California Faculty Association demands fair treatment from CSU

The ongoing budget cuts to California’s higher education system have affected students and administrators, but the effects have also taken a toll on adjunct faculty.

Adjuncts, also typically categorized as “lecturers,” are temporarily appointed faculty not tenured to the institutions at which they teach. Their jobs hinge on budget availability and class enrollment. They are paid by the course, and may or may not receive benefits depending on the number of classes they teach.

“As the budget starts to erode, and we have less class sections, the first to lose their jobs are lecturers or adjuncts, because they are part-time and temporary personnel,” said Nate Thomas, CSUN chapter president of the California Faculty Association.

The association is a union that represents 23,000 professors, lecturers, librarians, counselors and coaches in the California State University system, according to its website.

Faculty in the Cal State system are currently working under a contract that expired 22 months ago. Members of the association would like to maintain the same terms and conditions in the expired June 2010 contract, but Thomas said a new proposed contract would cut benefits, increase the number of students in each class, and require faculty to pay more for parking.

“What they’re doing is using a bad economy to dish out a bad contract for us and using this crisis to diminish the power of the faculty,” he said.

In addition to their contract status, faculty have not received a raise in four years, Thomas said.

As a result, members of the association have been voting on a two-day rolling strike, which if approved, would take place in the fall throughout the 23 Cal State campuses.

While different types of teachers are represented in the California Faculty Association, each group has varying levels of compensation and job security.

Instructors at universities are generally classified into one of three categories: tenured faculty, tenure-track faculty and lecturers.

Tenured faculty are essentially guaranteed permanent employment and typically teach a 15-unit course load. Twelve of these units are taught in classrooms, and they serve on committees, complete community service and advise students to meet the remaining three units.

Tenure-track faculty are full-time instructors who are on the way to becoming tenured, and do so by performing community service and academic research during a six-year probationary period.

Leslie Bryan is a lecturer in the theater arts department at Cal State San Bernardino, which follows a quarter system. Every 10 weeks, she faces the possibility of losing her job.

“I think my nerves are just worn out right now, but usually around the eighth week, I start getting nervous about what’s going to happen next quarter,” she said. “It’s hard to plan anything long term, because you don’t know what’s going to happen.”

Bryan has taught at San Bernardino for 14 years, and remains non-tenured at the university. She also teaches a class in San Bernardino’s humanities department because she is teaching one theater class less than she normally does.

Like tenured faculty, lecturers are considered full-time with a course load of 15 units, which on average comes out to five classes. They also hold office hours, but are not required to serve on committees or perform community service like tenured and tenure-track faculty.

Elizabeth Hoffman, an English teacher at Cal State Long Beach, is a lecturer and a member of the California Faculty Association’s bargaining committee. She also previously served as the organization’s associate vice president.

Hoffman said the hardest aspect about her teaching status is the job uncertainty, but because lecturers are paid less, they are a cheaper option for the administration.

“It’s very hard to get a full-time load of five classes,” she said.

For this reason, lecturers may pick up classes at other campuses to make ends meet.

Hoffman has taught at multiple campuses, including Long Beach City College.

“Students don’t need faculty running between campuses. Instead of having one person divide their work up between three campuses, why not have more permanent faculty?” she said.

While picking up another class in another department has enabled Bryan to pay rent, it would still be easier for her to focus on one area, she said.

Still, even with the continuous cuts to the Cal State University system and uncertainty she faces as a lecturer, Bryan is passionate about her job.

“I love working with students. I’m going to stay there as long as I can,” she said.

AS excludes Green Party from debate

April 10, 2012

An alumnus told Associated Students they were acting like the “1 percent” for excluding the Green Party in an upcoming political debate during a heated open forum Tuesday.

“If you want to act like the 1 percent and exclude grassroots politics, that is an offense to every student and taxpayer here,” said Eugene Hernandez, a CSUN alumnus.

The student government approved the allocation of $18,410 to “Big Politics,” a three-part series designed to improve CSUN’s political engagement and to increase its national recognition.

“By hosting an event like this, sure, maybe we don’t have a football team that will make our university’s name stand out on a resume, but we can do it in other ways, and we can do it through events like this,” said William Ryder, business and economic senator.

The first part of the series is a debate between Democrats Rep. Brad Sherman and Rep. Howard Berman, and Republicans Mark Reed (an actor and businessman) and Susan Shellie (an author).

