Faculty Support for Strike Shows Variance by Discipline

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While Wednesday marks the start of a three-day strike at UC Berkeley, faculty members hold mixed opinions about its effect on students and the campus.

As momentum builds for the walkout--during which students, faculty and staff will rally at UCLA and UC Berkeley to protest a proposed 32 percent student fee increase and impending layoffs of workers--there is noticeably less support from science-related faculty as compared to humanities faculty who have indicated that they will participate.

The strike is centered around the UC Board of Regents meeting, which began yesterday and will end on Thursday with a final vote on student fees.

As of press time, no science professors from UC Berkeley have signed the online solidarity pledge in support of the strike. Currently, the more than 100 UC Berkeley faculty members who have signed the pledge are all from humanities departments.

Barrie Thorne, a professor of sociology and gender and women's studies, said she will be holding signs with the strikers during the walkout and making up the time lost in the classroom by moving lectures and holding extra office hours. She also participated in the Sept. 24 walkout, in which 5,000 people rallied on Sproul Plaza.

"I don't believe in crossing picket lines," she said.

However, Greg Aponte, a professor of nutritional science and toxicology, said he will not participate in this week's strike even though he supports the cause, partly because he believes it would be detrimental to students' education.

He added that, like many other science professors, much of his time is spent running and maintaining a lab and writing grants.

"We're just trying to survive," he said. "It's not that we're not concerned."

In addition, Aponte said the strike may be ineffective at eliciting a response from administrators, since they know many professors will not compromise their commitment to teaching their students.

"The administration knows this and it gives them less incentive to respond," he said. "(Faculty) have a commitment to the school, and they're taking advantage of that."

John Shoptaw, a continuing lecturer for the English department, said he will still hold class during the walkout.

"Many (students) are working hard for classes and paying for me to teach," he said.

Shoptaw said he is choosing not to participate because he believes the walkout may not be the most effective way of achieving the desired changes. Instead, he said, the university needs to expand its focus to include all state citizens to make any permanent change in funding for the university.

Thorne said she put a lot of thought into balancing her teaching responsibilities with her participation in the strike.

"On one hand we want to mobilize people, because it's a disaster what's happening (to the school)," she said. "On the other hand, education is ever more precious, especially as the fees go up for the students. It's like nurses going on strike who don't want to hurt their patients."


Contact Melody Ng at [email protected]

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