Fall Program for First Semester, or FPF, lecturers and readers have filed a grievance with campus officials in efforts of unionizing and are currently awaiting a response.
The terms of employment at FPF are different from those of main campus, according to a lecturer in the program, who requested to remain anonymous out of fear of retaliation. The lecturer added that FPF especially differs regarding the absence of benefits covered by Contract for the Lecturers Unit (IX), including hiring rights and work entitlement. FPF lecturers are given a different designation, meaning they are not covered by the university contract for the same work on main campus, noted the lecturer.
The lecturer alleged that FPF lecturers were not informed of this policy when they were hired.
“FPF has created this fiction that they deny us the rights of a contract, because we’re not actually employees of UC Berkeley,” said sociology lecturer Robert Ovetz. “We’re asking that all of the faculty teaching at FPF be brought under the contract so that we receive the same rights and pay that we would get if we were teaching on the main campus.”
The program, which is offered to newly admitted students in the College of Letters and Sciences, provides freshmen with smaller class sizes and additional support resources, according to Ovetz.
Ovetz noted that classes are held in the “Golden Bear Center,” which is roughly a mile away from main campus.
In being hired for FPF, many lecturers were brought in from main campus and were told they would be getting paid $3,000 less, Ovetz added. However, due to the lack of GSIs available to lead discussions, lecturers had to take on extra hours with no additional compensation.
Similarly, Ovetz said readers are paid $400 every month instead of the higher salary they would receive as readers for classes on main campus.
“If UC Berkeley prides itself as the world class, public university that it is, it needs to treat the lecturers in the same way,” Ovetz said. “We’re all professionals. We have PhDs, we’re top of our field, and yet they treat us like gig workers, paying us less than we otherwise would get.”
Ovetz expressed his additional concern for students because lecturers were told by the university to hold office hours in local cafes due to a lack of adequate space in the building. He also recognized other inconveniences such as not having access to libraries.
Freshman Madhura Joshi said she was confused as to why she was selected for FPF after receiving the news over the summer.
Although Joshi is content with the personalized learning environment provided, she noted the daily two-hour commute she spends going to and from the FPF center and campus. Joshi added that the lack of food options available to students with meal plans is inconvenient because she has to travel back to campus to use meal swipes.
“I don’t love that I get to go to the other campus because, especially studying at libraries, is much harder and finding study spots is harder,” Joshi said. “But I think they have their own little study lounge, which is kind of okay.”
As of press time, FPF lecturers have had a meeting with the university and are awaiting a response by the end of the month.
If challenges arise, Ovetz said a request will be made to the Public Employee Employment Relations Board for automatic coverage by the contract.
“FPF has been run out of University Extension for 40 years and has hired instructors through the same process and same policies for many years,” said spokesperson Janet Gilmore in an email.
Campus noted that the allegations raised are a matter of ongoing discussion.
Ovetz mentioned he has only come across one person who has declined to join the union, and the effort has been otherwise unanimous.
“We would feel less exploited as employees and be treated better with the concern for our safety, our wellness as well,” the FPF lecturer said. “I think this translates into a better teaching experience and learning experience for students as well, so a lot of this will be beneficial for them.”