvation. The priority has always and probably always will be the students and I hope I never lose sight of this. They are why we are here. Most importantly, they trust us and admire us. They look to us to tell them what’s important and how to conduct their lives. That trust is sacred.
The University is a very delicate ecosystem – we all have our parts to play, but we are interdependent and our fates are joined. Stand together, we prevail; stand apart, we fall apart. It is my hope that the upcoming strike will highlight the enormous service the lecturers provide as the engine that keeps that educational ecosystem running smoothly. I am grateful for the strike. I would only hope that we lecturers are given a higher priority, compensation commensurate with our performance and the acknowledgement that our cause is just and urgent.
And so, I will arrive on campus Monday morning at 7:30 and carry a placard until 5:30, with a break for lunch. And I will arrive Tuesday morning at 7:30 for more of the same, but at 3:00, I will put my placard down and return to my lecture hall and continue to educate some 70 students about principled negotiation, compassionate listening and the elements of effective conflict resolution. The question is, will they believe anything I say?
Jeanne Umana is a lecturer in the law and society department.