As University of California lecturers statewide get set to strike for two days next week, UC Irvine Chancellor Ralph Cicerone is encouraging students to cross picket lines and report to class.
In an e-mail to students this week, Cicerone predicted that the threatened walkout Monday and Tuesday by more than 400 contract lecturers at the Irvine campus would not disrupt classes or other activities.
"You may encounter picket lines at various campus locations," he wrote. "Please remember that your right to cross picket lines--to attend class, go to work or conduct campus business--is fully protected by law."
The strike by members of the American Federation of Teachers at UC campuses over alleged unfair labor practices comes after more than two years of stalled contract negotiations. The lecturers, who are required to reapply for their jobs when their individual employment contracts expire, are seeking more job security and pay equity with tenured faculty.
"We are the only UC employees who are forced to reapply for our jobs every year," said Andrew Tonkovich, a UCI composition teacher and president of the union's Local 2226. "We teach more than half of the undergraduate classes ... but we are not treated in a way that [indicates] what we are doing is really important."
UCI has no plans to staff classes where lecturers don't show up, university spokeswoman Lori Brandt said.
Katherine Tate, head of the political science department, e-mailed instructors thanking them for their "important work as lecturers in political science." She asked those who planned to strike to notify her office so "we may notify your students that class has been canceled."
Tonkovich called Cicerone's e-mail to students suggesting they cross picket lines "extremely obnoxious and intimidating." The chancellor "might also suggest that students have the right to respect a picket line," he said.
What students will do Monday is anyone's guess. "My guess is that most will show up for class, poke their heads in, and if there's no teacher there, they'll leave," said Kenneth Pomeranz, chairman of UCI's history department.
Abel Pena, editor of the campus' New University newspaper, said a random survey by the paper found that "students seem to be behind the lecturers. They think they're right doing what they're doing."
Asked how students would react to the strike, he said, "At UCI, students don't get very passionate about things. I don't expect anything to happen. ... I'm not getting that vibe."