Hiltzik: UCLA’s no-pay job offer

For those who bemoan the systematic devaluation of university teaching as a career and calling, UCLA has only given the complaint a hard number.

The number is zero. That’s how much one of the country’s leading public universities would pay for an associate professor in the chemistry department.

In the job posting, which appeared on UCLA’s internal recruitment website this month, the university said that “Applicants need to understand that there will be job openings no compensation for this position.In other words: no salary, no benefits.

UCLA has a disgraceful history of using contingent faculty with no salary dates.

Mia McIver, UC-AFT

However, there are requirements: Applicants must have a PhD in chemistry, biochemistry or an equivalent discipline and have “substantial experience” teaching chemistry or biochemistry at universities; Teaching is part of the job description. Three to five letters of reference are also required.

The mere idea of ​​a major university posting a job that applicants appear to be working for free caused an uproar on academic social media.

The reaction of Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at the University of Saskatchewan, was typical: “Are you a postgraduate academic who is sick of being paid for your work? …Are you anxious to submit a full academic application for a totally unpaid part-time job? she asked on Twitter. “@uclachem has the job for you!”

At the end of last week, the job posting was gone. A UCLA spokesman says the original post “contained errors” and a new one “correctly spelled” will be posted. The spokesperson, Bill Kisliuk, assured me that at UCLA, “we always offer compensation for face-to-face classes.”

Kisliuk also dismissed online speculation that the job posting was aimed at a specific individual – some even suggesting that it might be tailored to a scientist fleeing Ukraine but bringing his or her pay from another source: “Ours Positions are open to all applicants. ”

But the mystery has only deepened. In an apologetic online statement over the weekend, Miguel A. Garcia-Garibay, UCLA’s dean of science responsible for the job posting, wrote, “We know that the language in this particular ad could benefit from additional context….arrangements such as.” these are common in science.”

But Garcia-Garibay didn’t provide “additional context.” He also did not explain what is common about the no-pay rule in science. (Garcia-Garibay forwarded my request for comment to UCLA’s communications office.)

Academics disagree that unpaid teaching jobs are common or, where they exist, acceptable. UC’s own Associate Professor recruitment guide makes it clear that voluntary offers are only suitable under very limited conditions: for example if a faculty member of one department takes over a joint position in another.

Original UCLA job posting for an unpaid teaching position in the chemistry department. The post was removed after causing an uproar in the scientific community.


“The supposed statement from the chemistry department did not address concerns that many people had about the position,” said Mia McIver, president of UC-AFT, the union that won a landmark five-year contract for 6,800 UC faculty in November.

“What triggered a red rag for me, aside from the lack of compensation,” McIver said, “was that this job posting clearly only asked for someone who would teach.” The union understands that anyone interested in teaching at UC dedicates should be hired as an instructor – a classification that puts him or her under the UC-AFT contract.

“They may be using these appointments as assistants to try to circumvent their obligations under our union contract,” she says. “My concern is that UC management’s addiction to cheap teachers is so strong that our new contract will not be honored.”

Another issue that could be fueling the furor over the UCLA posting is that the Adjuncts’ role has evolved in recent years, and not to their advantage. Traditionally, adjuncts have been individuals with external work experience or assignments and a willingness to share them with students on a part-time basis.

But the term has come to apply to faculty members who remain outside the tenure track, leaving them with low pay and little job security. The add-on model was described as “slave labor.”

“Being a permanent associate professor is hearing the constant death knell of higher education,” he noted a 2019 article in the Atlanticwhich details the decline and death of Thea Hunter, who worked part-time in the history departments of a number of New York-area universities.

“The story is familiar,” states the article — “the long hours, the heavy workloads, the inadequate pay — as science relies on associate professors, non-tenured faculty members, who often make pennies on the dollar, to do the same work required of their permanent colleagues.”

In the 1960s, the Atlantic reported, 80% of US faculty members were tenured or tenured. Now the proportion is around 25%. At UC, part-time faculty teach one-third of undergraduate courses.

“UCLA has a disgraceful history of using conditional faculty with no salary dates,” says McIver. The slide started after the Great Recession of 2008-09, she says. “We found there were hundreds of them.”

UC-AFT reached an agreement with UCLA in 2016 to use unpaid faculty.

Meanwhile, the UC Regents approves healthy pay rises in January over two years for the nine university chancellors.

Those pay increases ranged from 6.9% for UC Irvine Chancellor Howard Gillman, who increased his base salary to $596,497 in July 2023, to 28.4% for UC Santa Barbara Chancellor Henry Yang, which his Salary increased to $579,750. UCLA Chancellor Gene Block gets a 25.1% raise, bringing his base salary to $639,953, the highest in the system.

Regents took this action on the grounds that UC chancellors as a group were paid less than the median for heads of public universities nationwide.

UCLA owes its faculty and the public a better explanation for its job posting fiasco than the reassuring statements it has given so far. Advertising for an unpaid position is more than a mere wording error; it is an expression of some politics – but what?

If the posting is an offer of pity disguised as a routine job, this could be justified, but it still requires more transparency. If the aim is to circumvent a negotiated employment contract in order to save money, this is reprehensible. This is especially true given the care the Regents recently showed toward their half-million-dollar cadre of campus chancellors who allegedly underperform their peers at the public universities.

Chancellors may feel underpaid, but no one is more underpaid than a professor who has a teaching load and gets nothing. So what is it really about?

Leave a Comment