Monday, August 19

Layoffs take emotional toll on dedicated, hard-working lecturers


On Monday, Oct. 13th, I attended a grievance meeting concerning the mass layoff notices that were sent to contracted lecturers by the dean on July 29, 2009.

The meeting was attended by union representatives, a number of lecturers who had received layoff notices and representatives of the university administration.

In the meeting, questions of transparency and documentation (i.e. the budgetary necessity for the mass layoffs, where the funds supporting these positions come from and the targeted savings) were raised. In brief what we were telling the administration was that we do not believe the existing contract allows for indiscriminate mass layoffs without alternatives proposed and without issuing a documented plan for the order of the layoffs.

What was not discussed in this meeting was the intellectual and emotional toll these layoffs have had on a significant number of faculty members, many of whom carry much of the teaching load for their departments.

What was not discussed in this meeting was the fact that a number of the lecturers who attended the meeting in an effort to protect their jobs had to leave the meeting to go to their classes. And what was not discussed in this meeting was the terrible impact that these layoffs are going to have on students who are already under pressure because of the promise of increased fees. Because of these cuts, it will now cost more and take longer to graduate from UCLA.

I have been teaching in the history department for 13 years. I was an undergraduate student at UCLA and did my graduate work here. In 1996, I received my Ph.D. and began to teach in the department that same year. I have been involved with UCLA for most of my adult life. I teach huge numbers of students each year. I also teach large summer school classes.

On Friday, July 31, I came to the history department to pick up the 180 finals from my A session class. In my box, along with the finals, was a layoff notice effective June 30, 2010.

The department was deserted. The ladder faculty were off for the summer, the chair was out of the country and the dean and his assistant were away. I won’t lie. I stood in the mail room and read the letter over and over again in disbelief. I had a little cry.

Then I sucked it up went up to my office to greet the fifty or so students who had come in person to give me their exams and thank me for the course.

My point is this: The university is demonstrating egregious labor relations at the very least. The very people who do the lion’s share of the teaching in the humanities, in particular, and who are paid less for doing so, are those being laid off.

How is this economically efficient? Does UCLA have a commitment to undergraduate teaching at all? Will there be language programs in the future? Will there be a writing program? Will UCLA be a viable place for the citizens of California to send their children to receive an education? If requirements (language, writing, etc.) are cut, will UCLA become a second-class institution? Will a degree from UCLA still be a stepping stone to the best graduate programs?

I think not.

Corey is a lecturer in history.

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