Petition to Berkeley administrators: rehire the lecturers students need now
On April 21, 2020, UC Berkeley administrators announced a hiring freeze on all pre-continuing lecturer appointments and reappointments—including offers that have already been made and accepted for the Fall 2020 semester. If the university moves forward with this plan, it will cast approximately 600 lecturers into financial danger and health care insecurity during a crisis. What’s more, it will reduce the number and variety of courses offered to undergraduates and make it more difficult for students to complete required coursework to graduate on time, even as they continue to pay full tuition.
A hiring freeze has already been imposed on Berkeley libraries, and librarians face possible layoffs. The freeze on lecturer reappointments and attrition of librarian positions will deprive students of dedicated teachers and trusted mentors, leaving them without the vital instructional support they need now more than ever. As a public university whose primary mission is providing quality, accessible education, and as a major employer throughout the state, UC must put its students and workers first. We demand that Berkeley support its students by calling off the hiring freeze on lecturers, committing to maintaining current librarian positions, and issuing reappointment letters for current lecturers no later than June 1st.
Lecturers teach 40% of the undergraduate credit hours at Berkeley. They have no job security during their first six years in the position and earn a median salary of only $19,900 a year, largely due to the fact that so many are employed part-time. Yet Berkeley students say again and again that out of all their instructors, it was lecturers who went out of their way to advise their theses, write their letters of recommendation, hold extra office hours to talk over problem sets, help them improve their writing, and advise them on their education and career. Many graduating students say that, at a university as large and often anonymous as Berkeley, lecturers were the only faculty who knew them by name. Without most of its pre-continuing lecturers—those without job security, who make up a majority of the lecturers on the Berkeley campus—the university will have to cancel a significant number of courses undergraduates had planned on being able to take in the coming year. Berkeley students’ education has already been thrown into disarray by COVID-19: the UC administration’s rehiring freeze promises to turn a difficult situation into a dire one.
There is an alternative. The move to eliminate lecturer positions is an expression of the Berkeley administration’s current priorities, not an inevitable result of the crisis. We recognize the unprecedented financial challenges the university currently faces, but refusing to reappoint skilled, valued, and trusted teachers—and cutting the necessary courses that they teach—is not the way to balance the operating budget. In 2018, 47 UC Berkeley employees, mostly administrators and coaches, made more than $400,000. If the university cut each of these employees’ pay to $400,000 for one year only, it would recoup $6.5 million. This amount alone would allow UC Berkeley to keep more than 650 courses slated to be taught by lecturers on offer for the coming year. Without the financial ledgers open before us, we cannot plan an emergency budget in its entirety, but it is clear that lecturers need not be first on the chopping block. UC should not offload all the costs of the crisis onto its lowest-paid and most precarious employees. Instead, the most highly paid should take a salary reduction to ensure funding for the university to continue to fulfill its core instructional mission. In this moment of crisis, the university must put students first: reappoint lecturers, retain librarians, and give Berkeley students the support they need.
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Thank you for your support for Berkeley students, lecturers, and librarians!
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