Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Does Instructional Quality Matter to the UC?

UC-AFT is currently bargaining with the UC administration over the terms and conditions of the contract regulating over 3,500 lecturers in the university system.  The majority of these lecturers are in their first six years, and according to the present contract, there is no obligation to review these faculty members.  In fact, in some programs, none of the faculty teaching the majority of required undergraduate courses have been reviewed in ten years.  The people representing the university at the table argue that lecturers should have no expectation of having a career until they pass their sixth-year review, and so it is not necessary to review their teaching and service before they come up for a continuing appointment.  Since most lecturers never make it to their sixth year, this means that the university does not think it is important to judge the quality of instruction for the majority of lecturers. 

When we have pushed the people at the bargaining table to explain why they do not think teachers should be evaluated, we are told that it would be too time consuming and costly to do the reviews.  In other words, instructional quality is such a low priority that the administration does not think it is worth the time or effort to review the effectiveness of instructors. 

As a union, we have been placed in the strange position of demanding that the university review our members as we insist on a high bar for quality instruction.  We have also been forced to develop a contract that can protect against the constant turnover of lecturers.  Since the administration does not think that these teachers in their first six years should have any expectation of continued employment, departments and programs have been able to replace experienced faculty with inexperienced teachers to prevent expert lecturers from gaining any job security.

The university also insists that lecturers working less than half time should have no benefits including social security and pension.   In fact, a majority of lecturers are now hired on a quarterly basis and have no way of knowing when and how much they will be teaching in the future.  Some of the quarterly appointments have been teaching in the UC for over twenty years and still they have no job security. 

We are proud that our contract is one of the best in the country for non-tenure-track faculty, but there are still majors problems with the way the administration views and treats the people teaching more than 35% of the undergraduate student credit hours and a majority of the required undergraduate courses. We need a contract that will protect the quality of undergraduate instruction by evaluating lecturers in an effective manner.