Editorial: A strike by UC academic workers would tarnish the prestigious university system.
That’s how a coalition of workers representing nearly a third of the UC faculty, UC employees, and graduate students would prefer the system to work.
But the university bureaucracy, which has long been willing to tolerate disruptive work stoppages, would prefer not to back down just now.
The Academic Council — an informal committee of tenured and tenure-track faculty and graduate students appointed by the president — has made the process of scheduling academic resources so complex that it takes years when it should be quick and seamless, according to the University of California Office of the President.
The union’s main grievance is that the Academic Council has consistently ignored unions’ requests for changes to the process. Last year, for example, unionized workers were not scheduled on the UC Davis campus.
After negotiating long-term contracts for years, union leaders contend the UC administration regularly reneges on their collective bargaining agreements and continues to use its power to hold workers as hostage.
But the Academic Council has fought back, saying their decisions are based on merit. In a brief message sent to the union last Friday, the president said he was “very impressed with your proposals” and “looks forward to working with you on the details” of their demands.
The president — UC Berkeley’s Janet Napolitano — was not available for comment.
The dispute highlights the problems created by the uneven distribution of power at the University of California, which is the second largest school of higher learning in the United States and the most powerful academic institution in the country.
The system has a “dual union” model of leadership that combines the powers of the chancellor, vice chancellor for administrative services, and provost, according to UC Berkeley’s Professor Andrew Ross.
The power at the top of the system has a lot of overlap between the chancellor (or regents) and the president, who has the power to hire and fire. (The chancellor must also be a regent, the position that gives him broad policy guidance and the ability to hire and fire.)
At the university level, the chancellor, like Napolitano, has made clear that the UC system is a