Davis Faculty Association

Archive for the ‘Student Issues’ Category

Our concern over the proposed redevelopment plans for Solano and Orchard Park

Dear DFA members,

The DFA Board is concerned about the demolition of Solano and Orchard Park Student-Family Housing and so has sent the letter (below) to Chancellor Katehi and Dean Gibeling. Also, students trying to save Solano and Orchard Parks have created a change.org petition that you can read and sign at:

http://www.change.org/petitions/university-of-california-davis-revoke-the-decision-to-terminate-orchard-and-solano-parks


Dear Chancellor Katehi and Dean Gibeling,

We are writing to express our concern over the proposed redevelopment plans for Solano and Orchard Park Student-Family Housing. These units are scheduled for demolition and will not be replaced with subsidized housing.

Current rents at Solano and Orchard Park are $900/month, but at the new, privately managed, development, unit cost this will increase to $1,400/month. Under this proposed change, ninety-five percent of a TA/GSR salary will go to rent. Not only is the rent increase enormous, but the number of units will be greatly reduced. (The Solano Park complex, slated for demolition in spring 2016, currently has no proposed replacement.) The destruction of affordable housing has the greatest impact on students the university should especially be striving to protect — those with families and those whose financial ability to pay for education is limited.

It is likely too this redevelopment plan will have an adverse impact on the ability of UC Davis to recruit a broad spectrum of graduate students, since students from under-represented backgrounds often have lesser monetary resources. This change will serious undermine the efforts that faculty and the university generally are making to bring a diverse set of graduate students to our campus.

We strongly urge you to preserve Solano and Orchard Parks as valuable, low-cost homes for our students.

Sincerely,
Davis Faculty Association Board

We hope UCD’s response to striking students more appropriate than UCSC’s this morning

The DFA board sent to following note to Chancellor Katehi earlier today:

Dear Chancellor Katehi,

This morning riot police were deployed at UC Santa Cruz in response to the student strike. The DFA would like to express its hope that UC Davis has more moderate and appropriate plans to address the concerns of its graduate students.

Best Regards
Davis Faculty Association Board

Richard Scalettar (chair) Physics
Susette Min Asian American Studies
N. Sukumar Civil and Enviro. Eng.
Margie Longo Chemical Eng. and Mat. Sci.
Ian Kennedy Mech. and Aero. Engineering
Daniel Cox Physics
Scott Shershow English
Julia Simon French and Italian
Joe Kiskis Physics

DFA Letter in Support of Graduate Students in Contract Negotiations

February 5, 2014

Jeffery C. Gibeling
Vice Provost – Graduate Education and Dean – Graduate Studies
Office of Graduate Studies – 250 Mrak Hall
1 Shields Ave
Davis, CA 95616

Dear Vice Provost Gibeling:

It is with increasing concern that the Davis Faculty Association (DFA) observes that UC and the Academic Student Employees (ASE) represented by UAW 2865 have failed to reach an agreement. UC’s resistance to the ASE bargaining position is counterproductive. It is extremely important that the UC system maintain the national competitiveness of graduate education at UCD and across all UCs. We are writing to you because we know you are as concerned as we are in these issues, and have devoted much effort to improving conditions of graduate students on campus. It is our impression that many of the bottlenecks to an agreement originate with UCOP and its legal team, as opposed to at a local campus level where students and their interests have defenders such as yourself.

As you know, our ability to bring strong graduate students to our campuses is based, in part, on the level of graduate student stipends we can offer; in this regard we have increasingly fallen behind our peer institutions. For example, according to the most recent UCOP Graduate Student Support Survey, the gap between UC stipend offers for years one and two and those from ‘top-choice’ peer institutions grew between 2007 and 2010 to $2,697 and together with the higher cost of living at UC institutions created a total deficit of $4,978. When surveyed, prospective graduate students who went elsewhere consistently praise UC’s academic resources, but chose other programs due to the higher cost of living and lower levels of financial support at UC campuses (Findings from the Graduate Student Support Survey http://j.mp/1fF52dr). The Report of the Taskforce on Competitiveness in Academic Graduate Student Support (http://j.mp/1fF5BE7), adopted by UC Academic Council in June 2012, declares “rising tuition and uncompetitive stipends threaten to seriously undermine program quality” and asks that additional resources be allocated for net stipends for academic doctoral support.

