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Protect Our Labs: PIs and Postdocs Demand a Bridge Fund

Are you a PI at Rutgers? Sign today to call for a bridge fund to support your postdocs and sustain your labs! 

An Open Letter to the Administration of Rutgers University

Dear President Barchi:

We write as principal investigators at Rutgers University to express our disappointment in the Administration’s retraction of the salary raise promised to postdoctoral associates.  We also propose below a funding mechanism that would resolve the problem.

As you know, Old Queens announced on 30 September 2016 that 333 individuals protected by Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) would receive an increase in pay to $47,476 per annum, effective 1 December.  On 9 November, the Office of Academic Labor Relations confirmed this raise to the Rutgers AAUP-AFT faculty union.  On 28 November, however, Senior Vice-President Vivian Fernandez rescinded the raise, citing a court ruling in Texas which suspended the FLSA.  The ruling did not prevent institutions from paying the raise. In fact, the NIH is changing its policies to reflect the new minimum salary level.  Most AAU institutions either paid the raise on 1 December or announced plans to pay it with a delay.  Rutgers stands in the small minority of universities that has offered no assurances regarding the raise.

This austerity will prejudice our research while undercutting the economic security of our postdocs.  In recruiting talented postdocs, we now face a disadvantage against flagship state universities in California, North Carolina, Washington, and Wisconsin, all of whom are paying the raise.  Just across the street from Rutgers University-Newark, NJIT is paying the raise.  We need not remind you that the cost of living in New Jersey climbs each year, as does the cost of childcare.  These are real issues for our postdocs.  Consider the possible effect of your decision on female postdocs struggling to raise children and begin a career in science.

There is no need for such detrimental belt-tightening.  At end of the 2015-2016 fiscal year, the University was running an $89 million surplus and holding $804 million in unrestricted reserves. You and other administrators have frequently described those reserves – which have risen steadily during your presidency – as intended for faculty-led research.  Meanwhile, in the same fiscal year, principal investigators raised $470 million in grants and contracts, as well as $99 million in indirect costs (F&A).  These revenues exceeded the University’s projections by $36 million for grants and contracts and by $8.6 million for indirect costs.  In short – and partly due to our efforts – you dispose of a nest egg amply sufficient to pay the raises of these postdocs.

 

Therefore, we urge the Administration to create a bridge fund that will supplement postdocs’ salaries up to the FLSA minimum (and pay the fringe on those salary increases) from

1 December 2016 until the end date of all current grants.

 

This bridge fund cannot but enhance the research productivity and scholarly excellence of our University.  Thank you, in advance, for giving it your most serious consideration.

Sincerely,  

 

1. Gloria Bonilla-Santiago

Board of Governors Distinguished Service Professor

Graduate Department of Public Policy and Administration

Director, Community Leadership Center

Rutgers University – Camden

 

2. Joel Cantor

Distinguished Professor

Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy

Director, Center for State Health Policy

Rutgers University – New Brunswick

 

3. Jolie Cizewski

Distinguished Professor of Physics and Astronomy

Rutgers University – New Brunswick

 

4. Lee Cronk

Professor of Anthropology

Rutgers University – New Brunswick

 

5. Monica Driscoll

Distinguished Professor of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry

Rutgers University – New Brunswick

 

6. Scott Glenn

Distinguished Professor of Marine and Coastal Sciences

School of Environmental and Biological Sciences

Rutgers University – New Brunswick

 

7. Alan S. Goldman

Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology

Rutgers University – New Brunswick

 

8. David Perlin

Executive Director, Public Health Research Institute

New Jersey Medical School

Rutgers University – Newark

 

9. Sunil Somalwar

Professor of Physics and Astronomy

Rutgers University – New Brunswick

 

10. Jay A. Tischfield

Duncan and Nancy MacMillan Distinguished Professor of Genetics

Scientific Director and CEO, RUCDR Infinite Biologics

Rutgers University – New Brunswick

 

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