San Diego Faculty Association to Host Town Hall to hear Faculty Concerns Surrounding COVID-19 and Recent Acts of Police Brutality

The San Diego Faculty Association will hold a faculty town hall on Monday, June 8 to create a space for faculty and staff to voice their concerns surrounding the pandemic, recent acts of police brutality and protests, and any other concerns with teaching and research.

The SDFA was reconstituted by a group of UC San Diego professors led by Dr. Wendy Matsumura, an associate professor for the UCSD history department. The organization had always existed, but had been defunct up until recently. The group is a voluntary membership organization of UCSD Senate faculty members and does not have any official affiliation with the university administration.

Sal Nicolazzo, an assistant professor for the literature department and a board member of the SDFA, explained to The UCSD Guardian that the SDFA was created to address the issues that the Academic Senate cannot cover.

“The Academic Senate is a part of the university and deals with the literal governance of the university, so that’s where faculty make policies,” Nicolazzo said. “The [SDFA] … is independent of the university itself, so we can do political advocacy … for issues like UC funding, and any issue that affects faculty or that faculty members care about. So that’s the importance of it being independent and separate from the university.”

Simeon Man, an associate professor for the history department and board member of the SDFA, spoke with The UCSD Guardian about more specific goals he hopes the organization can address.

“Through the SDFA and this town hall, we want to create a space where faculty, including lecturers and adjuncts who are often left out of conversations, can come together and discuss issues that are not being discussed in the academic senate,” Man said. “Personally speaking … We want to model the type of university that we think should exist — one that is truly student-centered. Especially since the pandemic, many of us have been moved by student concerns about remote learning and Return to Learn and the ongoing racial disparity in terms of access and also particular students who are vulnerable to violence on and off campus — all of this despite the university’s language of diversity, equity, and inclusion. I think there are concrete issues that are left unaddressed and the SDFA can be a space to address these issues.”

The SDFA will reach out to the broader UCSD faculty community with its June 8 town hall. Nicolazzo said that while the event was planned before the recent acts of police brutality and protests occurred, she expects that the town hall will include discussions on those issues.

“The town hall is called ‘Austerity, Inequality, and the COVID Crisis,’ and it focuses on a lot of big and interlocking issues,” Nicolazzo explained. “Our agenda is about asking big questions and creating a space where faculty can have as much of a voice as possible to share their concerns. We often do this work within our departments, but the point is to create a broader space to see what everyone is concerned about, whether that’s [concerns about] teaching, research, how your students or staff are doing, and how contingent faculty … are particularly affected.”

The announcement of the town hall comes shortly after the SDFA released a public letter that referenced a Voice of San Diego investigation which found that the University of California had disclosed virtually no records on the use of police force on campus as outlined under a California transparency law. The letter also discussed the recent acts of police brutality and protests which have been ongoing nationwide following the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor.

“We recognize the UC system’s complicity in violence as an institution of research and higher

learning that regularly deploys its own police force that uses militarized surveillance techniques to intimidate student protestors, and benefits from defense funding and research on military

technologies whose effects are felt well beyond this city,” the letter states.

“We tried to highlight in the statement that [COVID-19 disparities and police brutality] are not entirely separate issues,” Nicolazzo explained. “One of the things we wanted to push on in the statement is that the UC needs to be a better actor in the world and better reflect our concerns and values.”

At the time of this article’s publication, the university has not publicly responded to the SDFA’s open letter. The “Austerity, Inequality, and the COVID Crisis” town hall will take place on Monday, June 8 from 4-5:30 p.m. Details can be found here.

Photo by Mariyah Shad for The UCSD Guardian.

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