Deepa and David sent this welcome message to union members on September 8, 2017:
Dear Union Members:
Welcome to campus and to the Fall semester. The Union has had a very busy summer. Rather than update you in the midst of it, we are writing now with a round-up of progress since the end of Spring classes on various fronts. Please take a minute to read the summaries below and follow the links for details on those subjects which interest you most: DACA student defense, graduate professional development fund, defense of funding for undergraduate students in need of financial aid (EOF program), career advancement for PTLs, university policy on public political expression, tenure, promotion and reappointment cases update, renewable energy, fighting the rise of neo-Nazis, and SAS restructuring.
Incidentally, we are looking for department representatives – members willing to pass info along at department meetings and collect input from colleagues. Your department may already have such a person. If not – and if you are interested in serving the faculty in this way - please respond to Sherry Wolf at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Deepa and David
Carimer Andujar, DACA student
Having founded UndocuRutgers, the student group advocating immigrants’ access to higher education, Carimer knew she would face extra scrutiny from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). In April, her DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) status expired, leaving her vulnerable to deportation. The Union rallied public support, and Carimer appeared on radio, TV and in the newspapers. Approximately 300 students, faculty, and members of the public accompanied Carimer to her interview with the ICE deportation officer in Newark on May 9th. As it has in other cases, ICE paid heed to this outcry and restored Carimer’s DACA protections. Stay tuned here, however, as Trump seems intent on ending DACA protections and rolling back immigration reforms affecting hundreds of Rutgers students and tens of thousands throughout New Jersey.
Graduate Professional Development Fund (PDF)
Last summer, the uneven – sometimes capricious – distribution of these funds created financial hardships and uncertainty for the TAs and GAs who applied. Last spring, graduate students organized a successful campaign to pressure the Administration to change the criteria for distribution, resulting in an almost uniform award. All but a handful applicants qualified for $925 towards research and expenses. The Administration sent grads award letters in early June, with the “summer” money to follow shortly. Unfortunately, for almost all recipients, no check arrived in grad mailboxes until September 5th -- the first day of classes. Checks also only arrived that quickly as a result of the concerted efforts and petition-drive run by graduate students. In fact, we are still waiting for full confirmation that all checks have been received. The administration addressed this egregious delay in two apology letters from University Treasurer Michael Gower and University President Barchi, but ultimately blamed the delay on an error from the new Cornerstone payroll system. Apparently, that software cannot handle one-off payments of this sort. Does this sound familiar? It should because Cornerstone has been the excuse from the administration for countless check delays, failures to pay staff their raises, and etc. This isn't just an exhausted excuse, it's a pattern of disrespect for all workers here at Rutgers. Moving forward, grads are building beyond PDF and developing their demands for the 2018 contract negotiations, if you are a graduate student please fill out this survey to help us build those demands.
Student financial aid
In February, Governor Christie cut the immensely effective Educational Opportunity Fund (EOF) by $3.565 million from the State budget for fiscal year 2018. This statewide program supports low-income, first-generation students from educationally disadvantaged backgrounds who succeed through the support of a dedicated counselor. There are thousands of Rutgers students in the program and their counselors are our members and colleagues. The Union went to Trenton and organized a press conference with supporting legislators, and with EOF students and their EOF counselors. As a result of that action, Governor Christie signed the new budget which restored the cut and added $1.435 million to the fund. With Phil Murphy, the Democratic candidate for governor, the Union will shortly explore ways of substantially increasing EOF.
Part-time lecturers, you may recall, signed their contract a little less than two years ago. One of its provisions created a joint “labor-management committee” regarding teaching evaluation and career advancement. The committee – on which representatives of the full-time faculty also served – investigated various models inside and outside Rutgers. In June, it submitted its recommendations. They envision peer-driven reviews of teaching – supplementing the current, student-driven surveys – leading towards greater job security for qualified PTLs. Since the Administration’s negotiators have endorsed these ideas, we hope to see them validated as PTLs bargain their next contract (alongside full-time faculty) in 2018.
The Contract Enforcement/Grievance staff responded to individual faculty concerns over the summer while overseeing the ongoing implementation of our contract. Staff provided representation to members at investigatory interviews by the Office of Employment Equity as well as disciplinary meetings at the departmental and/or dean’s level. Complaints related to the Compensation Review Program were resolved after we identified contractual violations in three New Brunswick units, resulting in a negotiated agreement with the administration regarding future implementation of the program. Five tenure-track faculty who were denied promotion filed appeals through the expedited process. One was promoted as a result of the appeal and one packet was remanded for re-review. Several tenured and tenure-track faculty will pursue grievances this semester. Additional grievances challenging the outcomes of reappointment evaluations for non-tenure track faculty were also filed.
Last winter, the Executive Council voted to endorse the platform of Jersey Renews. This coalition of labor, environmental, and faith groups is promoting investment in wind and solar energy, as a means of mitigating climate change. We now hold a position on the steering committee and have played a role in planning its public events, including, a press conference in August in support of offshore wind turbines [LINK TO ]. If so inclined, please sign the Jersey Renews petition to support clean energy in New Jersey.
Charlottesville shocked all of us. Our local has a national reputation for combatting hate and promoting on- and off-campus diversity. Hence, the head office of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) asked us to write the manual on that topic. In very short order, our senior organizer, Sherry Wolf, helped produce “Fighting white nationalism on campus: a guide for AFT locals”. This document is now in circulation among hundreds of school districts, colleges, and universities and will surely play a role in what comes next wherever it comes.
As a slow burn all summer, deans of the New Brunswick School of Arts and Sciences (SAS) began releasing details of a plan to “realign” the administrative staff of departments within the school. In fact, they released very little information but did suggest that staff would, in future, report, first and foremost to the Dean’s Office and, secondarily, to department chairs. A number of chairs – concerned about the impact on governance, functionality, and collegiality – wrote to Executive Dean Peter March on August 3rd seeking clarification. They received none; so on August 30th, a group of SAS faculty – assisted by the Union – alerted their colleagues across the School. Their message directed faculty to a petition calling for Peter March to convene and appear at an extraordinary meeting of the SAS faculty. By the next day, 160 people (21% of the school) had signed the petition, and Dean March agreed to the meeting on restructuring. Late in that afternoon, he even responded to the original chairs’ letter.
SAS faculty, please stay tuned for more announcements as that meeting is scheduled. Folks in other schools, stay tuned as well. This type of reorganization – which would appear to undercut the autonomy of chairs - may come your way soon.