The GSI wage in particular is so low that our students often take more than one outside job to make ends meet in a high cost-of-living area, thereby retarding their time to degree, on which there are now normative caps. One such cap is the 18-quarter rule, which bans students from being a teaching assistant beyond 18 quarters, even though average time to degree for many fields is slightly above 6 years. Currently the 10 month (49.5%) GSI stipend is $17,655 for an incoming student. Some students may come in with fellowships, but their income drastically falls as soon as they start teaching to levels that are sometimes nearly half that being provided at our rival private institutions.

Greater consciousness of debt burdens and unfavorable academic job futures mean that talented Ph.D. students today are ever less willing to choose a school they may intellectually prefer over a school that provides more economic security. This may be especially true for graduate student workers who are first generation college students. UC was slightly ahead of its peer institutions for under-represented graduate students in 2004 and 2007, but fell behind in 2010 (The Report of the Taskforce on Competitiveness in Academic Graduate Student Support). Once the low levels of child care support and dependent health care support are factored into the equation, parents and partnered people may also be unlikely to choose a UC campus. These low levels of support restrict who attends the UC and limit the range of role models for undergraduates.

The recruitment of the most competitive graduate students has become increasingly difficult given UC’s financial disadvantage and unsupportive social climate. These issues directly affect DFA members because graduate students are a large part of our academic community. Being able to recruit competitive graduate students is factored into a faculty member’s decision about where to teach and conduct research, and where to continue working. We believe higher ASE wages, along with a commensurate increase in TAS funds to cover increased salaries, more child care support, and increased dependent health care support will help to level the playing field, and cease to disadvantage our academic student workers. We urge you to take proactive steps to communicate to UCOP the importance of this issue for preserving the academic distinction of graduate education at the University of California.

Yours sincerely,
The Davis Faculty Association board

cc: Chancellor Linda Katehi

Petition in support of graduate student workers

On September 16th, the chairs of 33 departments at UC Berkeley signed a letter to their Dean of the Graduate Division, Andrew Szeri, to express their concern about the uncompetitively low graduate student stipends UC offers. On October 3rd, departmental chairs at UCSD sent a similar letter to their Graduate Studies Dean, Kim Barett.

The Board of the Davis Faculty Association (DFA) agrees that academic student employee wages are inadequate. According to UCOP’s own survey, these stipends lag at least $2,697 behind comparator institutions. Academic student employees are currently negotiating with UC for a pay increase, but UC’s latest offer of a 2% raise still leaves a wage-deficit in excess of $2,000 (and considerably more when compared to the programs of elite private institutions with which UC competes.)

The DFA’s sister chapter, BFA, has launched a petition to be sent to UCOP labor relations in support of the graduate student contract negotiations. (The current contract expired at the end of September). The DFA board endorses this petition and asks you to please sign it and spread the word amongst your colleagues.

http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/uc-faculty-in-support

Additionally, the academic student employee union’s next bargaining session for a new contract will be taking place at UC Davis this Monday and Tuesday, November 18th and 19th. Faculty are welcome to attend and give testimony in favor of increasing support for graduate student workers. The sign-up sheet.

What has the DFA been up to lately?

The DFA uses a variety of advocacy strategies: we meet with and write letters to campus and system-wide administrators and to Academic Senate leaders; we organize with other faculty, staff union and student groups on this campus and in other higher education sectors around issues of shared concern; as an affiliate of the Council of UC Faculty Associations (CUCFA), we also lobby in Sacramento, where we meet regularly with legislators and their staff and where we have helped fund and organize “Educate the State” rallies; we speak at teach-ins and educate at workshops.

