Executive Council Representatives for Faculty (10 open seats, 11 candidates)
Research Associate, Cell Biology AND Neuroscience
Hello, I am an NTT Faculty member, Research Associate, of our union running for an Executive Council Representative position in our New Brunswick chapter. Previously, I served as Department Rep for Cell Biology & Neuroscience in the School of Arts & Sciences, and recently became a member of the ad-hoc NTT Working Group. While our union has incredible strength, one weakness I believe, is executive representation of both STEM and NTT faculty. I intend to serve as a bridge to both those constituencies and ensure their voices are heard. The primary focus should be on recruiting among STEM and NTT faculty, and I will work with Stone Street to that end. A larger population of these faculty builds a bench of new leaders, ensuring long term representation. I believe this will build a stronger, more powerful union, ready to face the administration, and prepared to build the university our state, our students, and we deserve.
Melissa De Fino
Librarian of Practice, Libraries Central Technical Services
I have served as a New Brunswick representative to the Executive Council since 2013, giving voice to the Libraries and representing non-tenure-track librarians. It is an honor to serve alongside my colleagues on the Executive Council. I am grateful for the opportunity to give back to those at the union and the University who have always been so supportive of me. Looking ahead, I am excited to contribute to the newly established Coalition of Rutgers Unions. Libraries are by nature a collaborative profession, and I know well how much we can accomplish when we work together. Thank you for considering me!
As many of you know, I have served as president, vice-president, treasurer, and bargaining chair of our Union. This time, I am running for a regular position on the Executive Council. I am doing so in order to focus on two areas of the Union’s work: 1) the defense of our due process rights under the collective bargaining agreement; 2) advocacy for an environmentally sustainable University and, indeed, for one that contributes to climate justice in our host cities. I would also like to be a unifying voice. The Union’s new constituency structure does not facilitate membership-wide cooperation. Against an Administration that is as corporate as ever, we will need to act as one faculty – the type of movement wherein a full professor, like myself, speaks for the interests of his non-tenure track colleagues. In giving input to the next round of bargaining, therefore, I will prioritize (again) the demand for a “teaching tenure” track for most our NTT faculty.
Distinguished Professor, Materials Science and Engineering
Rutgers University has benefited from having a strong coalition of unions. In particular, Rutgers AAUP-AFT has represented the interests of faculty, staff, graduate workers and, in fact, all students, over the years. I have been involved with the union because I agree with their principled stance on shared governance. Also, all campuses and disciplines need to be represented on the Executive Committee.
Professor, School of Journalism and Media Studies
I have been on the Executive Council of the AAUP-AFT for 11 years and bring a good deal of this experience to this position. During this time, I was also Secretary, Vice President, and then President of our union. During my presidency we won a historic settlement due to a strike vote and the willingness of our members to stand up and have their voices count. I made race and gender issues central to our union and built unity among the various constituencies which is captured in the phrase I coined: Equity Security, Dignity. I hope to continue to serve in the leadership body of this amazing union!
Associate Professor, History
My name is Donna Murch and I am an associate professor in the Department of History on the New Brunswick campus. I am running for a second term on the executive council (EC) because I deeply value our union, and it is one of the primary reasons I have stayed in my current job for my entire academic career. Upon completing my PhD at UC Berkeley in 2004, I was hired as a TT professor and have served in that capacity for 17 years. While I thought I knew Rutgers very well, the three years that I have served as department representative and two years on the EC have taught me so much about our public university and its 30,000 workers and 70,000 students.
The Rutgers AAUP-AFT’s commitment to social justice, protection of the rights of all workers, and incredibly innovative work share program have truly inspired me. On the EC, I co-chair the media committee and the BIPOC committee, as well as starting a Freedom School for labor and political education modeled on the Highlander School in the civil rights movement. I am an active supporter of the amazing Coalition of Rutgers Unions which represents 19 unions and over 20,000 workers. Serving on the EC will make it possible for me to continue my current organizing efforts and to contribute to the very important work of our union which stopped the layoffs of 5 percent of Rutgers’ workforce during the pandemic and successfully fought and won a graduate funding extension, as well as the restoration of our raises. For all these reasons, I feel privileged to serve in the leadership of our union and ask for your support.
Teaching Instructor, Anthropology
My name is Bridget Purcell and I’m a teaching instructor (NTT) in the Department of Anthropology on the New Brunswick campus. Since coming to Rutgers in 2017, I’ve grown passionate about our public university and its mission to provide quality, affordable education to our diverse student body. I’ve become active in our union over the past year, serving as the department representative for Anthropology, and as a member of the Media & Narratives committee. This work has taught me so much about service, solidarity, and the value of developing a shared worker vision across job categories, from faculty to grads, staff, service workers, librarians, and beyond.