Ryder said the number of candidates was narrowed down to four to allow for a more substantive discussion and convey different viewpoints. Ryder also said candidates were selected based on who seemed most likely to move past the June primary.

Former CSUN history professor Michael Powelson was unhappy with the decision to limit the debate to the two major parties.

“There is no downside to including someone such as myself. In a democracy you allow all voices to be expressed. If you don’t allow them to be expressed, they don’t go away they just get pushed underground,” he said.

Powelson is running for Congress under the Green Party in the upcoming election.

A three-person panel, consisting of a student, faculty and alumnus will moderate the debate. It was designed to reflect the three community voices of CSUN, Ryder said.

The other two parts of the series are tentatively scheduled for on May 3 and May 15.

Google’s New Privacy Policy Will Track Users

Several weeks ago Google announced a new version of its privacy policy that will take effect Thursday, and since then there’s been a lot of controversy about the changes it’s made.

Essentially, what’s happening is that by tomorrow, one privacy policy will apply to all of Google’s services. In the policies section of the website, it is stated that the new policy is more concise and easier to read.

All the ongoing talks about the changes have been largely negative, and are rightfully so despite the claim that the new policy is meant to provide users with an “intuitive” experience across Google.

The company will be able to track the activity of anyone using any of its services by tomorrow, and that’s a lot of people.

Gmail, Blogger, Picassa, YouTube, Earth, News, and Books, are just some of the many products Google offers.

Google has done its part in informing its users about the changes in an ample amount of time before anything is implemented. It encourages users to read the new policy and watch informative videos on its website.

But really, who’s jumping up and down to read seemingly endless pages of legal jargon?

The company probably knows more than half its users aren’t going to read such boringly written policies. but it really is important to know what’s going on, even if the policy is written so dryly.

Some of the bigger privacy concerns should stem from how information is collected.

By tomorrow, Google may collect information revealing the following: hardware model, operating system version, mobile network information including your phone number. Google may link your account with your phone number.

There’s also the gathering of even more information, like what you search, numbers you call (probably using Google Talk), your IP address, and device activity (like if your system crashes, hardware settings, the browser being used, and language, among others).

For those who use a location-enabled service, like Google Maps, the company may retrieve information about your specific location. This information may include GPS signals from a cell phone, and sensor data that can be obtained from wireless Internet access points and cell towers.

Additionally, (though this isn’t new), it’s important to keep in mind that while users retain copyright to content submitted to Google, the company can use that content to promote its services:

“When you upload or otherwise submit content to our Services, you give Google (and those we work with) a worldwide license to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works (such as those resulting from translations, adaptations or other changes we make so that your content works better with our Services), communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content. The rights you grant in this license are for the limited purpose of operating, promoting, and improving our Services, and to develop new ones. This license continues even if you stop using our Services (for example, for a business listing you have added to Google Maps).”

This block of text is included in the Terms and Service that will take effect tomorrow, and perhaps the most striking addition is found in the last sentence. Since Google can keep using submitted content even following termination with its services, it seems to indirectly say that the company retains copies of anything submitted.

Google will also be using cookies and anonymous identifiers to gather and store information. And if users delete cookies, they are restored in the browser when users sign into their accounts again.

Since 2000 Google has altered its privacy policy nearly 10 times, and made changes twice in 2009.

Here are a few resources Google users can peruse to find out how to remove data on Google.

http://howto.cnet.com/8301-11310_39-57382925-285/how-to-remove-your-google-web-history/

http://www.networkworld.com/news/2012/022712-google-privacy-policy-256399.html?page=2 – 6 things you need to know about Google’s new privacy policy

LADCP encourages community input in changing city streets

Participants in a mobility workshop held Saturday at LACMA highlight the streets they use for short trips, long trips, and their community's main street. (Photo by Agnes Constante)

To improve mobility in the city, the Los Angeles Department of City Planning (LADCP) held workshops Saturday to obtain feedback from citizens who commute around the area.

Data presented at the workshops revealed that the majority of Angelenos get around by driving solo, accounting for 65.7 percent of drivers. A total of 11.2 percent of them commute via public transportation, and other methods of moving around include carpooling, walking and biking.

“We know how important it is to start changing our streets from single-purpose streets to actually accommodating bicycles, pedestrians, as well as transit,” said Claire Bowin, city planner for the LADCP.

At the workshops, which were held at Van Nuys City Hall and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), multiple stations were set up displaying information about the city’s transit system, demographics and street features that could make it easier for people to move around.

