Union members were ready to speak out against layoffs and cutbacks at the October 7 Board of Governors meeting—until BoG chair Mark Angelson broke out a new rule designed to silence us. Many of our coworkers made themselves heard anyway. Here, we publish a collection of the statements that members of PTLFC-AAUP-AFT, URA-AFT, and Rutgers AAUP-AFT prepared for the public comment section. You’ll find more statements here and here.
Part-Time Lecturer, Political Science, New Brunswick
My name is Heather Pierce, and I am a PTL in the Department of Political Science in New Brunswick and a member of the executive board of the PTL union. I am here today to speak for my PTL colleagues and for our students. My message is simple: By laying off adjunct faculty, you are harming our students.
Like many PTLs, I have a PhD. I’ve published research in top peer-reviewed journals in my field, and most importantly, I’ve dedicated my life to gaining the skills and experience necessary to be a good educator. I am no less qualified than our full-time research faculty to teach at this institution, and yet I’m treated as second class. PTLs are the teaching faculty of Rutgers. We are top-notch teaching specialists, and we deserve to be treated as such.
There is a robust literature in education research demonstrating the inverse relationship between class size and quality of education, which is even stronger for online learning. By cutting 25 percent of PTL courses this fall and funneling students into fewer, larger classes, you have already diminished the quality of the Rutgers education. These recent cuts only serve to reinforce this harm. We know this isn’t really about the budget, and while I support the “de-adjunctification” of academia, this is not the way to do it.
By treating PTLs as disposable, you are signaling to our students that you don’t care about the quality of their education. The fact that PTLs are undervalued, underpaid, and without health insurance or job security tells our students that you, as an employer, don’t even value the very education you are charging them tens of thousands of dollars for every year. If you did, you would compensate PTLs fairly for their own educational experiences. If you are unwilling to pay a fair price for the product you are selling, why should anyone else? What message do you think this sends to our students?
Our students deserve better. I call on you to do what is right for them and for the reputation of Rutgers: reverse the recent layoffs, rescind the hiring freeze as it relates to PTLs and restore the courses that have been cut, and start treating PTLs with the respect they deserve.
Associate Professor, History, New Brunswick
I’m going to speak to agenda item 11. I’m very concerned about the proposed layoffs to the Writing Program, which affects our most vulnerable academic workers. This is even more problematic given the restoration in state funding of nearly $100 million being added to our budget. As a member of the AAUP-AFT, it it was remarkable to see our Legislative Committee successfully lobby for the restoration of our funding.
I want to speak to a question of priorities. With this $100 million, it’s important to also send a message to the New Jersey legislature that this money will be used to preserve people’s jobs.
Alicia Picone Rodriguez
Senior Administrative Assistant, Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute, New Brunswick
My name is Alicia Picone, and I come to you today as a staff member, a current student, a graduate, a parent, and a true Scarlet Knight from a Rutgers family. I am also a member of URA-AFT, speaking to Item 11. I hope you are all well and safe.
President Holloway speaks of a “beloved community.” Staff are a vital part of that community, involved in all aspects of the university, from faculty support to student services. We have a significant role in maintaining the excellent reputation Rutgers has throughout the state, the country, and the world. While much of our work is behind the scenes, faculty, students, and even parents can attest to their reliance on us to get things done. We are a big reason for “Rutgers Pride.”
I maintain that employee layoffs are unnecessary when we, as union members, advocated to the state in order to provide the restoration of appropriations and funding. We are all aware of the great financial reserves and significant borrowing power that the university has.
We realize that this is an unprecedented time, and the economic environment right now is frightening. But layoffs affect the most vulnerable among us, putting many of us, some with long careers at the university, in a situation without income, health insurance, and/or tuition benefits. As New Jersey residents and consumers, this has far-reaching economic implications.
Throughout this crisis, we have diligently been working to do our jobs effectively, many from remote locations, and we have “risen to the occasion” to maintain the high level of service and education for which Rutgers is known. No one should be laid off. The layoffs that have been implemented should be rescinded, and no further layoffs should be implemented.
We are Rutgers—the staff, the faculty, the students. We are the university. Rutgers should not be the reason people are devastated during the pandemic. Thank you for listening and please stay safe.
