Academic Senate

Op-Ed: The New Faculty Majority

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Op-Ed: Lecturers
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Karen Davis (Monterey Bay) ASCSU Senator

When I was an undergraduate at UC Berkeley in the early ‘80s, many of my humanities classes were convened in the “T-Buildings,” as they were called—the “T” shorthand for “temporary.” These wooden structures, located in the heart of the campus, were built between 1947 and 1950 to accommodate the rise in student enrollment after World War II and were widely considered—despite their weather-beaten appearances and questionable futures—venerable sites of learning and student-faculty consultation.

Over the years, I learned to love those army-green, barracks-like buildings; if my classes happened to be scheduled in these long-term “temporary” structures, I knew that it did not, in any way, diminish the quality of learning that occurred in those less-than-desirable circumstances. Classroom experiences at Cal were, in varying measures, inspiring and less so—whether or not the learning was conducted inside the oak-paneled and marble-tiled lecture halls (often badly in need of facilities upgrades themselves) or in the modest setting of one of the sturdy little “T-Buildings.”

I can’t help but make an analogy here between these “T-Buildings” and the situation we face in higher education today. With severe and sustained cuts to public higher education, the CSU follows a disturbing nationwide trend in relying upon so-called “temporary faculty” (known in our system as lecturers) to deliver well over half of all post-secondary classroom instruction. Some campuses within the CSU (such as my own, CSU Monterey Bay) have reached a lecturer population of 60-65% of the total faculty, measured both in terms of total FTES and head count. While the ASCSU’s Faculty Affairs Committee has addressed this disturbing trend through numerous resolutions calling for adherence to the tenure-track ratio recommended by ACR73 (legislation jointly crafted by CSU faculty, administrators, and California legislators), as state support for public higher education continues to shrink, lecturer numbers continue to rise.

As we continue to advocate for the reversal of this trend, the ASCSU has also recognized and honored our lecturer faculty’s significant contributions to student learning, research, scholarship, creative activity, and the teacher-scholar model detailed in the not-to-be-forgotten California Master Plan and the more-current Access to Excellence strategic plan. At the March 2014 ASCSU plenary, the resolution “Recommendation on the Eligibility of Lecturers for Emeritus Status” (AS-3157-13/FA) was passed unanimously. That resolution recommends the inclusion of criteria for lecturers in all campus faculty emeritus policies, “in acknowledgment of the historic and current contributions of lecturers” to the life of the university, and to the students it is fundamentally mandated to serve.

As one of CSU’s nearly 12,000 “T-Faculty,” and as one of the many thousands who have taught as a contingent lecturer on one campus for 15 years, I applaud the ASCSU for recognizing the merits of those of us who teach the majority of our undergraduate students in the classroom. I am gratified to know that the demonstrated expertise, dedication, and significant contributions of my colleagues in the “new faculty majority” have not gone unnoticed by the ASCSU, the representative voice of all CSU faculty system-wide.