“I like to say that I’m the son of the border.”

CFA Northridge member Carlos Hernandez was born and raised in the bustling border town of Tijuana, Mexico. He came to the United States in 1984 on his own and enrolled in high school. Hernandez then attended community college in San Diego, eventually transferring to UCLA for his B.A., M.A., and doctoral work. He started as a lecturer at CSU Northridge while finishing his M.A. in Latin American Studies.

A profile picture os a man in sunglasses at a beach in a blue tshirt.

Hernandez has been a full-time lecturer on a three-year contract since 2015. The stronger job security directly impacts student learning conditions.   

“Lecturers are already an integral component of the educational experiences, which can only improve with greater job guarantees and workload protections,” he said emphatically.

A three-year contract has enhanced his ability to be responsive to student needs.

“It has changed my teaching so that I can interact with more students. Last semester for the first time teaching here at CSUN, two students enrolled in two different classes at the same time,” said Hernandez. “That gives me the opportunity to interact with more students to widen my sphere of influence. By influence, I mean a minute, minuscule, part of students’ success along their educational journey.”

CSU Northridge senior Lauryn Carranco expanded her perspective and gained a supportive faculty member when she took Hernandez’s Chicano Studies history course. Carranco “wasn’t big on history” but felt moved by Hernandez’s passion and the “connections he made to what is happening now.” While she struggled initially, she reached out to Hernandez and got the direction she needed, finishing the class with an A. While she initially took the class to check a box, she found her perspective on her own identity widening, feeling more confident in her academic abilities and surer of herself.

“Lecturers are already an integral component of the educational experiences, which can only improve with greater job guarantees and workload protections.”

– Carlos Hernandez, CFA Northridge member

Through Hernandez, Carranco gained insight into the prejudice and segregation her grandparents faced coming from Mexico to California’s Central Valley.

Coming from Fresno to southern California was a big change for Carranco, but the small class sizes and individual attention supported her success, “I feel so lucky having gotten to know Professor Hernandez well.”

As a pitcher on the softball team, she nominated Hernandez as a “most valuable professor.” He was honored during a game along with his daughter, who was an honorary bat girl. He can be spotted working at events and soccer games.

For Carranco, “building that personal relationship inside and outside the classroom helps students feel like they have a sense of belonging and place on campus.”

Hernandez has been an advocate for students in all aspects of their lives. Years ago, when he taught Mexican history, student legal services were first being offered. He had recently worked on an asylum case for a woman who fled abuse in Michoacan, Mexico, and thought to mention that students can use legal services for a range of things, including facing domestic violence.

After class, he checked in with a student who seemed particularly affected by his statement. The student mentioned that they suspected they were in an abusive relationship. Hernandez passed along the legal services information but didn’t see the student again. Last fall, Hernandez received an email sharing that she had to drop that semester and was able to get a restraining order after getting needed support from legal services and a counseling referral. Through legal services, she also learned that her parents qualified for immigration support and eventually a legal status in the United States.

Hernandez has also advocated for himself, leveraging the rights and guarantees in our Collective Bargaining Agreement to pursue Range Elevation. The process itself has been validating for Hernandez because it “places a premium on your contributions to the department and to the institution, how you’re staying true to the goals of the mission statement of not only the university as a Hispanic Serving Institution but also to your department.”

Through the process, Hernandez has been able to reflect on how much energy he has devoted to improving his craft, expanding how he understands pedagogy and online modalities.

“It all leads to putting our students in the best position possible to succeed.”

Hernandez knows that the three-year contract and Range Elevation are contract wins that faculty fought and advocated for that he gets to take advantage of. As CFA members moved towards a strike in December and January, Hernandez concluded that taking job actions is necessary to secure meaningful gains for faculty that lead to setting up students for success.

“We play a vital role in the educational experience of our students. Our time is valuable. Our labor is valuable. There’s something seriously wrong when, at the state level since 1980, there are more prisons built than universities.”

Hernandez has observed that at the campus level, expectations are higher, leading to disproportionate demands placed on lecturer faculty with little resources and no additional pay for the additional work.

“The only way to effect change is by withholding our labor power. We must exercise that right!”

Hernandez has overcome so much to be the lecturer that he is, having gone on strike is just another part of the journey. He looks forward to making more gains in the next bargaining round.  

“The gains we made in this TA are something to build on. In the next bargaining round, I want to get that full semester (of paid parental leave) because I know it would have benefited me with my daughters. My colleagues having children deserve that,” observes Hernandez. “History shows infighting and mistrust has been used to drive a wedge in union organizing, to bust unions. When people start focusing more on what’s in it for them than what we collectively gain, we all lose.” 

Hernandez looks forward to building our collective power as we are set to bargain next year.

Hernandez’s success was tied to earlier campaigns for undocumented students that led to the California Dream Act. Until then, he was in legal limbo after graduation with his B.A. Reflecting on how he has overcome life’s challenges, he remains glad for everything he has accomplished.

 “I benefited from all of the struggles and accomplishments that were made possible by activists who paved the way.”

He discloses his legal journey to his students, and they tend to open up about their own legal precarity.  Knowing that Hernandez could navigate a labyrinth system encourages his students to advocate for themselves. 

“That’s the beauty of working at an institution that when you walk into the classroom, you see the state’s diversity reflected in your students. That’s the cool thing about teaching at a CSU.”

He also knows that, like himself, his students are navigating a lot of demands and commitments. Acknowledging and accommodating these demands is a central component of his pedagogy. Being approachable means students are more likely to commit to learning in their classroom.

“By doing that, you make your class more important for them. You increase the value and the experience in the classroom, too.”

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