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Ten Key Developments Over the Summer

Submitted by Staff on Tue, 09/06/2016 - 11:35

The shape of the corporate university has become clearer over the summer. Now, together we will preserve Rutgers as a vibrant, diverse - even unruly - space of creativity, criticism, and learning!

On September 6, 2016, President David M Hughes sent a message to union members detailing the 10 most significant developments and successes over the summer.

Dear Colleagues:

Welcome to the Fall semester. I hope you all enjoyed the summer. In the interests of not disturbing any holidays – or super-productive research time – I refrained from sending all but a couple messages. Now, I am writing to update you on the ten most significant developments and successes achieved since the end of classes in May. They are listed below. Let me thank the Union’s amazing staff and activist members for making this progress possible.

In the main, the shape of the corporate university has become clearer over the summer – as did the strategies necessary to preserve the Rutgers we value. Under the Barchi administration, Old Queens is imposing standards, measures, and means of control. And the Administration is doing so outside – and often in direct violation of – the standards of shared governance enshrined in our strategic plan and in agreements much older than that. In collaboration with the private firm Academic Analytics, Old Queens has sought to narrow and redefine (by “benchmarking”) our scholarship. Even when the Administration supports the fullness of academic life, it often cuts corners, paying PTLs, for instance, far less than their vital contribution warrants. Over the summer, the Union fought back against such moves that would make us mere cogs in an article-publishing, grant-getting, tuition-mining, credit-dispensing machine.  

Please review the list of our summer activities below. As you will see, a number of issues remain unresolved. Office 365, the new email platform, threatens to change the shape of our scholarly lives quite profoundly, and I will email you shortly on that subject. I would love to work with you on any one of our efforts. If you feel the same way, please do not hesitate to respond to this message. Together, as a Union, we can preserve Rutgers as a vibrant, diverse – even unruly – space of creativity, criticism, and learning.

In solidarity,
David M Hughes
President, Rutgers AAUP-AFT
Professor, Anthropology (SAS-New Brunswick)

1.    On 10 May, faculty of the Graduate School, New Brunswick voted 114 to 2 against the use of Academic Analytics. The resolution and press coverage are here: https://www.insidehighered.com/news/.... In response, NB Chancellor Richard Edwards promised to share the database with faculty. Since he has failed to do so, I will be emailing you shortly with a request that you join in the Union’s next move.

2.    The contract enforcement team handled many grievances and other concerns of individual faculty members. One of the more consequential ones centered on an undergraduate who complained against a professor for introducing the topic of race in an “inappropriate context.” The course concerned urban life in the US, and the student seemed to want to avoid a troubling or conflictual topic. The Union represented this faculty member in his successful defense. In so doing, we preserved academic freedom against the conversion of classrooms into what have been called “safe spaces.”

3.    At the start of Year 2 of the contract (a year ago), a very complicated issue arose. The Administration wished to deny faculty on temporary calendar year appointments the permanent enjoyment of the $2345 raise. Old Queens wished effectively to cut that raise by 15% as chairs and so on rotated out of these positions. We fought to interpret the raise as an addition to the base salary, brought the matter to arbitration, and have won an agreement-in-principle to honor the full raise for these faculty. We are now negotiating over the exact list of affected individuals.

4.    Year 3 of the contract began on 1 July. As per the contract, most full-time faculty received a salary raise of 2.125%. Those non-tenure track faculty who earned the minimum salary of $50,000 last year (up from $39,058 only two years before that) got a healthy 10% raise to $55,000. For these teachers, in other words, wages have leapt up 41% in three years!

5.   In the Spring, the Union joined with the Rutgers One Coalition to demand at reduction in tuition (-2.50% for the 250th anniversary). We won what you might call a very partial victory. After publicly acknowledging pressure from us, the Board of Governors voted in July on a 1.7% increase, less than the 2.4% that has become customary, but a long way from the rollback we sought. Presumably, the Administration will apply its $74 million surplus (almost 7% of aggregate tuition) from the fiscal 2015 operating budget towards purposes deemed more pressing than affordable higher education

6.     Also in the cause of maintaining and expanding access to Rutgers, the Union defeated Governor Christie’s effort to cut financial aid. In February, he proposed a cut of $2.6 million to the Educational Opportunity Fund (EOF), a source of grants for low-income, first-generation students and of salaries for their dedicated advisors (25 of whom work at Rutgers and belong to this union). In late May, the Union and a number of State Senators organized a press conference in the State House with nearly 100 counselors and students. As a result of that event, the State Senate and Assembly voted to restore the cut and actually to add $1 million to the EOF budget for this fiscal year. In the meantime, Governor Christie has held back this total of $3.6 million in a political dispute with the legislature, causing further harm to these students, our programs, and public higher ed.

7.    The Graduate School, New Brunswick finalized the awards of professional development funds early in summer. The contract obligated that body to review every application from a graduate student and to disburse approximately $400,000 across the university. The administration complied with the latter clause but reviewed only a fraction of the applications (those rated by graduate program directors as “Outstanding”). The Union has pushed for a full review and for more funds in order to award meritorious scholars. We succeeded in the Department of Physics and Astronomy (New Brunswick), where the Administration had initially given no grants but, in July, conceded to 13 grants. We are now preparing a grievance to cover the many (merely) “Excellent” applications in other departments.

8.    Fractional appointments for PTLs have come one step closer to reality. The fractional instructor should earn a per-course salary prorated against the minimum salary of a full-time non-tenure track (NTT) faculty member in the same department. This week, the Department of Anthropology in New Brunswick – where NTTs teach five courses - will start paying $11,000 to a PTL (one-fifth of $55,000). That person will teach a semester-long three-credit course and perform all the previously uncompensated, ancillary work, e.g. advising students, writing letters of recommendation, and possibly supervising independent studies. For the first time ever at Rutgers, a single-course instructor is receiving equal pay for equal work.

9.     Our Union’s vice-president, Deepa Kumar, won the Georgina Smith Award from the American Association of University Professors (AAUP). The selection committee recognized Deepa’s leadership in “championing greater participation of junior faculty, and especially women of color, in union membership, and in making gender and race issues central” to the Union’s work. Deepa has drawn together the Committee on Racial and Gender Equity, a group of faculty who are compiling a report on the conditions of work for women and people of color. Their findings will inform our bargaining for the next contract in 2018.

10.    Finally, our membership continues to grow. Over the summer, 308 people entered the full-time and part-time faculty unions. Nearly two hundred of these signed up in just the past week, at orientations for new tenure-track faculty and teaching assistants. Please ask your new and old colleagues to join the Union in preserving and extending tenure and academic freedom and in strengthening public higher education.

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