When professor Joseph “Joe” Tuman gave a lecture on the regulation of Internet content to a packed classroom, he offered no hint that he was also running for mayor of Oakland. But the communications professor, who has been teaching at SF State since 1987, spent the first part of the fall semester balancing these two demanding roles.
A group of about 50 family members, friends and supporters tensely watched as the numbers were counted on election night Nov. 4. With about 12 percent of the vote, Tuman came in fifth out of 15 candidates behind Libby Schaaf, incumbent Jean Quan, Rebecca Kaplan and Dan Siegel. Schaaf ultimately won with over 30 percent of the vote.
Tuman unsuccessfully ran for mayor of Oakland once before, in 2010, but does not plan to run a third time. However, he does plan to use the lessons he picked up on the campaign trail in his classes on constitutional law, politics and communications.
“Don’t let the suit fool you,” Tuman said. “I’m living on a teacher’s salary. My roots are in teaching.”
Between teaching and campaigning, Tuman worked as many as 80 hours a week this semester. He never graded papers while on the campaign trail or did campaigning work during his office hours.
“If there’s a day off, you put some time into that and you work on the weekends,” Tuman said. “Teaching days are calendared out, but I might do a debate in the evening. On weekends, I might be grading papers or campaigning.”Still, campaigning while teaching a full course load took its toll on Tuman, a centrist Democrat who considered himself an “outsider,” going up against several big name Oakland politicians.
“Whatever the word is for when you’re beyond exhausted, that’s what I am,” Tuman said. “I have a lot of 22 hour days. There have been some days when it feels like you’re a zombie. Your eyeballs hurt in your sockets. You lose your voice.”
Tuman also gained a new appreciation for the commute between San Francisco and Oakland that he makes every day.
“I’ve always liked that commute in a way, because it is a few moments I have to myself,” Tuman said. “I can actually listen to what I want or just sit and think. That’s why people drive cars even though public transit makes a lot more sense.”
Tuman grew up in Dallas, Texas as the son of Iranian immigrants. He started working in restaurants at age 12 and put himself through college by washing dishes and bussing tables, according to his campaign website. Since then, he has often juggled different responsibilities.
“We (teachers) manage that live work balance, or that work work balance,” Tuman said from his Telegraph Avenue campaign office.
Tuman said that the University was aware of his double life, but he was not sure if they would grant him a leave of absence to carry out his mayoral term if he won. As a tenured professor though, he said it was a possibility. Still, he did not often bring up his other full-time job while at school.
“He said it very clear in the beginning that he will not discuss his campaign in class, which I think is important,” said senior communications major Michael Kinson.
Although he has never held elected office before, Tuman has worked with City Hall through advocacy organizations like Make Oakland Better Now. He would like to use his experiences on the campaign trail to influence his time in the classroom.
“I think it would be absolutely fabulous to come back into a classroom, and not only have an academic sense of this but a personal experience as a politician,” Tuman said. “I love SF State.”