I am running for Executive Council Representative because I believe that teaching faculty should have a strong voice in our union leadership. If elected, I will advocate for the interests of NTT faculty in our next contract campaign, including the path to tenure that we deserve. More broadly, I am committed to the social justice mission of our union, and to building a cross-class, multiracial coalition capable of fighting for the common good.
Ileana (Voichita) Nachescu
Assistant Teaching Professor, Women’s and Gender Studies
I am running for membership in the Executive Council because I want to bring more visibility to the experiences, contributions, and needs of non-tenure track faculty. As a former PTL, I stand in solidarity with our adjunct colleagues, who are hired and re-hired every semester. I care deeply about and support our tenured and tenure-track colleagues, whose accomplishments and needs are sometimes neglected in the name of fiscal efficiency. Lastly, as an immigrant and a woman, I bring with me a vision of social justice rooted in intersectionality and commitment to equity for all.
If I am elected as a member on the Executive Committee, I plan to work tirelessly as an advocate for marginalized voices and toward making the university an equitable workplace for all.
Professor, Biomedical Engineering
The purpose of a university is to teach and to do research. Those of us who do these things have been increasingly controlled by a metastasizing army of vice presidents, vice chancellors, vice provosts, and athletics boosters who do neither. The union is the only body that can stand up against this antidemocratic and antiacademic influence. I ask for your vote to wrest power back from these leeches and to return Rutgers to democratic governance in pursuit of teaching and research.
Todd Vachon (updated candidate’s statement below)
Assistant Professor of Practice, Labor Studies and Employment Relations
I am running for the position of Executive Council Member for several reasons. First, I want to help grow our power as a union as we gear up to return to the bargaining table next year. My past experiences with and knowledge of labor organizing can contribute to these efforts. Before pursuing an academic career, I worked in the labor movement as a member of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and as an organizer with the UAW. During graduate school, I helped to organize the graduate employee union at the University of Connecticut and served as the first President of the local, representing more than 2,100 graduate teaching and research assistants. I also worked for several years as a labor educator with the UConn Labor Education Center and I currently serve as the Director of the Labor Education Action Research Network (LEARN) here at Rutgers. Second, as a former postdoc EC member and chair of the postdoc bargaining committee, I have prior experience working in union leadership here at Rutgers as well as sitting across the table from management. Third, I have dedicated a significant amount of time in the past three years helping to lead our union’s engagement with climate justice issues, including drafting a resolution in support of the Green New Deal, supporting student climate strikes, forming our union climate justice committee, and now promoting community owned cooperative solar for New Brunswick (and Newark and Camden). Finally, I am running for executive council because I know that a strong and democratic union is built upon an engaged and active membership. By volunteering, I model that engagement, and through serving I hope to help foster further engagement by others. Thank you for taking the time to read my statement and I hope you will consider selecting me to serve on the council.
Associate Professor, Expressive Arts 4-H Agent
I am running for re-election as a New Brunswick Faculty Executive Council Representative. I have served in this position since 2016 and wish to continue working on the EC to advocate for faculty, staff and students.
I am Associate Professor, Expressive Arts 4-H Agent in the 4-H Youth Development Department of SEBS. As a Rutgers Cooperative Extension faculty member on the EC, I am able to share with the EC the perspective of Extension faculty. In turn, I can connect my RCE colleagues more directly with the union’s mission and practice. In my time on the EC, I am pleased to say that I have seen an expansion of that mutual appreciation and understanding.
It has been a privilege to serve on the Executive Council. As Chair of the Grievance Committee, I know how vital union representation is to the protection of faculty rights. I also have been proud of the proactive work of the AAUP-AFT in partnering with other Rutgers unions on behalf of the common good.
I hope that you will support my re-election as New Brunswick Faculty Executive Council Representative. Thank you.
Executive Council Representatives for Graduate Workers (seven open seats)
Graduate Worker, History
I am running for the EC to continue to fight for graduate workers and all workers across the Rutgers system. As a member of the Media and Narrative Committee and the Coalition of Rutgers Unions Legislative committee, I have worked hard to advance our movement’s ability to speak clearly and boldly to our members, to our communities, and to our political system. I am committed to organizing among graduate students and also between job categories, believing that we can only win when we struggle together.