“The idea is to really just get LA moving more effectively,” said Bryan Eck, mobility planner for the LADCP.

Jessica Bremner, a resident in Silver Lake who commutes to Downtown LA for work, gets around via public transit.

“I am car-less, so I walk and take the bus and Metro every single day,” she said.

Bremner said some ways the city could enhance public transportation would be to add more bus lanes and more frequent service.

As a female, Bremner said she is concerned with the safety of bus stops and shelters. She would like them lit better, as she also commutes at night.

Echo Park resident Richard France found the workshop at LACMA nice because he was able to speak with people involved in the planning process, but is skeptical about the impact of citizens’ input.

“I think there needs to be a dose of reality in all of this. There are so many constraints that all your input is going to be for nothing if (the city doesn’t) have money,” he said.

This project is currently in its early stages, but the goal is to finalize plans by 2014, according to Eck.

Two other workshops concerning this matter will be held 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at La Plaza de Cultura y Artes in Los Angeles, and 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Pacoima Neighborhood Constituent Services Center. Both workshops will take place Saturday.

http://sundial.csun.edu/2012/02/49891/

Learning Through Travel – St. Francis Student Shares Argentina Experience

Nov. 10, 2011

Paul Dean poses in front of the Casa Rosada, the “White House” of Argentina. (Photo courtesy of Paul Dean)

Eight weeks in Argentina was all it took for Paul Dean’s perspective on the world to change.

“[This trip] made me think I’m pretty small in the world, and I can affect how countries view each other,” said the St. Francis High School senior.

And now, after having gone to South America, Dean is considering pursuing intercultural business.

Dean traveled to Buenos Aires, Argentina this past summer through AFS, a non-profit international exchange organization that operates in more than 50 countries. It allows students and adults to learn about different cultures through various programs.

“For students who realize that there is a world beyond Southern California, an AFS exchange can present a once in a lifetime opportunity to live not as a tourist, but as a citizen of your host country,” said Matthew Jacobs, volunteer sending coordinator for AFS in Greater Los Angeles.

Those who participate in the program live with a local family, attend school in the country they visit, and meet people in that country.

Dean did all of these, and observed differences between the American and Argentinean education systems.

“Schooling there is a really big problem,” he said.

Since he was there during the summer, he wasn’t required to take tests or complete assignments, as his credits wouldn’t count. However, he noticed that there were only three tests given during his time there, that teachers were lenient during class time, and that there was hardly any homework given.

After attending school at Rio de la Plata Sur, Dean finds the American education system better.

“A lot of times teachers there are seen as friends rather than authority figures,” he said.

Another aspect of the culture that stood out to Dean was the friendliness of the Argentinean people.

“If you ever need help if you’re trying to speak Spanish, they’re more than helpful,” he said. “Friendship means a lot to them…. People were glad to meet me.”

Paul Dean poses with his Argentine host family and friends on his last night before returning to California. (Photo courtesy of Paul Dean)

What also helped Dean fit right in was his love for soccer, as the sport is popular in Argentina.

“I’m a soccer player, but soccer in the U.S. is nothing compared to soccer in Argentina. Soccer is like more than a religion there,” he said.

One of the highlights of Dean’s trip occurred on his second day in the country when a riot broke out following the demotion of River Plate, an Argentinean soccer team.

“For a week, that’s the only thing people talked about,” he said.

While the AFS program is designed to have participants live like locals, Dean also visited tourist sights including La Casa Rosada (which literally means “The Pink House” and is the equivalent of America’s White House), El Obelisco and La Plata.

Dean’s participation in the program was encouraged by his mom Terri, who at one point was an exchange student in Ecuador through AFS. Like her son, Terri’s experience gave her an appreciation of different cultures and people. She also remains in touch with her host family and sees several of them every few years.

“The fact I still have another family in another country and still keep in touch is a pretty special relationship,” she said.

Dean said he recommends the program 110%.

Paul Dean is seen here with his host family at an amusement park, “Ciudad de los Ninos.” (Photo courtesy of Paul Dean)

“If you’re willing to give up one summer … it will change your view and you’ll have a ton of fun doing it,” he said. “It’s hard missing your family [while you’re away], but it’s something that’s worth it. I’m glad I did this while I have time.”

More information about AFS programs is available at www.afsla.org and www.afs.org.

Dream Act Becomes Law

Gov. Jerry Brown signed the Dream Act in to law this morning, and I think it was a step taken in the right direction.

