Our union has been warning for months that as many as 200 graduate students whose work was disrupted by the pandemic could lose funding as of June 30 unless the administration guarantees funding extensions. Since February, we’ve raised this impending deadline and the grave consequences for grad students at meetings and bargaining sessions with management. Each time, we get the same response: they’re “gathering information.” We know from their latest financial report that #RutgersHasTheMoney, but the administration won’t commit to solving this urgent problem.
Our union negotiated centralized funding extensions for graduate students in 2020–21, and we are advocating now for emergency funding for currently enrolled grads who: 1) didn’t receive an extension of funding and support under the previous program; and 2) won’t have guaranteed funding at the end of the 2021–22 academic year.
On Tuesday, at the last bargaining session before the June 30 funding cutoff, we asked the administration if they would agree to our proposal or offer their own solution. Despite public statements that graduate students whose research was delayed by the pandemic would be taken care of, the administration refused to commit to supporting grads who could be forced out of our university.
This is callous behavior even for the administration. Grads who spent years working toward their degrees—while also serving Rutgers by teaching classes, running research, and earning grants—could have to leave school before graduating. International grads whose visas depend on full-time student status will be forced out of the United States. Some grads scrambled on their own to find inadequate funding solutions so they would have any support at all, but completing their research and work will be that much harder because of the administration’s refusal to act.
Grads have repeatedly mobilized to protest this inaction at the April Board of Governors meeting, a May grade-in at Winants Hall, and a town hall meeting later that month. Their fight for funding has gotten national and statewide media attention (most recently in the Philadelphia Inquirer). Yet the administration still does nothing.
At the Board of Governors meeting, President Holloway claimed that grad funding was important to the university, but that the administration had spent all of the federal pandemic relief money used to fund the previous extension program. But even if Rutgers has spent all of that money—and that’s not clear from the records they’ve divulged—the university is in the best financial shape ever, according to the recently released financial report for 2020–21.
The administration’s unrestricted reserves—which they’ve acknowledged could be used for emergencies—climbed by more than 40 percent in a single year to $818 million. We estimate, by contrast, that funding extensions for grads in need of them would cost no more than $10 million. Rutgers had no problem going to the state for additional public money to support new athletic facilities, but they apparently didn’t care to get state support for grad students.
The administration will keep hearing from us that they’re turning their backs on grads if they don’t act. Meanwhile, we need to take the summer to get organized for the battle ahead in the fall to get a strong contract—one that meets our demands for guaranteed graduate funding and support, among others. If you’re angry about this display of indifference by the Rutgers administration, click here to get involved with your union, so we can all fight back together.
Alex, Sarah, Becky, and Todd
Alexandra Adams, Vice President for Graduate Workers, Rutgers AAUP-AFT
Sarah DeGiorgis, TA/GA Steering Committee and Executive Committee, Rutgers AAUP-AFT
Rebecca Givan, President, Rutgers AAUP-AFT
Todd Wolfson, General Vice President, Rutgers AAUP-AFT
See the updates from each bargaining session.
Read about the proposals we’re putting forward in bargaining.
Find the latest messages to members and union statements here.
Read our FAQ: Know Your Contract, Know Your Rights!