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700 Signatures and Counting!

Submitted by Staff on Wed, 11/09/1910 - 16:19

Current Departmental Endorsements: 

Sociology, Georgraphy, Math, Physics, Classics, Italian, Ecology and Evolution, English, Comparative Literature, the Graduate School of Education, the School of Communication and Information Sciences, Poilitical Science, Biomedical Engineering, and the Graduate Student Association...  

With Individual Signatures from graduate studnets and faculty in almost every dcepartment on the New Brunswick campus and across the Newark and Camden campuses. 

On November 9, 2016, TA-GA member-activists launched a message about an action campaign to address and correct the TA-GA Professional Development Fund. The administration mishandled the implementation and graduate student employees are organizing for a better solution in the last year of the Agreement with the RU administration.

Dear fellow graduate student employees:

It has been 2 years since Graduate Assistants and Teaching Assistants received a salary raise. During the last round of contract negotiations between Rutgers Administration and the AAUP-AFT in 2014, both parties settled upon the Professional Development Fund in lieu of an across-the-board salary raise for all TA/GAs. The Professional Development Fund (PDF) has been a failure in a variety of ways. We’re asking you today to sign and circulate a resolution in favor of a simple change to the way that PDF is executed, a resolution that would split the remaining 1.55 million dollars of PDF money equally between all eligible graduate student employees. Read the resolution here: Address and Correct TA-GA Professional Development Fund

There is a division between the AAUP-AFT and Rutgers Administration. Although both parties understood and agreed that graduate student employees need help supporting basic needs, including paying rent or purchasing groceries as well as conducting research or purchasing materials for research in order to further their academic progress, the administration abandoned the spirit of the PDF. In order to honor the needs of graduate student employees, the PDF was agreed upon with an understanding that students who apply for PDF have demonstrated the ways in which PDF would help them to continue and complete their graduate studies – whether that money was set aside for conference travel or groceries. However, the administration began to frame the PDF to graduate program directors and graduate student employees as strictly a “competition” with a lack of definition of what merited funds and what did not. As graduate student employees, we already compete for scarce resources – fueling a competitive and toxic atmosphere that actively discourages comradery and cohesion among departments. It was never the intention of the union to encourage further competition among graduate student employees. Rather, on the part of the TA/GA union, the PDF was intended to alleviate the working conditions that lead to unhealthy perceptions of self within academia by providing funds to improve our quality of life.

Perhaps the most significant failure of the PDF was that 226 applicants (45.2% of all applications submitted) were not even considered for review during the latest round of the program, Summer 2016. Additionally, rejection letters received by graduate student employees explained that their applications were not considered for review because their Graduate Program Director (GPD) did not rank their applications with the highest mark possible, even though GPDs were never informed that this would be the case. This act of negligence allowed the administration to completely shift blame away from the review board and onto GPDs, leading to tension within departments.

With all of this being said, your union, your fellow graduate student employees, encourage you to endorse the resolution, which addresses the failures of the PDF and offers a solution to the remaining PDF funds. Specifically, we’re asking for GSO and/or other bodies of graduate students to endorse the resolution on behalf of their department. Individual endorsements can be signed via the electronic petition, while department-wide endorsements of the resolution may be signed and scanned for emailing to the union at Union leaders will be readily available in the coming weeks to discuss the PDF resolution through meetings in your department in order to get feedback/ concerns as your department considers endorsing this resolution.

Unfortunately, the PDF has become a moniker for corporate structure at Rutgers: divisive competition, unsubstantiated criteria for merit, and opaqueness in how the administration deals with money, our money. As we prepare to enter into the next round of contract negotiations, it is crucial that we take time to address and correct the PDF.

What’s happening at Rutgers is being mirrored across the country. We are experiencing an important political moment in the United States surrounding the corporatization of the university system. The integrity of faculty, staff, undergraduates, and graduate students is under attack. Recently, Long Island University’s Brooklyn campus locked out faculty – terminating their healthcare, salaries, and access to university email accounts – three days following the end of their union contract. Similarly, Indiana University of Pennsylvania refused to offer a fair contract to faculty, resulting in the first faculty strike in Pennsylvania’s state university system history. As the end of our current contract nears, it is critical we begin to look forward to the kinds of demands we’d like to see the university fulfill, namely: a significant across-the-board salary raise for TA/GAs and tuition remission for graduate students without funding packages serving in PTL positions to make ends meet, and a variety of other demands that aim to raise the quality of life for Rutgers University workers.

A fight against the corporatization of the university cannot focus solely on the status of tenure-track faculty. Graduate students are the future of all universities. It is time we force Rutgers to set an example for the kinds of researchers and teachers it will offer the larger academic community and preserve our quality of life as workers. The administration chooses to misrepresent our graduate student employee status as one of privilege. But it is not a privilege to work tireless hours as a teaching instructor while also being expected to bring in prestigious research grants and produce dissertations that promote the grandeur of a university that pays us near-poverty wages. The status of graduate student employees at Rutgers University is not revolutionary.

We encourage people to download the resolution in order to discuss in your departments and units about signing the resolution. In addition, individuals may sign the resolution online at iPetitions.

If you have any questions, concerns, grievances, ideas for the upcoming contract campaign, or would like to get involved, please feel free to reach out to the AAUP-AFT or myself. Union leaders will also be readily available in the coming weeks to discuss the PDF resolution through meetings in your department in order to get you feedback/concerns as your department considers endorsing this resolution.

In Solidarity,

Ally Sobey
3rd Year PhD Student, Department of Geography
TA member-activist, TA-GA Steering Committee

Rutgers AAUP-AFT
11 Stone Street
New Brunswick, NJ 08901
Office phone: (732) 964-1000
Fax: (732) 954-1032
Main email:

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