My name is Lauren Barbato, and as a proud Rutgers-Newark graduate and co-founder of the Rutgers Adjuncts Rank-and-File Caucus, I’m ready to empower our Rutgers community—from Newark to Camden.
Working as a full-time adjunct composition professor across multiple New Jersey colleges, I've experienced firsthand the adjunctification of higher education. I’m in the unique position of working in a department composed almost entirely of contingent faculty. I’ve taught 5-5-1 teaching loads, and I’ve known many colleagues who’ve taught 7-7 or 8-8 loads. I reject the ideology that one is “not supposed to adjunct for a living.” All the adjuncts I’ve met and worked with at Rutgers are committed educators who put their highest efforts into their courses. Of course we don’t want to adjunct for a living, but we do want to teach for a living.
Rutgers adjuncts are not "part-time lecturers;" we are, largely and increasingly, full-time “part-timers” trying to cobble up a decent living for ourselves and our families. Yet universities like Rutgers administration continue to treat us like we’re teaching solely for fun and leisure and deny us basic rights: health benefits, a living wage, job security, paid sick leave, medical and disability accommodations, and office space. Often, we don’t know which rights and benefits we have, and we fail to be directed to these benefits from the chairs of our departments.
Our voices need to be fully represented and amplified at the bargaining table, executive board meetings, and across all three Rutgers campuses—particularly at Newark and Camden. We need to decentralize the current structure, which revolves around New Brunswick, and also implement a department representation structure that ensures adjuncts in all departments, on all campuses, have open communication with union leadership.
As a member organizer for the PTL union tasked with signing up new members, I was heartened not only by the energy I saw, but also the diverse skills and life experience each one of us brings to the table. I’ve continued to organize, meet and strategize with Rutgers adjuncts as a founding member of the Rutgers Adjuncts Rank-and-File Caucus. We’ve started a conversation, raised concerns, and placed the seeds for further on-the-ground mobilization. Most importantly, we’ve established a community of adjuncts from Newark to Camden that’s continuing to grow.
Over the last few months, I’ve also organized with adjunct organizers at the City University of New York, and saw the results of powerful on-the-ground mobilization. I believe we should continue building toward a cross-campus, interstate adjunct coalition to bolster our leverage, further hold universities accountable, and foster a supportive network of adjuncts in the tri-state area.
In addition to my work with the union and the caucus, I’ve been involved with the reproductive rights and progressive Catholic movements for many years, and have organized everything from local protests to national campaigns. I currently work as an activist with the nonprofit Call to Action, and recently authored a book for Catholics for Choice. I hope to bring these grassroots mobilizing, writing, and media skills to my officer position.