Takeaway: By issuing a hiring freeze on PTLs and ordering departments to cut PTL budgets by 20 percent or more, Rutgers management has needlessly created a teaching shortage for the fall while punishing the vulnerable among our colleagues. The administration has left departments with few choices other than cutting needed courses and increasing class sizes, even though best practices for quality online teaching indicate that smaller class sizes are warranted. As members of Rutgers AAUP-AFT, we must stand in solidarity with our PTL colleagues who have been laid off, saving the university little money while inflicting enormous financial harm on PTLs. We propose below a series of steps that members can take to support our colleagues and serve the best interests of our students while our union formally contests these egregious attacks.
The administration’s refusal to accept a people-centered approach and negotiate a progressive furlough plan with our union and the Coalition of Rutgers Unions (CRU) has resulted in ill-timed and disorganized austerity measures, which have ultimately left many of our fellow workers without jobs or health care during a global pandemic. Notably, 20% of part-time lecturers have lost their jobs and will not be teaching this fall.
The Barchi administration’s decisions have put those returning to teach in the fall in a difficult position. Despite management’s initial claims, student enrollments have stayed relatively stable, which means management is relying on full-time faculty and graduate teaching assistants to pick up the slack by increasing their own workloads.
As a union we have demanded negotiations over any attempts to increase workload for our members. We are also prepared to file grievances and take legal action if necessary to ensure reasonable and rational work requirements that are in the best interest of our students. Academic departments should not be forced to make one bad choice after another just to compensate for bad decision-making by holdovers from the Barchi administration at the highest levels of central administration.
As faculty and union members, we should stand in solidarity with PTL faculty by refusing to bail management out of a needlessly manufactured teaching crisis. The Rutgers AAUP-AFT leadership is encouraging all full-time unit members to collectively take the following actions:
- Don’t automatically grant Special Permission Numbers in over-enrolled courses. When communicating with students about this, we recommend using the following language: “This semester I will not be providing Special Permission Numbers to students seeking to enroll in my courses beyond their listed capacity. This is harmful to enrolled students given the scarcity of instructional resources provided by management. In April 2020, Rutgers management laid off 20% of its Part-Time Lecturers for the fall semester, even though the combined total cost of these instructors’ salaries is approximately $4 million — what head football coach Greg Schiano is making every year. I stand in solidarity with my laid-off coworkers and believe that management should be responsible for addressing the consequences of its actions. If you are interested in learning more about these issues, I encourage you to read this op-ed by a Rutgers undergrad. I also encourage you to write to President Holloway and let him know that you are frustrated that Part-Time Lecturers have been laid off, leading to course overcrowding. President Holloway can be contacted here.”
- Express strong opposition to assignments flowing from the layoffs of PTLs. This includes teaching courses with increased class sizes, courses regularly taught by PTLs in your department, or courses you would not otherwise teach.
- Encourage department chairs and program directors to reach out to management about their difficulty in accommodating students and staffing course instructors.
- Include the following language with all Rutgers’ work emails as part of your signature at the bottom or as an auto-response: “As a member of Rutgers AAUP-AFT, I stand in solidarity with all laid-off workers at Rutgers. They have been sacrificed to management’s unnecessary austerity measures, which were carried out unilaterally and without transparency. I believe that the administration has an obligation to respect and protect its lowest-paid, most vulnerable employees. For more information on this subject, please visit: https://www.rutgersaaup.org/how-were-confronting-the-crisis/”
For our colleagues with tenure: Tenure affords us protections that practically no other workforce enjoys. It also obligates us, as full members of University governance, to speak up and push back against decisions that harm the University and our students. Taking the above actions will send a clear message that faculty take these responsibilities seriously.
Members are encouraged to contact their department union representatives with questions or additional suggestions about how we can stand in solidarity with PTLs and resist unnecessary overcrowding in our classes. If you are not sure who your representatives are, please email us at email@example.com.
Todd and Becky
Todd Wolfson, President, Rutgers AAUP-AFT
Rebecca Givan, Vice President, Rutgers AAUP-AFT
Rutgers AAUP-AFT Facebook page: https://facebook.com/RUaaup/
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Find the latest messages to members and union statements here.
Read how Rutgers AAUP-AFT is confronting the crisis here.