Teaching Assistant, Geography
I am running for the position of New Brunswick graduate worker representative to the Executive Council to amplify the voices and concerns of graduate workers with whom I have engaged at the department and union committee level for the past two years. I hope to contribute to strengthening our union not only to fight for our workplace goals through collective bargaining but also to leverage our joint power as workers to address pressing social and political issues which impact the health and safety of our members and our broader communities. I support the longstanding student movement to abolish the Rutgers police and aim to grapple collaboratively and transformatively with Rutgers’ role as a land grant university in the settler colonial history and present of New Jersey.
Graduate Fellow, Women’s and Gender Studies
I’m running to ensure that graduate workers are not overlooked in this year’s contract campaign. I want to support and help build a strong coalition of workers and students, so that we become the rank and file, strike-ready union that we need to win.
Graduate Fellow, Women’s and Gender Studies
For the last year and half, I have been one of the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Department’s graduate student representatives for AAUP-AFT. Through this position, I have been involved in drafting graduate student CARES Act recommendations and assisted in establishing Rutgers Grads United to advocate for graduate workers, fellows, master’s students, and professional students during the COVID-19 pandemic. Currently, I serve on both the Media & Narrative committee as well as the Social Media & Website committee and worked extensively with both during our Memorandum of Agreement campaign this last semester. I hope to continue doing the work of advocating for graduate student workers in this position, particularly as we move forward next year with the upcoming contract negotiations.
Graduate Worker, Ecology and Evolution
I believe that grads are workers, as well as students, and that our labor is vital to the university’s mission. Yet, too often, our relationship with the university is an exploitative one. They depend on our labor, yet they protest that we be adequately compensated or protected. I will use this position to advocate for my fellow grad workers within our union and within the university. I also believe that labor advocacy should not and, in fact, cannot be isolated from the broader realm of economic and social justice advocacy. Justice is justice, and successfully empowering our community means empowering us both as workers and as individuals. “An injury to one is an injury to all” is a sentiment that cannot be limited by job, race, nationality, gender, sexuality, or anything else. We must all stand together in solidarity. To this end, I will also use this position to support a socially progressive agenda within our union and within the university.
Emmet von Stackelberg
Graduate Fellow, History
I want to help strengthen our union as it enters a new contract campaign. I see this as inspiring, gratifying, and deeply important work. This union serves as a leading force in the national politics of academic labor, perhaps of organized labor altogether, because it prioritizes coalition-building and the common good. We have long enjoyed, and perhaps taken for granted, an exceptional feature of our union, which is that it unites graduate workers and faculty into a single bargaining unit. I want to help push the union to extend worker alliances even further as the Coalition of Rutgers Unions matures and as the union begins allowing graduate fellows to become full rank-and-file members. I myself am a graduate fellow, and I want to help the union make inroads in organizing graduate workers of all kinds—because fellows are workers as well—and in strengthening solidarity between faculty and the graduate workers that make faculty work possible. We are in this together, and I am so excited to see what we can achieve with this next contract campaign. Solidarity.
Teaching Assistant, Comparative Literature
Phil Yakushev is a PhD candidate in the Comparative Literature program in New Brunswick. He has been a department rep during all three of his years at Rutgers and served on the Graduate Steering Committee in 2020-21. With our current contract expiring at the end of the upcoming academic year, at a pivotal moment for the university and academia, Rutgers’ largest campus will need to be ready to be a progressive, united, fighting force. As an Executive Council member, Phil hopes to work with other grad leaders and rank-and-file members to organize New Brunswick from our department-shop floors. With more of us preparing to return to campus in the Fall, Phil’s priority will be to empower New Brunswick grads to organize around their needs and feel connected to the university’s collective struggles.
Chapter Leadership Committee (two seats, one candidate)
Naomi R. Williams
Assistant Professor, Labor Studies and Employment Relations
My name is Naomi R Williams, and I am an assistant professor in the Labor Studies Department. I am running for a New Brunswick Chapter Leadership Committee seat because I understand the important role faculty play in protecting the public good function of universities like Rutgers. I deeply appreciate the people-centered approach the union (and coalition) have taken since the pandemic started. I think faculty need to work together to protect and improve our working conditions and the learning conditions of students. I currently serve as one of the AAUP-AFT delegates to the Middlesex/Somerset Central Labor Council and I have served in leadership positions in each of my previous unions, as department representative, delegate to state conventions, treasurer, and contract enforcement officer. My union experience, and my research as a labor and working-class historian, give me a broad perspective for representing the diverse members of our faculty union. It will be a privilege to serve my fellow New Brunswick colleagues on the leadership committee.