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Next Steps: Post-Women's March on Washington

Submitted by Staff on Thu, 01/26/2017 - 17:18

On January 26, 2017, President David M. Hughes and Vice President Deepa Kumar sent a follow-up message to union members in the full-time bargaining unit (tenured, tenure-track, and non-tenure track full-time faculty and graduate student employees):

Next Steps: Post-Women's March on Washington

Dear Colleagues,

We have made it through a week of the Trump administration. The president has already provoked stiff resistance. Perhaps surprisingly – given Trump’s seeming imperviousness to criticism - that resistance is making a difference. Our Union is doing its part. Read on if you want to hear more, or skip to the closing section (bolded) for suggestions for how you may become more involved in our Union.

Half a million people marched in Washington, DC on Saturday 21 January. Nationwide, millions joined in women’s marches, plus another million overseas [Democracy Now reports a total of 4.6 million globally.] Our union hired seven buses, carrying 337 members, family, and friends to Washington, and many other members got themselves to the Mall in other ways or marched in New York or other local events. This is what democracy looks like! [Photos will be posted to our Union website soon.]

As you may recall, the Union initially cited three University-wide concerns: Trump’s treatment of DACA students, his disavowal of knowledge, and his failure to address the problem of student debt. On each of these fronts, various organizations and individuals have already begun to blunt the impact of Trump:

1. Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA): For DACA students, student and faculty activists pressed President Barchi to establish the legal protections of a sanctuary campus. He did so in December. Now, President Trump is hesitating to abolish DACA, perhaps long enough for Congress to pass a “Bridge Act” that would offer the same protections to child immigrants brought here by their parents (some of whom are now enrolled at Rutgers). President Barchi is now facilitating the involvement of students in a petition in favor of the Bridge Act. Please consider signing the petition that he is advertising.

2.   Disavowal of Knowledge: Regarding knowledge and anti-intellectualism, Trump’s administration immediately careened into the weeds of debate on the size of inauguration crowds – and, by extension, on the nature of facts. Of greater consequence, public pressure has forced Rex Tillerson to concede that climate change is real and is caused by human industry. Science is not dead yet, although Trump seems to want to gag it at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In response, scientists are planning a march on Washington. We are in full support of this effort.

3.   Student Loan Debt: Regarding student debt, Trump has said and done nothing. But, Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York recently announced his support for free tuition in public colleges for families earning less than $125,000 per year. The legislature in Albany may or may not appropriate funds for this bold initiative. Already though, New York has changed the national conversation – and sense of possibility – regarding the restoration of higher education as a public good.

Admittedly, we write with what the economist Albert Hirschman called “a bias for hope.” The horizon for teaching and scholarship in the United States darkened somewhat on Inauguration Day. Yet opposition is already coalescing and, indeed, academics and others are presenting arguments and forging alliances that did not exist before. The Women’s March was only the beginning.

Your Union as Your Vehicle for Activism
Many of you will doubtless want to initiate or deepen your political involvement under and against Trump’s presidency. We encourage you to consider the Union as your vehicle for this activism.

  • We will soon hold chapter meetings in Camden, Newark, and New Brunswick. Please watch for those announcements. New Brunswick's first 2017 chapter meeting announcement is here.
  • Also, a number of working groups are now underway: Equity; Academic Freedom; and Contract Enforcement.
  • Please contact Sherry Wolf (swolf@rutgersaaup.org) if you would like to join one of the working groups or if you would like to serve as department representative.

As a sphere of ungagged discourse, Academia has long preserved tolerance, heterodoxy, and dissent. Let’s keep things that way. Now more than ever, we need to be a united, vigilant, and engaged Rutgers faculty.

In solidarity,
David and Deepa

David M. Hughes
Professor of Anthropology, SAS-New Brunswick
President, Rutgers AAUP-AFT faculty union

Deepa Kumar
Associate Professor of Journalism & Media Studies, SC&I-New Brunswick
Vice-President, Rutgers AAUP-AFT faculty union

Rutgers AAUP-AFT
11 Stone Street
New Brunswick, NJ 08901
Office phone: (732) 964-1000
Fax: (732) 964-1032
Main union email: aaup@rutgersaaup.org

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