Part-Time Lecturer, School of Communication and Information, New Brunswick.
I’m the Vice President of the Part-Time Lecturers union. I’m also a member of the University Senate and the New Brunswick Faculty Council. I’m speaking to the proposed resolution on the appointment of Prabhas Moghe as Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs.
I’d like to take this opportunity to suggest to Mr. Moghe, President Holloway, and the Board of Governors that Rutgers is in urgent need of major, structural, democratic reforms. The COVID crisis and our top administrative personnel’s response to it have made tragically evident the blind spots that are created by the centralized, top-down decision-making structure built up by President Barchi.
If the current administration wants to demonstrate a commitment to collaboration and community, then all of the hiring freezes and layoffs need to be rescinded, courses removed from the schedule need to be restored, course caps need to be reduced, and Part-Time Lecturers who seek full-time employment need to be given full-time, non-tenure-track contracts.
The Strategic Plan developed before President Holloway arrived needs to be tossed out and a new planning process, involving the entire Rutgers community from beginning to end, needs to begin immediately. It is inappropriate and ineffective for a half dozen or so administrative personnel to plan Rutgers’ future on their own. It doesn’t matter who those half dozen people are or how incredible they may or may not be.
Faculty, students, staff, essential workers, and community leaders working together to guide Rutgers into its future: that’s Rutgers. We are Rutgers, and we don’t need an Office of Strategy devising effective ways to tell us we’re beloved while it’s also devising effective ways to lay us off.
If we’re going to be a beloved community, we must certainly first be a democratic community where co-governance and co-determination are our common sense. I hope Mr. Moghe will agree and, assuming his appointment is successful, will work on an equal footing with the Rutgers community towards these universally beneficial goals.
Administrative Coordinator, School of Arts and Sciences, Newark
I came here today to make an appeal not just to the Board on agenda item 11 but to you directly, President Halloway.
I ask you, sir: what do words like equity, phrases like Black Lives Matter, and even US history mean to you? I regularly find myself wondering how you could not be aware of all that I have seen in my short time working here? The fact is the words and phrases I just mentioned cannot mean much when the first to the chopping block are those who make up the least of us, historically speaking.
The layoffs URA have suffered have been overwhelmingly women and women of color. Those layoffs severed these human beings from access to quality health care during a global pandemic. These and future layoffs further impoverish a workforce that is already overworked and underpaid, overstressed and unappreciated. The university claims to be considerate of working families yet the level of stress we experience every day while trying to do our jobs—and, in most cases, educate and care for our children—has produced serious health issues for many, myself included.
Instead of cutting the bloated salaries of our already overpopulated executive staff, you created three new positions. Instead of using COVID as an excuse to renegotiate the poorly conceived contracts you have with the football coaches and/or restructuring the university to better serve students and treat your workers with at least a shred of dignity, you instead seem to be using COVID as an excuse to once again restructure the university for the economic benefit of those at the top.
You reportedly said that you wish to negotiate with the CRU in a respectable and mutually beneficial way, yet you still retain the services of Jackson Lewis whose own history of hostility toward unions is notorious. How can we negotiate respectfully if you have brought a gun to what should be a meeting of mutually respected colleagues?
We work longer hours now and have to pay for our own supplies, which the university refuses to reimburse us for, while experiencing a dramatic increase in home utility bills, a byproduct of working from home, which makes the freezing of our raises another serious issue. Please keep in mind that in two minutes, I cannot accurately articulate everything else that has accompanied these few examples of hyper-exploitation and historically racist and misogynistic trends, of which there is plenty more to speak!
The median income level in New Jersey is around $79,000 a year, and yet most of us make around $34,000 a year after deductions, only $1,000 more than when I drove a tow truck as my job for 22 years before getting my masters degree in US history from this institution, a decision that on the whole has not improved the life of my family or myself. In fact, I still have to drive the tow truck on weekends because this institution pays so poorly.
The fact is, sir, the vast majority of our staff are overqualified and underpaid and the negative historical trends both you and I are well aware of continue apace. Shame! In closing I will offer some advice to you President Holloway: the university only works if we the members of URA work And so, too, for our comrades in the CRU. Change our history, President Holloway, don’t repeat it.