Dear Union Members,
As I wrote to you last month, our faculty Union has been engaging for more than a year with candidates for the New Jersey governorship. Chris Christie’s successor will take the helm of policy areas critical to our interests: access to higher education, fair compensation, and the governance of Rutgers. And the new governor will likely improve significantly upon Christie’s sorry record. Under the auspices of the Higher Education Leadership Council, I met with Phil Murphy and his staff in January. On campus, the Union hosted John Wisniewski and Raymond Lesniak (the latter of whom actually stood us up). We also sent a delegation to the AFT statewide conference on 31 March and 1 April, to which all of these candidates, as well as Jim Johnson and Seth Kaper-Dale of the Green Party were invited. (Lesniak canceled his appearance on very short notice). No Republican candidate for Governor returned the AFT-NJ survey so none was considered. In short, we conducted a prolonged, detailed, and personal review of the candidates in the Democratic primary. Those directly involved in this process submitted their judgments to our union’s Executive Council at its meeting on 11 April.
After a robust discussion about the state of public education and the merits and demerits of endorsing Phil Murphy, the Executive Council voted to support him as the Democratic nominee for governor. The text appended below explains the reasons for our decision. I delivered these remarks at a news conference with Phil Murphy, with leaders of our Union and of other Rutgers unions, and with student activists at the Union office (11 Stone Street, off College Ave.) at 10:30am on Wednesday 19 April.
Let me end by summarizing a long discussion within the Executive Council. Its members expressed enthusiasm for Phil Murphy on two grounds: 1) the progressiveness of his policies (again, see the text below for more information and, of course, see https://www.murphy4nj.com); and 2) his eagerness to consult with our Union and its sister bodies at the other state colleges and universities in respect of those issues. A full year ago, Phil Murphy sent three staff members to the BOG’s tuition hearing. His team reached out to the Higher Education Leadership Council. Under a Murphy administration, we anticipate a significant role for faculty in crafting reforms to make Rutgers and other institutions more affordable to students, more transparent in their governance, and fairer as employers.
The Executive Council was not unanimous in this assessment, however. Some wished to delay an endorsement until Murphy formalizes his "free higher education" plan and/or to maintain the option of endorsing Green candidate Seth Kaper-Dale in the general election. We did not delay the endorsement, as you see, but we have restricted it very explicitly to the Democratic primary election.
In the early fall, the Executive Council will meet again to consider the winner of that contest, alongside Green candidate Seth Kaper-Dale and the Republican nominee.
Therefore, I encourage you to vote on Tuesday 6 June for Phil Murphy. If you will be away from home on that date, you may request an absentee ballot here - http://www.njelections.org/voting-information-vote-by-mail.html. This is an important election for faculty and for Rutgers. The governor appoints the majority of the members of our Board of Governors. More specifically, at this time, President Trump has threatened science, DACA students, Muslim faculty, and the entire position of the university as a reservoir of free thought. The next governor of New Jersey can resist him with us as we protect one another. Vote!
"On behalf of the more than 5000 members of the Rutgers AAUP-AFT faculty union, we are very pleased to appear here on the steps of our union hall to endorse Ambassador Phil Murphy as the Democratic nominee for governor of New Jersey. We stand with Phil because Phil stands with us on the critical issues facing higher education and the labor movement. Specifically, Phil stands with the academic labor movement on our major issues:
1. College affordability: Phil supports state financial aid for DACA students. He opposes Governor Christie’s cut of $3.565 million to the Educational Opportunity Fund. Indeed, Phil has joined us in calling for an expansion of EOF to make Rutgers and other colleges a real possibility in the lives of low-income New Jerseyans. Phil also knows what not to advocate. He has joined with us in opposition to the notorious 3+1 plan, a format that would allow a student to earn a Rutgers degree with only 30 credits from Rutgers.
Let me say a further word here about affordable higher education. Phil understands that a college degree is a public as well as private good. Our students come here to advance their education and employment as individuals and as members of their families and their communities. They also come to Rutgers to gain the knowledge necessary to participate fully in our democracy. Phil understands that public colleges and universities should promote the political and economic enfranchisement of the broadest possible swathe of New Jersey’s residents. Phil also understands that – with a $13,000 tuition bill – Rutgers cannot fulfill that mission.
So I look forward to working with Phil and his staff on a pathway toward making Rutgers and all the state colleges and universities tuition-free for as many of us as possible.
2. Sanctuary for DACA students and others. Phil has endorsed the call for New Jersey to become a sanctuary state. He is offering the strongest protections for all of our students and communities, our undocumented students in particular, that any governor can provide.
3. Pay equity for adjunct faculty. Phil supports this too. As he understands, a part-time lecturer at Rutgers should not earn only $5000 for the course that her full-time equivalent would earn $8000 to teach. Faculty with similar preparation and experience should receive equal pay.
4. Governance: Phil supports the appointment of one or more faculty governors with voting rights in our Board of Governors. Especially at a time when academic freedom and tenure hang in the balance, faculty need a seat at the table of power. Phil would also like to see a university term bill that itemizes all expenses, including athletic expenses – with a report-back from the Administration to students and their families as to how tuition and fees were spent.
5. Supporting the principles of the Affordable Care Act - universal coverage and affordable costs. No resident of New Jersey should be without coverage or have anxiety over their coverage and its cost. As educators and health care providers and innovators, we look forward to working with the next Governor. We’re confident that health care coverage and retirement security will be priorities under Governor Murphy.
6. And finally, Phil is fighting for 15. He supports a minimum living wage – including for our student workers – of $15 per hour statewide, no exceptions."
David M. Hughes
President, Rutgers AAUP-AFT
Professor of Anthropology, SAS-New Brunswick
11 Stone Street
New Brunswick, NJ 08901
Phone: (732) 964-1000
Fax: (732) 964-1032