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"NewsHour with Jim Lehrer" talks to Chancellor Berdahl and Berkeley educators about the issue of untenured teachers

13 January 2003

BERKELEY - On the January 8 edition of the PBS television network's "The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer," correspondent Spencer Michels explored the controversial issue of the higher education system's reliance on teachers without tenure.

In a balanced look at the struggles of part-time lecturers trying to make ends meet and the financial constraints the university faces in a dismal budget climate, Michels interviewed three people here at UC Berkeley. They were Chancellor Robert M. Berdahl, tenured biology professor Mark Schlissel, and sociology lecturer Jim Stockinger, who is also active in the California Federation of Teachers union.

"We do value good teaching … that is always a rap that we get: That somehow if you value research, you don't value teaching," said Berdahl in the interview. "This is not a tradeoff. You can value both and reward both and recognize both in all of the processes by which we review and evaluate faculty, and we do."

Schlissel, who teaches in the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, emphasized that the activity of teaching reaches beyond the lecture hall or classroom and into his research lab, where he works with "six graduate students and four postdoctoral fellows and three undergraduates and a research technician who's actually an M.D. I'm teaching them on a daily and continuous basis as we do our science together."

But for lecturers like Stockinger, who must work at a child care center in Berkeley and commute great distances for other part-time teaching jobs to make ends meet, the heart of the issue is his perceived value to the university system. Stockinger said that with a salary lower than some graduate student instructors, no health benefits, and little departmental recognition, he feels "like a Kleenex tissue, disposable."

Berkeley's lecturers went on strike briefly at the beginning of the Fall 2002 semester, in solidarity with striking clerical workers. Negotiations between the administration and the teachers union still continue with the goal of resolving the issues fairly.