One of the first stories I wrote during my first semester on staff for El Vaquero was about AB540 students, and one of the students I spoke to, David Garcia, told me a pretty compelling story. He lived in Canoga Park at the time, and it took him three hours on three different buses to get to Glendale College.

The students I spoke with for the story were at a booth on campus, putting themselves out there. I wondered if they were at all concerned with the fact that they could face some serious repercussions for putting themselves out in public like that. Garcia said there was a little bit of fear, “But we’re out here letting you know that we exist and that we have needs and that there is a type of oppression that we have trouble with.”

Most AB540 students are brought across the border when they’re still children, when they don’t really have any choice but to go with their parents. So for them, this is all they know. Then a sophomore, Leticia Lopez said in 2009 that she’s been in California since she was 1 year old.

“I’ve been here since I was one year old. I practically grew up here, so I don’t know any other place,” she said.

Without status, AB540 students can’t really do much after graduating from college. They might have a degree, but can’t get jobs because they’re not here legally.

There are promising undocumented students who, with the Dream Act now law, will contribute to American society. They’ve lived here their whole lives, gone to school here, established lives and friends here, and it wouldn’t be easy for them if they were forced to go to a country they know little, if nothing, about.

Kudos to Gov. Brown for singing the act into legislation today. It’s going to be a big help to so many of the AB540 students who invest time into their studies and are determined to better their lives.

It’s Tough to Be a Girl

It’s not new that girls are heavily pressured to look beautiful in the way the media defines it. From lengthy lashes and rosy cheeks, to perfectly straight hair and an hourglass figure, it’s virtually impossible to attain that kind of beauty without relying on cosmetics, gym memberships, and even plastic surgery.

My cousin Andie just turned 11 a few days ago, so she’s at a stage where she’s becoming more conscious about her appearance. Her self-consciousness has been a work in progress, but now she’s beginning to nitpick at her ‘imperfections’ more than compared to three years ago.

She recently got her own hair iron and has started straightening her hair multiple times a week. She also has a set of makeup that she plays around with on a regular basis. Several weeks ago her mom denied her permission to dye her hair, and she became very upset.

I’ve tried to explain that by using a hair iron she’s burning her hair. I also tried to tell her that because she’s so young, she’s still got really good, soft skin, and that the only thing makeup would do is damage her skin in the long run.

Of course if skin is cared for properly and washed thoroughly after makeup use, that helps. But then there’s also the fact that if makeup is worn on a daily basis, a girl looks different (usually worse) without it on.

But when you’re that young the repercussions don’t really matter. And even when girls are older the consequences don’t really matter because it becomes routine to put on the foundation and eyeliner every day. And it doesn’t matter because we’re surrounded by celebrities who use cosmetics all the time.

It’s not necessarily a bad thing to wear makeup, but it shouldn’t be used as frequently as it is. Humans aren’t born with symmetrical features or the types of faces and bodies that are airbrushed and edited in magazine covers. Most women are pear-shaped as opposed to having an hourglass figure because their bodies are designed to bear children. So it’s impossible to attain the beauty of Victoria’s Secret models without going through countless measures. And when a girl gets to that point it’s not natural beauty, and the girl probably still isn’t going to be happy with what she looks like.

There’s no reason for girls feel insecure about themselves, just as Andie is starting to be. Instead of focusing on how to imitate the appearance of everyone we see on TV, we could be focusing on more attainable goals, like bettering ourselves, other people, and our communities.

Chinese Public Toilets & American Debt

In China, if you need to use the restroom at a public place, you have to let everything out into a hole in the ground.

I spoke to a friend last week who spent two weeks in China this summer, and the public toilet situation was the highlight of our conversation.

“It’s funny because in the house, everyone has a toilet,” he said. “But at the mall and other public places, there’s no toilet! You don’t even have toilet tissue, you have to buy your own!

“And it’s hard because there’s no toilet seat!”

Because China is a communist country, I wondered why restrooms aren’t a component of public facilities. Then my friend reminded me that the United States owes China a lot of money, $1.2 trillion according to the Huffington Post.

Perhaps if the country had that money, it’d have some public toilets.

Our discussion about toilets and America’s debt interestingly led me to think about how the news never mentions who is benefiting from America’s debt. The money the United States is borrowing is being spent somewhere, and whoever is receiving the money is probably well off.

But that’s not something we hear about.

Neighborhood Uses Facebook to Keep Watch

Aug. 4, 2011

From personal profiles and games to event listings and business pages, Facebook serves a number of diverse purposes for more than 750 million users.