Here is a brief reminder of some of the things the DFA has been up to in the past year:

• The DFA endorsed Proposition 30 (a tax increase to fund public education) and opposed proposition 38 (a conflicting tax proposal) and distributed information that explained these positions.

• The DFA, through CUCFA, was a vital part of the opposition to SB 520, Senator Steinberg’s bill that could have at one point required UC to purchase MOOCs through private companies such as Coursera and Udacity. CUCFA President Bob Meister participated in a number of panel discussions about MOOCs that spring – usually the main opponent on those panels to Coursera founder Daphne Koller and Udacity founder Sebastian Thrun – with a message of support for faculty led innovation in the effective use of information technology, online materials, and hybrid approaches to enhance undergraduate teaching; with an emphasis on the importance of a campus and classroom-based vision of learning and intellectual exchange for all students, including the most disadvantaged; and with a message of concern about the ability of outsourced MOOCs to meet the needs of students for a quality education.

• CUCFA, through its unionized Santa Cruz chapter, challenged UC’s Coursera contract, which asked faculty to sign over all intellectual property rights to their lectures when Coursera did not require this. The DFA has a long history of defending against attempts by UC to take ownership of their lectures from faculty.

• UC planned to cut central funding of campus healthcare facilitators. The DFA opposed this, along with other FA chapters and other campus groups. UC agreed to continue funding the healthcare facilitators. We work to preserve UC benefits and pension.

• The DFA rejected the draft campuswide freedom of expression policy and asked that it be recast to more accurately reflect the rights and protections for free expression which are so valued on a university campus, as well as the history that UCD students have in the responsible and safe voicing of their opinions. The DFA is always concerned with safeguarding rights of academic freedom and political speech.

• The DFA noted the lack of assistance from the Student Disability Center in finding space to accommodate student exams. While instructors have an obligation to provide recommended academic accommodations, it is required of the University, not the instructor, to identify space or personnel to monitor accomodative examinations.

• Last fall, the DFA co-sponsored a series of multi-campus gatherings of faculty to discuss actions and interventions in defense of the public nature of the University.

• The restructuring of the university has led to a massive and costly expansion of senior administrative positions on campus. System wide, there are now more management positions than regular teaching faculty. Increasingly, significant policy decisions are made by administrators with inadequate direct experience and insufficient faculty input. We seek to reverse this process and make Davis again a faculty-led campus. We support the merit and promotion system and equitable salaries.

For more information on our activities, browse the rest of this website. If you have colleagues who are not current members of the DFA who you think support the ideals of the organization, please encourage them to join at http://ucdfa.org/join/

Letter expressing concern over the draft UC Davis Freedom of Expression Policy

The UC Davis Blue Ribbon Freedom of Expression Committee has drafted a campuswide freedom of expression policy and is soliciting input. The draft policy is available online at:

http://manuals.ucdavis.edu/200-75draft.htm

(The above page also lists methods for members of the community to provide feedback, including a series of forums.)

In response, the DFA board has submitted the following letter:

———————————–

Dear members of the Blue Ribbon Freedom of Expression Committee:

The Davis Faculty Association has grave reservations concerning the draft UC Davis Freedom of Expression Policy. While the DFA recognizes the importance of maintaining an environment in which the core educational and research missions of the campus can flourish without undue disruption, this must be balanced against the equally important goal of encouraging and protecting open discussion and debate. Indeed, this is an absolutely essential part of the functioning of the university as a crucible for the development and testing of new ideas. The current document fails to properly balance these two considerations, nor does it follow recommendations from both the Senate Special Committee on Freedom of Expression Report and the Robinson-Edley Report to discuss civil disobedience as a particular category that has brought about beneficial changes.

