Tuesday, February 18

Professors voice their discontent

Instructors UC-wide use walkout to protest what many see as contrary to the university's mission

Shinji Sakai, a second-year at UC Riverside, drums on an upside-down tin can at Thursday's walkout. Sakai showed up at UCLA to join student, faculty and worker efforts to protest fee increases, budget cuts and furlough days. Derek Liu

Derek Liu
Rachelle Neshkes, a School of Law alumna, sits in front of Murphy Hall as university police block its entrance. Neshkes remained at Murphy toward the end of the walkout to show support while a group of students started a “sit in” at the chancellor’s office.

Professor Christian Haesemeyer of the mathematics department decided to come to UCLA because it is both a leading research institution and an affordable public university.

“I take this mission of affordability, laid out in the master plan for higher education, very seriously,” Professor Haesemeyer said. “I would not want to remain at a university that is run like a business.”

Due to concerns about reduced state support for higher education, increased student fees and layoffs of lecturers, Haesemeyer decided to participate in Thursday’s walkout.

He said he planned to join a University Professional and Technical Employees picket line in the morning and the rally and march at noon, all in the hope of accomplishing three goals.

“First, I hope that the people who constitute the UC ““ students, staff and faculty ““ stand together to reclaim the vision of the university,” he said.

“Second, that we, the faculty, stand in solidarity with those workers at UC who aren’t in our privileged position, and with the students who are about to be saddled with higher fees for less education,” Haesemeyer added.

Because Haesemeyer and other professors have tenure, they will not receive the notices of potential layoffs some lecturers have already received.

He emphasized his hopes that this day of action is only a beginning.

“We all need to educate ourselves, and educate the people of California about public higher education: why we have it, how it works, how it is and should be run and why it is worth their support,” he said.

Robert Samuels is the president of the UC American Federation of Teachers faculty union and a lecturer in the writing programs at UCLA. Samuels was also the master of ceremonies at the rally.

When asked why he decided to participate in the walkout, Samuels cited personal concerns.

“Our entire writing department, about 25 members, received layoff notices which will take effect in one year,” Samuels said.

“They are also looking to suspend writing, GE and language requirements within the College,” he added.

Samuels said that he believed it is a question of organizing the UC’s priorities.

“We must do everything we can to protect undergraduate education,” he said.

This is the first time that faculty and students have come together to fight to defend educational opportunities, according to Samuels.

“We have to educate the public about the different issues and students must stand up to educational equality.”

The protests occurred across all 10 UC campuses. Professor Catherine Cole of UC Berkeley sent out an open letter to her students during the first week of classes in August citing concerns over student fee increases and mandatory furloughs that reduced the pay of some faculty and staff.

“I believe deeply in our public mission and the values of access, excellence and shared governance that are central to our goals,” stated Cole, who has worked at the UC for 13 years.

In the letter, she blamed the UC Office of the President and Board of Regents for mishandling the funding crisis.

“I am distressed and deeply concerned that (they) are using the present budget crises to alter the focus and mission of the university in ways that are instrumentalist and utilitarian and show little respect for the role of the liberal arts in producing effective and thoughtful citizens,” Cole wrote in the letter.

Many UCLA professors also sent emails to their classes regarding the walkout.

Some of the e-mails suggested that classes would be cancelled in order to allow students and faculty to protest, while other e-mails stated that students would be penalized for missing scheduled classes.

Following the event, the UC Office of the President released a statement reiterating its reasons for increasing student fees, imposing faculty furloughs and making budget cuts.

UCLA also released a statement in which it stated, “UC and UCLA officials have said the steps they have been forced to take so far in response to the massive loss of state funding are painful for students, faculty and staff but are necessary to balance the budget.”

Chancellor Block is scheduled to meet with students, workers and faculty representatives on Oct. 6 for further discussion.

With reports from Carolyn McGough, Bruin senior staff.

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