“When I first arrived here from Mexico City at 15 years old, without any knowledge of the American culture nor language, I became aware of the lack of Spanish resources, and educational opportunities for minority students. Issues with cultural identity, a language barrier, and social topics motivated me to want to contribute to my community, and the best way to do so was to become an educator.”
Claudia Mendoza Diaz is a lecturer at three departments across two CSU campuses: the Modern Languages Department and Women’s Studies Department at CSU Dominguez Hills and Modern Languages and Literatures Department at CSU Fullerton.
Inspiring students of color through representation and promoting lecturer rights guide Mendoza Diaz.
“Working for two CSU’s who have a lot of minorities and first-generation students, anti-racism and social justice is critical for me. I want my students and colleagues to be aware of the challenges we face every day and how we can fight together,” said Mendoza Diaz, who is CFA Dominguez Hills co-president and chair of lecturers. “Individuals in leadership roles like me, serve as inspiring role models, motivating other community members to strive for success and contribute positively to society. And this is what I want for my students and other colleagues, to be able to elevate our voices, and provide better resources and opportunities for our community.”
CFA member Jenn Brandt, professor and chair of Women’s Studies at CSU Dominguez Hills, describes Mendoza Diaz as “selfless in providing invaluable service to the entire campus community.”
“She serves as a resource for our DACA and first-generation students, and has shared her own educational journey, inspiring students inside and outside of the classroom,” Brandt said.
During Chicanx/Latinx Heritage Month, Mendoza Diaz and others model the mantra “if you can see it, you can be it.”
“If my Chicanx/Latinx and Hispanic students see an educator with their same ethnicity, they will know that is possible to achieve anything they set their minds to because if we did it, they can, too. Students need to be able to relate with their faculty, ask questions, share experiences that relate to them, so they can build trust to empower themselves. At CSU Dominguez Hills and Fullerton, one of the things I value the most is being a first-generation student/faculty because we have a lot of first-generation students and they can easily relate to me and feel motivated to pursue their academic goals,” Mendoza Diaz said.
“Inclusiveness and brown power in leadership roles has always been my motivation, we can achieve what we set our minds to. ¡Sí se puede!”
That kind of solidarity is strategy, and all CFA members need to work together to win safer and improved working conditions, she said. During our current contract re-opener negotiations, we’re bargaining to lift up our most vulnerable faculty and address long-standing racial, gender, and social inequities, including raising the salary floor for our lowest-paid faculty.
“This is something that will benefit all lecturers tremendously since we are at the bottom of salary ranges, and we normally get the last bite of the apple when it comes to resources and job entitlements,” Mendoza Diaz said.
Strengthening our Collective Bargaining Agreement is one way to improve the lives of lecturer faculty. Mendoza Diaz has also used organizing to improve working conditions. She facilitates workshops on evaluations, entitlement rights (similar to seniority lists) and range elevation (applying for raises). It’s also critical to eradicate the myth that lecturers are all “part-time” employees. Many lecturers teach on multiple campuses. And time spent on lesson planning, grading, holding office hours, responding to emails, and serving the campus through committees or academic senate easily adds up to 40 hours a week – or more. Diaz teachers 18 units between CSU Dominguez Hills and CSU Fullerton.
Mendoza Diaz’s advocacy also centers on the CSU Dominguez Hills and CSU Fullerton academic senates. She wants to make sure lecturers have a seat at the table when shared governance decisions and policies are made.
“When I began my teaching career, I noticed a lot of injustices in the CSU system such as salary discrepancy, entitlement issues, and lack of compensation for lecturers in shared governance. This motivated me to organize lectures, to educate them about their rights and benefits, thus, create a stronger union,” she said. “Shared governance is imperative on any campus, especially at CSU Dominguez Hills where most of our faculty are part-time lecturers, hence, we should have a voice to change the current working conditions. In addition, I strongly believe that improving our faculty working conditions is equivalent to improving our students’ learning experience.”
When Mendoza Diaz first began serving on the CSU Dominguez Hills Academic Senate, she and the other lecturers on the senate were volunteering their time while others received service credit. Mendoza Diaz and others successfully advocated senators to support a resolution ending this “voluntary work” and instead compensate all senators for their academic service work. Lecturers also won a seat on the senate’s executive board. All three positions earn either release time or professional development funds.
“In addition, we now have a non-tenure track advisory board on campus. All this effort has been done collectively, and none of it could’ve been accomplished without the leadership of many lecturer colleagues and tenure-track faculty allies,” said Mendoza Diaz, a member of the CSU Dominguez Hills non-tenure track advisory board.
CFA member and CSU Dominguez Hills colleague Cynthia Villanueva said that Mendoza Diaz is a strong advocate of shared governance as a right for all.
“During the last three years in CFA, Claudia has worked to improve lecturers’ working conditions across campus. Equity, shared governance, and work stability are fundamental for non-tenured track faculty (NTTF), and for the health of our academic institution. She works hard to make equity part of the NTTF mission at all times,” said Villanueva, lecturer at CSU Dominguez Hills. “She believes that shared governance is key to improving the opportunities for lecturers, professionally and academically. Claudia’s goal is to educate all NTTF about lecturer rights, benefits, and to amplify shared governance opportunities for all.”
Mendoza Diaz’s praxis of educate and advocate is front and center, whether she’s working with students or faculty.
“Together, we can accomplish a lot. It is important that we all get informed and inform others in our departments. We need to be willing to fight and be ready for any situation. In order for things to change, we need to get involved and fight for our rights.”