Rutgers Administration Refuses to Provide No-Cost Access to Health Care for Adjunct Professors During COVID-19 Emergency
New Brunswick, NJ – On March 11, the Executive Board of the Rutgers PTLFC-AAUP-AFT (the union representing nearly 3,000 adjunct faculty across three campuses of the university) sent a letter to Rutgers University President Robert Barchi urging the administration to provide its adjunct faculty (called “part-time lecturers” or PTLs) with immediate access to University health care facilities and additional compensation during the COVID-19 crisis. In response, a spokesperson for Rutgers’ administration announced there will be no changes to current benefits or compensation for adjunct faculty or other instructors.
During this COVID-19 emergency, Rutgers’ administration has called upon all faculty, including adjunct faculty, to deliver course instruction remotely. Adjunct instructors/PTLs–who teach over 30% of RU courses, including many of the largest classes at the university–must convert their courses without any additional compensation for extra work.
Rutgers adjunct faculty/PTLs work closely with thousands of Rutgers students and staff each day. Unlike other universities in the region, Rutgers does not provide health insurance or any health care assistance to its adjunct faculty, and many adjunct instructors are uninsured. The decision to deny adjunct faculty access to health benefits and university-run health services not only puts adjuncts at immediate risk during this crisis, but also unnecessarily endangers students, staff, and anyone else with whom adjunct instructors come into contact.
Amy J. Higer, Vice President of the PTLFC-AAUP-AFT Newark Campus Chapter, says: “We know the University is working under great pressure to plan for all possible scenarios of COVID-19. We’re working hard to ensure our students’ education is not disrupted. But we’re also aware of PTLs’ unique position at the university. We are pieceworkers, paid per course, without health care benefits and with little job security. The University has now made it abundantly clear that it does not value the health and well-being of nearly 3,000 of its employees and those with whom we work. This is a short-sighted, unconscionable response to our very reasonable demands.”
The Rutgers PTLFC-AAUP-AFT continues to demand that the university immediately takes the following steps:
- Provide all Rutgers adjunct faculty/PTLs who are teaching this spring with access to Rutgers Health Care Clinics, without cost;
- Provide immediate access to Rutgers health clinics and free testing and treatment to all employees regardless of health insurance status or job title;
- Include a representative of the PTLFC Executive Board on its COVID-19 task force;
- Ensure that adjunct faculty/PTLs receive full pay for the spring semester, even if work schedules are disrupted in response to the virus;
- Compensate adjunct faculty/PTLs fairly for the extra time, work, and expenses incurred in order to quickly switch to distance learning technologies;
- Provide paid sick leave to all adjunct faculty/PTLs, as well as staff, students, and non-student workers; and
- Collaborate with adjunct faculty/PTLs to develop a new student evaluation process for the spring semester, as students may understandably but incorrectly hold adjunct instructors responsible for disruptions to their learning that are out of adjuncts’ control. (Rutgers now uses adjunct teaching evaluations as part of the basis for decisions about reappointment and professional promotion.)
Secretary of the PTLFC-AAUP-AFT, David Winters, commented, “As representatives of the adjunct community at Rutgers, we not only call upon Rutgers to address our own immediate needs in this crisis, but we stand in solidarity with other Rutgers’ community members, including students and staff, who are currently facing displacement, lost wages, and unsafe working conditions. We’re all in this together and now’s the time for the administration to start acting like it.”