In light of the University of California’s recently instituted – and ill-received – system of furlough days and layoffs, many professors are threatening to walk out on the first day of classes next week.
For the past six weeks, a group of irate UC employees has been shooting flurries of e-mails across UC list servers seeking to rally members to a system-wide walkout of classes on Sept. 24. As of press time, the group – the UC Community Coalition for Option 4 – has collected signatures from 787 UC faculty members, including 90 UCSB professors, who have collectively decided to participate in a faculty walkout.
Under its furlough plan, the majority of the UC’s faculty and staff are required to take from 11 to 26 furlough days during the next year, based on the employee’s pay grade. On Aug. 21, the UC executives made a slight modification to the furlough plan – no furlough days may be taken on days of instruction. This change, which came to the dismay of the Academic Senates of the 10 UC campuses, further adds to the pay cut the furloughs represent to UC employees.
The Option 4 members state on their Web site that they will walk out “in defense of education,” with three specific demands in mind. First, they demand that furloughs and pay cuts should not be required of UC faculty with salaries under $40,000. Secondly, they ask that the recommendations of the Academic Senate Council ¬- that between six and 10 days of furlough be allowed to be on instructional days – are immediately instituted. Lastly, the Option 4 members complain of a lack of transparency at the UC and demand full disclosure of the UC budget. Overall, the members claim, the UC Office of the President is employing an unjust and close-minded approach to solving the budget crisis.
“[These decisions] not only [make] a mockery of shared governance and [set] a negligent precedent, but also [send the UC’s] most vulnerable employees into foreclosure and poverty, while doubling student fees in a single year, and endangering the future of education in the state of California,” Suzanne Levine, a professor of Spanish and Portuguese at UCSB and a member of Option 4, said in a press release.
Victor Sanchez, president of the UC Student Association, said his organization seized the walkout effort as an opportunity to support California’s higher education.
“The overall goal of the walkout really depends on who you are talking to,” Sanchez said. “The reason we wanted to support it is mainly that our fees have gone up, to make a statement. It could be chaotic, but personally, I’d rather be out there and help voice my opinion and be part of an action that will help the university for the long run.”
Numerous other UC and professional organizations have professed their support for the Option 4 members’ walkout, which has been given the slogan “A Day of Action, Protest and Solidarity.” The UCSA passed a resolution in support of the walkout, as has the American Association of University Professors, the University Professional and Technical Employees labor union and several UC campus programs including UC Berkeley’s Solidarity Alliance and the Saving UCLA organization.
However, not everyone is gung-ho about the first day walkout.
UCSB’s Associated Students Executive Council has recommended that UCSB faculty, staff and students avoid participating in the walkout during instructional time so as not to confuse students and distract from their educational goals. According to Clayton Carlson, A.S. External Vice President of Local Affairs, the A.S. Executive Council feels that having faculty and staff present for the first day of classes is critical, especially for new students.
“On September 24, we would like for students to attend their classes and have faculty there for at least the majority of the class, to take care of registration for anyone trying to crash a class and educate the students about what is going on,” Carlson said. “Without anyone there, many students would probably just be angry and confused about why there was no professor.”
UPTE, representing Local Chapter 9119 of the Communications Workers of America, is holding a strike/walkout at UCSB on the 24th to support the UC Community Coalition for Option 4 as well as to address the union’s concerns about unfair labor practices, according to a press release. Organizers of the UPTE picket have expressed concern that having a union strike and a faculty walkout on the same day may take away from each effort, but no mitigating agreement has yet to be reached.
“This … strike is a protest against UC’s unilateral implementation of health benefits and transportation increases after our contract expired, Yudof’s attempts to implement furloughs without bargaining any guarantees of job security, the layoff of our elected bargainers and other examples of bad faith bargaining by the UC,” the release said.
In an e-mail to the members of Option 4, UCSB Residence Halls Association President Jose Magana said he was not in favor of the walkout.
“My concern relies in the confusion and the burden that will be placed onto students,” Magana said. “Although I see what this will do and may accomplish, I feel that it will greatly inhibit students to crash classes and cause massive confusion, especially for first years.”
Paul Desruisseaux, UCSB’s Associate Vice Chancellor for public affairs, said UCSB’s administration has developed several contingency plans for the case of a walk-out on the first day of classes.
“Our pact with students is that they will get the hours of instructions that they bargained for,” Desruisseaux said. “Hopefully accommodations are made for other instructions on that day so that students get the instruction time they need, especially on the first day.”
If anyone would like to learn more about the UC’s budget problems, A.S. will be hosting an information center for the first day of school in Corwin Pavillion, adjacent to the University Center, to answer any and all questions about budgetary and walkout matters. In addition, the Coalition of University Employees, as part of an offshoot of Option 4, will be presenting a lecture and Q&A session on Tuesday, Sept. 22 at noon in Girvetz Hall, Room 1004, to speak about what they consider “the real TRUTH about UC’s financial state.”