Specifically, the draft UC Davis Freedom of Expression Policy (i) opens by paying lip service to the right of free expression, but fails adequately to follow up and affirm those rights in a positive way in its subsequent articles; (ii) contains a disturbingly long litany of restrictions on free speech. Of the seven subsections, A-G, in the “Policy” section (section II), five explain and defend *restrictions* on freedom of expression. So does the entire content of section III. Many of these restrictions are so vaguely worded that they seem likely to apply to virtually any sort of campus gathering.

That this document unduly emphasizes the restriction of freedom of expression strikes the DFA as especially inappropriate and ironic given the Pepper Spray Incident of November 2011. In that event, and its emotional aftermath, UCD students exercised their rights to freedom of expression with a truly amazing dignity and concern for safety of others. Given that history of responsible student conduct, the tone and content of this document are puzzling.

The DFA urges that this document not be adopted, and, instead, be recast in a way which more accurately reflects the rights and protections for free expression which are so valued on a university campus, as well as the history that UCD students have in the responsible and safe voicing of their opinions.

Provost Hexter’s Response

The Provost responded to the DFA’s letter regarding the accommodation of students with special needs for examinations (available online at http://ucdfa.org/2013/07/dfa-board-letter-to-provost-hexter):

*From: *Ralph J Hexter
*Date: *July 13, 2013 10:41:02 AM PDT
*Subject: **responding to your email*

Dear Professor Shershow,

Thank you for your letter regarding the need to develop more robust  strategies for accommodating students with special needs.  I assure  you that I am well aware of this problem, and, most importantly, that  planning is already underway, coordinated by Interim Vice Provost for  Undergraduate Education Carolyn de la Peña, to develop a comprehensive  strategy for dealing with the challenges we face. Resolving the issue  may involve both physical space and additional personnel, as well as a  need to identify the funding sources that will support a sustainable  solution.

Carolyn and I intend to address this matter as expeditiously as  possible, and we look forward to additional input from the faculty as
our planning proceeds.

Sincerely,
Ralph
Provost Ralph J. Hexter

DFA Board letter to Provost Hexter re: Student Disability Center and exam accommodations

The DFA Board sent the following letter to Provost Hexter to express concerns raised by some of our members:

 

July 11, 2013

Provost Ralph J. Hexter
Mrak Hall, Fifth Floor
University of California, Davis
One Shields Avenue
Davis, CA 95616
Fax: 530-752-2400

Dear Provost Hexter:

We write to bring to your attention a practical issue regarding the accommodation of students with special needs for examinations.  It is
becoming increasingly burdensome for the faculty to satisfy these requirements.  In some cases, the student must be given five hours in a room without other students. During the quarter, at mid-term time, the problem is particularly acute because some Departments are starved of space and cannot find suitable rooms. The Student Disability Center (SDC) states that they cannot help in locating space – the burden currently falls entirely on the faculty, according to the SDC.

However, an amended regulation of the Davis Division of the Senate (538H) states in part:

“The instructor has a legal obligation to provide recommended academic accommodations, unless the instructor can demonstrate that the accommodations will fundamentally alter the nature of the academic demands made of the student, or decrease the standards and types of academic performance. It is the responsibility of the University to provide recommended physical accommodations. No accommodation shall require facilities or personnel that can be demonstrated to result in undue financial and administrative burdens to the University. The instructor should consult with the student and the SDC if there are any questions or concerns.”

The phrase “academic accommodations” is pertinent. According to this statement, it is not incumbent upon the faculty to identify space or personnel to monitor examinations; it is required of the University, not the instructor.

Will the University, via the SDC, identify suitable space and proctors for mid-term and final examinations? Resolution of the problem may require funding to augment the staffing at SDC – the funds would be well spent in helping to relieve the faculty of an increasingly onerous task.

We look forward to your clarification of our procedures.

Sincerely,

Scott Shershow, Chair
on behalf of Davis Faculty Association board

Voter registration deadline is Monday the 22nd

If you have the opportunity, in the next few days, it might be kind to remind students, some of whom have only just come of voting age, that the deadline to register to vote is Monday. This does not have to be something that takes away classroom time, it is a message that can be chalked ahead of time or transmitted outside of class time.

