Post Academic

March 4 Day of Action report: UC Irvine

Posted in Broke-Ass Schools,The Education Industry by Arnold Pan on March 4, 2010
Tags: , , ,

Banner at the Student Center

I just returned from the March 4 Day of Action event at UC Irvine, leaving just as the rally was turning into a march around campus. Since many of you reading this blog have some ties to UCI, I’ll try to set the scene for you. The rally, with speakers, was held by the flagpoles and probably drew 300-400 students, faculty, lecturers, and staffers. It was probably the biggest crowd I’ve seen at the flagpoles at UCI, but, then again, it also didn’t completely drown out the frats recruiting on Ring Road, either.   I’ll skip a general discussion of the speeches given, only to say that they really did get the crowd excited, that the recognition of race issues was a highlight, and that, while I admire student activists who can speak to big crowds (I know I couldn’t), it is important to stay on topic and get your facts right.

Protestors walking through the Student Center plaza

To stay on topic to what’s relevant to this blog, I was eager to find out more about how the budget cuts and tuition hikes have affected grad students, part-time faculty, and anyone applying for tenure-track jobs at the UC.  First, we can dispense with the latter, because there was no talk about unfreezing/unfrozen tenure-track lines.  It basically seemed that lecturer labor was recognized as the default education delivery system, rather than tenure-track faculty.  Confirming what I already knew, I found out anecdotally from a number of friends and colleagues just, one, how bad the job market is across a variety of disciplines and, two, how few opportunities there are to hang on to lecturing jobs, for those with hopes of making it through to the next job application cycle.

Students walking out of class in HIB 100. The protestors passed by the classrooms and shook homemade noisemakers crafted out of duct-taped soda cans and kind of beckoned the students out of class.

While hardly the *most* flagrantly affected demographic by the budget crunch in higher education, lecturers seem to have been impacted in very significant ways.  One of the lecturers who spoke explained how the effects of depleted budgets and shrinking enrollments trickle-down all the way to bottom of the totem pole, part-time faculty, many of whom are without benefits and saddled with student loans to pay off after graduating and few jobs to apply for, much less lined up:

1. Fee hikes have made college more expensive and difficult to afford for undergraduates;

2. Fewer undergraduates enrolling means smaller classes and/or fewer sections;

3. Fewer course offerings mean that there isn’t a need to hire more lecturers or part-time faculty to fill in the gaps.

The Humanities Quad as we've always wanted to see it: Full of student demonstrators!

What this chain reaction of bad also reflects is just how far the goal posts have moved for a lot of graduate students seeking their vocations in academia.  Somehow, many of us went from wishing for a tenure-track job at the end of the process, to hoping that there were enough well-suited jobs to apply for, to hanging on for lecturing positions that pay a fraction of the salary for the same amount of work, to not being able to even find the opportunity to have our labor exploited as part-time teachers.

Below is a link to Huffington Post’s March 4 live blog:

March 4 Day of Action live blog [Huffington Post]

All images from the March 4 march at UC Irvine, courtesy of Patricia Pierson.