We are students of CCA whose collective experiences span various departments and programs, writing to communicate our thoughts on the current vote to unionize adjuncts through SEIU.
Many discussions around unionization have focused on student impact. And indeed, we believe strongly in our stake in the conversation: what could be more crucial to the quality of our educations than the employment conditions of our professors? Having openly shared our support for the union across campus, we now wish to reiterate and further clarify our reasoning.
We as students are the reason for CCA's existence, and we have an obvious financial stake in this school, paying a significant amount ($41,592 a year) to attend. Many of us are going into debt to do it -- 57% of CCA students rely on federal student loans, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. As such, we feel that we have a right to greater financial transparency at CCA. If funds are not being used to adequately compensate our instructors' for their time -- which goes beyond the classroom to include outside meetings, planning, grading, committee involvement, etc. -- then where is the money going? How do inadequate compensation and job insecurity affect your ability to engage with us as educators? You know the answers better than we do. But it seems to us that these instabilities can only detract from the quality of our educations, and by extension from the quality of CCA as a community.
Some suggest that fairer compensation for adjuncts may jeopardize student financial aid. This raises a question of priorities: if money is tight, why should it be students and professors who bear the brunt of financial struggle? After all, according to official tax records, CCA increased its net assets by over $7 million in the last fiscal year, and administrators received tens of thousands of dollars in bonuses. The unionizing of adjuncts would provide a protected legal platform for demanding more equitable working conditions, and would initiate the financial transparency that we deserve to have at this school by requiring CCA to turn over its books if so requested.
We also believe that SEIU is the best union to represent our adjunct professors, specifically because adjuncts at Mills and SFAI recently voted to unionize with SEIU. This is relevant not because it proves SEIU’s suitability in and of itself, but because the connections SEIU already has with these institutions provide opportunities for building community. As students, we recognize the importance of strengthening rapport with fellow Bay Area colleges and forming coalitions in higher education to facilitate the exchange of ideas and support.
And not least, we love our adjunct professors! We think you are amazing. You teach us so much every day -- not just in technical skill, but in the expertise and wisdom you bring from outside the classroom. Many of you are practicing artists, designers, writers, or scholars in your communities, whose presence at this school breaks down institutional barriers. We believe that a union would further support that flexibility and openness. For those of you who come here to teach out of passion and who value the freedom to step back and focus on other projects as well, the union does not stand in your way. For those who are dedicated to teaching as a long-term endeavor, and who rely on this honorable job as a source of income, a union provides you leverage to negotiate for working conditions that would allow you to be even better teachers to us. More equitable conditions for teaching at CCA would enable the diverse and incredible creative work that adjunct professors are involved with outside our school -- not hinder it.
Many of us chose to come to this school because of CCA’s core mission, which emphasises the social and political responsibility we as creative people bear. The education we have received here has convinced us that we should be working, always, towards creating a more democratic, compassionate and just society. We believe that those values ought to be paramount not only in the way we engage with society outside the institution, but in the very structure of the institution that educates us. A union would be a step towards that democratic and compassionate community, because it would give adjunct professors the leverage to better articulate your struggles and represent needs. Not only your own needs, but ours -- the needs of the students that you interact with in the classroom every day and understand perhaps better than anyone else in this school.
As such, we students support an adjunct union without question. We urge you to vote yes -- on our behalf as well as your own.
Students at the California College of the Arts
With the support of over 850 students, alumni and faculty who have signed to express their support for the unionizing effort.*
*Moderator's Note: Due to space constraints the full list of names are not included in this post. If you would like to see the list please feel free to contact us.