“Our union has improved the working conditions of all of our faculty. I have seen how much this work matters and I want to contribute to it.”

Dr. Bonnie Thorne has spent 10 years as a Cal Poly Pomona faculty member working tirelessly on behalf of her colleagues to protect and enforce the rights guaranteed in our Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Thorne knew in her teens she wanted to work in psychology but didn’t consider teaching the subject until later.

“With teaching, I enjoy one-on-one interactions with students and love their curiosity and enthusiasm,” said Thorne, a psychology lecturer whose classes include Cognitive Psychology, Theories of Learning, Psychology of Women, and Experimental Psychology.

Her curiosity led Thorne to CFA’s faculty rights where members represent and defend the rights of other members.

woman with brown hair in a black tshirt takes a selfie

“I wanted to understand our contract better,” said Thorne, who served as lecturer representative on CFA Pomona’s executive board before becoming the chapter’s faculty rights chair. “As you do this work, you realize how important the work is to people’s lives and their careers.”

Goals such as improving working conditions are intertwined with anti-racism and social justice. For example, faculty of color and LGBTQIA+ faculty experience cultural taxation as they are frequently sought out by students who want mentors who share their lived experiences, Thorne said. 

Former Cal Poly Pomona kinesiology Lecturer Nickolas Hardy describes Thorne as knowledgeable, consistent, and wise.

“Lecturer faculty who file grievances feel heard and often feel empowered when they assert their rights.”

– Dr. Bonnie Thorne

“Bonnie is an empathetic activist you want in your corner. Do not be fooled by her reserved demeanor because behind that image is an amazing mind working to ensure justice is achieved,” Hardy said. “I am forever grateful for her tireless dedication while toiling with her lecturer comrades en masse at Cal Poly Pomona and throughout the CSU system!! I cannot thank her enough.”

Through Thorne’s work, members have secured many wins, including restoration of courses when class assignment rights have been violated; correction of errors in conducting evaluations; and compensation when increased class sizes led to a greater workload.

“One way to view the CBA is as a summary of our rights. Administrators do not always adhere to the CBA. When rights of faculty are violated, the campus faculty rights team can help negotiate a formal or informal solution,” Thorne said. “Enforcement of the CBA ensures that the rights that were bargained are protected. If a person’s rights are violated and there is no enforcement or consequences, unfair treatment persists.”

“On a personal level, I have found a home in the union with colleagues who care deeply about faculty and work tirelessly for faculty to be treated equitably,” Thorne said. “Lecturer faculty who file grievances feel heard and often feel empowered when they assert their rights.”

Callie Burnley is one such faculty.

“As a lecturer, my job is tenuous, but fortunately CFA has, and continues to, bargain for contract provisions that provide security for lecturers,” said Burnley, CFA Pomona department representative and Cal Poly Pomona lecturer. “Bonnie is well versed on the CFA contract, including the specific provisions relevant to lecturers. The education she’s provided me has allowed me to be a better advocate for myself and other lecturers.”

When Thorne was lecturer representative, she built the chapter’s program of workshops and other resources to serve lecturer needs, said Gwen Urey, CFA Pomona elections committee co-chair and Cal Poly Pomona urban and regional planning professor. Urey said that Thorne “inspires trust and confidence among others, both in CFA and non-members.” 

“I am sure that Bonnie has raised the lecturer ‘IQ’ on the Pomona campus, defining that IQ as lecturers’ knowledge of, and confidence in, their ability to secure, contractual rights, as well as the understanding of tenure-line folks about lecturer rights and need for respect,” Urey said. “I am sure that she has increased the number and share of lecturers successfully applying for range elevation.”

As CFA members move through mediation on our re-openers and prepare for full contract bargaining, Thorne reflects on her activism for areas to improve.

Lecturer faculty need more options so that they do not spend their careers as contingent faculty, she said, and all faculty need regular raises.

“Faculty need longer parental leave. Current leave is grossly inadequate. A semester of leave would allow parents time to bond with their children. Students would benefit by having an instructor who does not return to work exhausted and by the continuity of having a single instructor in a semester,” she added.

In order to win a contract that addresses our major concerns on our campuses, we’re going to need members’ help to make sure CSU management knows we are united in the workplace. If we stick together and participate, we can win a strong contract, Thorne said.

“CFA is your union. You have a voice as a member of CFA.”

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