UCLA apologizes, backtracks on controversial ad for unpaid auxiliary work



A job posting for an adjunct professorship at UCLA caught attention because of a perk it didn’t offer: pay. The university has since removed the ad from its recruitment page and apologized.

“A recent job posting by UCLA Chemistry & Biochemistry contained errors and we apologize for that,” Bill Kisliuk, director of media relations at UCLA, said in a statement to EdSource Monday. “We always offer compensation for formal classroom instruction. We will do better in the future and have removed the post, which we will ensure is written correctly and republished.

Inside Higher Ed reported that the original ad was very straightforward about the lack of salary: “The Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at UCLA is seeking applications for an Adjunct Assistant Professor without salary. Applicants should understand that there will be no compensation for this position.

The list required applicants to have a doctorate. and a solid record of teaching chemistry or biochemistry at the college level. The position of adjunct adjunct professor would involve teaching “according to the educational needs of the department”.

The job list was relayed this weekend on social networks. Brooke Newman, associate professor of history at Virginia Commonwealth University, posted the full job posting on Twitter Friday and asked, “Is this a joke?”

On Saturday, a statement from UCLA’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry claimed that the job posting was for an unpaid position, although it attempted to provide context by saying that “arrangements like these are common in academia and, where formal classroom instruction is a component, compensation for such services is provided based on experience and with equity within the unit. The statement asserted that “certain positions may be non-salary where individuals are compensated from other sources and a formal affiliation with UCLA is required, which may be necessary to apply for or maintain a grant or conduct research.”

The UCLA job offer struck a chord. The role of the adjunct professor in higher education has come under scrutiny as universities increasingly rely on part-time labor to teach courses.

“Wow, and I thought my salary was low as an assistant adjunct professor,” wrote Megan Shepherd, on Twitter.

The assistants are compared to other precarious workers, earning them the nickname “university Uber drivers”. They receive lower pay, fewer benefits, and have less job security than full-time faculty. A recent EdSource survey of poor working conditions for CA community college system aides calls this precarious, part-time workforce the “backbone” of the state’s community colleges, the largest system. university in the country with approximately 1.5 million students.

But it’s not just part-time professors who have used the job posting as a springboard to discuss how academia treats its workers.

“Academia is very good at abusing the concept of ‘prestige'” tweeted Miraz Rahman, Professor of Medicinal Chemistry at King’s College London. “Nothing to see here.”

In his statement to Inside Higher Ed, Kisliuk also noted that such arrangements are “common in academia.”

“Certain positions may be unpaid where individuals are compensated from other sources and formal affiliation with UCLA is required,” he said. “These positions are considered where an individual may derive other benefits from the appointment that advance their fellowship, such as the ability to apply for or maintain fellowships, mentor students, and participate in research that can benefit society.

But that, too, provoked a new round of criticism at the university. Some academics said it looked like there might have been a candidate in mind before the job posting – a candidate who came with outside funding. Not all job postings are actually looking for a candidate, wrote Inger Mewburn, director of research training at the Australian National University.

“I teach people to recognize ‘job ads that aren’t really jobs’. When you think about it, it’s kinda crazy,” she wrote. on Twitter.

UC-AFT at UCLA, the union that represents faculty and librarians, called the move “union busting.”

“Let’s be clear: it doesn’t matter if the position is for a specific person or if they are already employed,” the group wrote, on Twitter. “The post misclassified a position that should have been unionized, presumably to avoid paying fair union wages.”

UCLA responded to this criticism in its latest statement.

“Our positions are open to all applicants,” Kisliuk said.

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