For people who have a signature on file with the DMV, the process can now be accomplished completely online up until midnight on Monday from the CA Secretary of State’s website: https://rtv.sos.ca.gov/elections/register-to-vote/

Those without a signature on file must deliver the signed form or mail it postmarked Monday.

Many UC Faculty Support SB 259

Dear DFA members,

The Davis Faculty Association, acting in association with CUCFA (the Council of University of California Faculty Associations), has formally endorsed SB 259, a bill currently awaiting Governor Brown’s signature.  This bill guarantees Graduate Student Researchers the right to collective bargaining.  As you may recall, on September 7, Jeffrey Gibeling, Dean of Graduate Studies, sent faculty an email urging them to contact the Governor and request his veto of the bill. The DFA, and all the other Faculty Associations of the University of California, are on the contrary urging the Governor to sign the bill, for reasons outlined in the letter from Robert Meister, President of CUCFA (text of letter pasted below):

http://cucfa.org/news/2012_sep5.php

with best wishes, Scott

—————————————-
September 5, 2012

Office of Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr.
State Capitol , Suite 1173
Sacramento, CA 95814
Fax: (916) 558-3160

Re: Many UC Faculty Support SB 259

Dear Governor Brown,

We of the Council of UC Faculty Associations (CUCFA) wish to alert you to the fact that many faculty support SB 259, which would allow UC’s Graduate Student Researchers (GSRs) to unionize. We affirm the right of all employees to organize and we also affirm the importance of Graduate Student Researchers helping to shape the contract stipulating conditions of their work.

UC’s stated arguments against allowing GSRs to unionize are:

1) It would change the relationship between faculty and GSRs, and specifically “supplant the student-faculty relationship with a labor-management relationship…” In fact, GSRs and faculty already have a complicated student-faculty and labor-management relationship. Moreover, any changes that would occur in the case of unionization would happen at the administrative level, not at the level of individual relationships: Currently all faculty employing GSRs must use the contract UC requires for graduate student researchers. This would continue to be the case if unionization occurred; however, the contract would be one that the union helped to shape. We would add that while the “special faculty-student relationship” is indubitably an important part of academic culture, it is also precisely what makes GSRs occasionally vulnerable to being overworked, underpaid, or arbitrarily treated. The right to unionize reduces this vulnerability.

2) Students might negotiate a bad contract. UC first worries that a union’s likely goal of limiting paid research time to 8 hours a day would not allow GSRs enough time to do the research necessary to graduate. In this, UC’s argument conflates a graduate student’s own unpaid dissertation research with the paid research they do as a GSR for a faculty employer. UC also argues that this likely union goal would interfere with what is currently stipulated by UC as no more than a 50% time position. UC then worries that a GSR union would not negotiate a high enough salary to attract graduate students to UC. This seems unlikely. Moreover, UC ignores the fact that this legislation would not assign a union to GSRs but only to give GSRs the right to choose a union. If UC is really a benevolent and magnanimous employer, GSRs will not choose to be represented by a union.

The Dean of the Graduate Division at Berkeley has further argued that UC Berkeley GSRs are paid better than GSRs at other UC campuses, which might be precluded by a systemwide union negotiated contract. This preclusion is questionable (it does not currently hold for Graduate Student Instructor union contracts), but the argument itself attacks both the principle of the “power of Ten” at the heart of the quality of the UC system and the principle of equal educational opportunity at the heart of the California Master Plan for Higher Education. It is a “Berkeley for itself and by itself” argument that erodes both principles.

We urge you to sign SB 259. Thank you for considering the views of the faculty represented by the Council of UC Faculty Associations.

Sincerely,
Robert Meister,
President, Council of UC Faculty Associations
Professor History of Consciousness and Political and Social Thought, UC Santa Cruz

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