For Sparr Heights, a neighborhood located in northern Glendale, Facebook Groups has emerged as a popular function of the networking site. A group called “Sparr Heights Neighborhood – 91208” was created in June 2010 and serves as a virtual neighborhood watch program for the community.

“I wish every zip code had [a Facebook group],” Evan Gore, founder of the Sparr Heights Neighborhood – 91208 group, said.

Gore created the group after his high school reunion and after his house got robbed, both of which occurred last year.

“[The robbery] sort of got me more mindful of wanting to tell people and communicate with neighbors,” he said.

The group currently has more than 180 members who also use the group as an open forum to make announcements about various topics, from yard sales to upcoming events.

“It’s a great way to advertise neighborhood events that one might not know about otherwise,” said Lynda Hessick, a member of the group.

Unusual observances are also posted on the group’s wall. Recent concerns include recurring helicopter noise earlier in June and American flag thefts in early July.

Apart from these purposes, members use the group to announce if they’re giving things away, ask for recommendations on professional services (like for good plumbers and accountants), look for missing pets and seek resources from others.

While not all members are personally acquainted with one another, the group has fostered an online sense of community that has even assisted newer members in becoming more acclimated to the area.

“[Everyone] is sharing information and so welcoming and friendly,” said Valerie Robinett Joico, who just moved to Sparr Heights from San Francisco. “It has helped us with our daily lives as well as our social lives. As far as neighborhood watch is concerned, it gives such good info and everyone has each others back … that helps me sleep at night.”

Additionally, the Facebook group has served as a platform for members to organize donations for a family whose house burned down a few months ago, as well as donations for a needy family last Christmas.

The Sparr Heights Neighborhood Facebook page is open and visible to the public, and although privacy has long been a concern with the networking site, Gore doesn’t think the issue is something to worry much about. He hasn’t seen any evidence of abuse and pointed out that people can adjust privacy settings so as to share only specific information.

For Gore, one of the more positive outcomes of the way Facebook works is that he has developed acquaintances with people in the neighborhood who have recognized him from his profile photo.

The group has been up and running for a year now and users continue to use it as a means of informing fellow members and seeking information.

“I’ve asked for information, referrals, ideas and never been disappointed with the results,” group member Renee Brandt said. “I know the people offering input and trust it.”

http://www.crescentavalleyweekly.com/news/08/04/2011/neighborhood-uses-facebook-to-keep-watch/

America’s Budget: Cuts Need to Be Made Fairly

The news this week has been dominated primarily with stories about the government budget, particularly raising the debt ceiling.

I found a link with an interactive way to view the budget allocations for 2010:

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2010/02/01/us/budget.html.

Common Dreams also posted an article on its website on July 12 with a helpful visual of the way money is distributed:

http://www.commondreams.org/view/2011/07/12.

In the first link, there’s an option to “Hide Mandatory Spending” and if you click on that, it’s pretty shocking to see how much non-mandatory spending is devoted to the military. And in the second link, it’s impossible to wonder why more than HALF of the discretionary budget is spent on the military.

Several of my friends and acquaintances are in the military, and of course their service to the country is appreciated. But with the humongous chunk of money they’re getting, it’s really frustrating to hear about continued cuts in areas that, in comparison to the military, receive such minute portions of the budget, particularly education.

There’s always news about teachers being cut and school programs being eliminated, but I have yet to hear any of my friends in the military complain about salary cuts or anything like that.

Politicians like to talk about the importance of education in America. If that’s the case, then why is it that education only received 4 percent of the discretionary budget? The high value the government places on education combined with the amount of money it receives doesn’t add up.

With 58 percent of the discretionary budget devoted to the military, the rest of the discretionary programs receive single-digit percentages of that budget. Why does food only get 1 percent? Veterans, who have already served the country, get a measly 5 percent of that money? Aren’t we pushing for green energy? If so, then why does that area only get 6 percent?

Right now the country is in serious debt, and Congress is working on raising the debt ceiling so that the US doesn’t default on the more than $14 trillion it owes (U.S. National Debt Clock at http://www.brillig.com/debt_clock.)

Maybe I’ve missed some news about cuts in funding for the military, but so far it’s all the other programs with little money taking the hit.

If we want America to continue to prosper and if we want to take steps to fix the budget, then cuts need to be made fairly. It does not make sense to take money from programs that barely have financial resources, and not take money from programs that receive significant funding.