Lecturers union claims UCLA withheld funds for academic events
April 13, 2016 12:22 a.m.
Members of the UCLA lecturers union allege UCLA’s Academic Personnel Office is unfairly withholding funds intended to help lecturers attend academic events.
Mia McIver, president of the UCLA chapter of the University Council-American Federation of Teachers, said the funds have not yet been distributed because the office has not convened the committee that distributes the funds.
The annual fund helps lecturers attend conferences, develop new curricula and present their own research to peers, she added. McIver said she thinks the benefits extend to students because lecturers are able to bring new information to students and develop better curricula.
She added UCLA has not approved the committee members appointed by the lecturers. The committee makes recommendations to award funds to the applicants, but the administration has the final say in who receives the awards, McIver added.
McIver said Esther Hamil, associate director of the UCLA Academic Personnel Office, told McIver the committee proposal was not approved because the members proposed are not academically diverse enough. McIver said the five members that lecturers proposed to appoint represented five departments and four schools.
“We balanced academic diversity, gender equality, racial diversity and a number of other considerations when making our nominations,” McIver added. “I think it’s difficult finding people willing to serve on the committee because it’s unpaid, voluntary service work.”
McIver added another difficulty in finding lecturers to sit on the committee is that lecturers who sit on the board are not allowed to apply for the grants.
Union members are alleging this constitutes a violation of their contract, which states committee members can develop their own policy and procedures in accordance with campus guidelines. McIver said they want to allow members to recuse themselves from the committee when there is a potential conflict of interest, so sitting members can apply for funding as well, but the office will not allow for recusals.
She added members of the Academic Senate have the ability to opt out of committee decisions when there is a conflict of interest, but lecturers on the committee are unable to do so.
“Lecturers should not be forced to stay home from attending conferences because they are serving on the committee,” McIver said. “If they recuse themselves from consideration of their own application, (we can still maintain) a high standard of ethics and fairness.”
UCLA spokesperson Ricardo Vazquez said in an email statement the university and the union disagree about the interpretation of the terms of the contract, which deals with governing the Professional Development Fund committee. Vazquez declined to comment further when asked about the diversity of the committee or its recusal policy.
Aubrey Foard, a lecturer of tuba and euphonium, said he was planning on using money awarded through a fund to attend an international tuba convention in Knoxville, Tennessee, where he had arranged for members of a UCLA tuba ensemble to perform.
Foard will still attend the conference, but has to pay out-of-pocket for it. He added he has spent at least $500 on travel expenses.
“Access to these awards are often touted as a benefit to being a lecturer at UCLA,” Foard said. “We rely on these funds to make UCLA a better place as an environment of learning, and to give students a better quality education.”
Contributing reports by Ravijia Harjai, Daily Bruin contributor.