By Paul O’Keefe, Executive Council, Rutgers AAUP-AFT
- The administration once again told us they were “gathering information” on the funding status of graduate students whose work was disrupted and delayed by the pandemic. We URGENTLY await their final collection and sharing of data regarding grads who are at immediate risk of seeing their degree progress come to a shuddering halt, through no fault of their own.
- Graduate worker members of our unit provided striking testimony of their experience of losing the ability to do research during the pandemic and of now facing a loss of funding as they prepare to enter the research-intensive part of their graduate studies
- Management claimed that it was consulting GPDs and others about the grad extension issue. However, as many as 200 grads face a June 30 funding cutoff.
- Our union’s executive director Patrick Nowlan presented an argument for integrating summer and winter session instructors and postdoctoral associates, represented by our union under separate contracts, into a combined bargaining unit.
- Our senior Contract Enforcement/Grievance Team staff member B. J. Walker made good progress with many of the mutual offers and counters being made in the broad field of dispute resolution and grievance procedures.
Three main topics listed above were raised at this bargaining session. They were presented by our union in order of priority—it is vital that the question of graduate student extensions is resolved as soon as possible, before the visa status, health insurance, and income of any member of our unit is affected. Management didn’t fundamentally contest this priority, but they continued to claim that more information had to be gathered and that questions regarding which level of university leadership is making these decisions should be addressed.
The urgent need to find solutions was conveyed precisely by two members of our unit from the Graduate School of Education. Both were denied opportunities to begin their doctoral research because of pandemic restrictions. Both were denied funding extensions under the previous centralized program because of the criteria set by the administration. One of the grads has since been offered just $2,500, and the other an “opportunity” to compete against four other members of their cohort for a single funding extension.
With Rutgers planning its “Field of Dreams” athletics facilities with tens of millions of dollars in special funding from the state, it’s a shame that “The Hunger Games” is a more appropriate analogy for how graduate students are being treated.
The above is a report from the eighth bargaining session for our next contract. After each session, our union will provide an update, written by a rotating cast of member-observers who are sitting in on negotiations. Click here for a full archive of Bargaining Updates.