Below is the statement from Prof. Nancy Wolff, one of the plaintiffs in a pay equity lawsuit, appearing at an October 15 press conference. She is a Distinguished Professor in the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, and Director of the Bloustein Center for Survey Research, with 29 years at Rutgers University.
My name is Nancy Wolff, and I am a distinguished professor in the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy. For nearly 30 years, I have been advancing the interests and values of Rutgers University through exemplary teaching, research, and service. But during that time, Rutgers did not safeguard my economic interests by paying me fairly. For at least 15 years, I have been consistently paid less than my male faculty counterparts who are doing substantially similar work. While I am focusing on the past 15 years, it is important to note that it could be longer, but I don’t have good data for the earlier years. Over these 15 years, I have pursued remedy for this inequality with some modest success, but the equity program negotiated by the AAUP-AFT union last year offered me hope to finally be paid equal to by male-equivalents at Rutgers.
In good faith, nearly 10 months ago, I submitted an application to the pay equity program but have yet received a response to my application. My understanding of the planned response by the University Compensation Service, the group reviewing the applications, is wholly inadequate because it continues the normalization of unequal pay between female and male faculty who are doing substantially similar work. The solution is not to lessen the pay inequity but to ensure pay equity between female and male faculty equivalents. By continuing to pay me unequally, I am being asked to continue to subsidize the university’s active practice of unequal pay between female and male faculty. Conservatively estimated, I have already foregone over a half a million dollars in wages over the past 15 years. That translates into a $500,000 subsidy to Rutgers that has been used by Rutgers to pay my male faculty equivalents more. According to the New Jersey Equal Pay Act, this hidden subsidy scheme is illegal.
I joined this lawsuit with four similarly aggrieved Rutgers female faculty to reveal this scheme and to require that Rutgers administration practice the values that we as faculty uphold in our classrooms and through our research and service, by paying female faculty fairly for their consistently outstanding contributions to the mission, success, and reputation of Rutgers. We as a university cannot stand for social justice when we do not practice social and economic justice within our own community. While Rutgers has been willing to acknowledge my contributions to the research and service mission of the university through promotions and service awards, it has been unwilling to pay me the salary that those same promotions and awards have yielded my male counterparts. Pay equity should be the new normal at Rutgers. It is my hope that economic justice will prevail through our lawsuit and that our success will change what is normal in terms of pay equity at Rutgers moving forward.
E.M. Forster is quoted as saying, “How do I know who I am until I see what I do?” Over the past 30 years as a Rutgers faculty member, I have shown who I am in part through my scholarship that includes over 100 peer-reviewed articles, several books, and dozens of chapters and reports; I have also shown it through the quality of my teaching and through the over $25 million in grants and contracts awarded to me as principal investigator. I’ve also shown who I am through my service work inside New Jersey and Pennsylvania prisons that has received numerous awards, including the Rutgers Class of ’62 President’s Public Service Award, for which, for the first time in its history, the selection committee doubled the monetary award to honor the quality of my service. That service, which spanned over a decade, included spearheading the establishment and management of peer-run community centers inside prisons, a monthly newsletter written by female residents, programs to help women and men heal from trauma while incarcerated, book clubs, yoga, and meditation programs, a weight loss program, and a reentry readiness course, all of which were externally funded. At one point and for many years, I directed a federally funded advance research center, while also doing over 20 hours of service work inside New Jersey and Pennsylvania prisons each week.
But who I am is not defined simply by what I do but by the values that inspire the effort. I am motivated by the pursuit of excellence, the integrity of character, and the fair and just treatment of all people. Rutgers has given me the opportunity for 30 years to prove who I am through what I have accomplished. For this I am very grateful. Over the years, I have chosen to stay at Rutgers even after receiving several unsolicited competitive job offers, including an endowed chair at another university. I did not use these offers to leverage a merit raise because I firmly believe that merit can be measured reliably and accurately and compensated accordingly without outside offers. This is what the union’s pay equity process sets out to do. Moreover, like Deepa, I believe that gaming the system should not be the way to achieve salary equity with our male peers. More to this point, I have remained loyal to Rutgers over the years in part because I value my students and colleagues here, the research environment, my connections to the community, and the staff of the research centers that I have directed. I have served Rutgers proudly and earnestly during my tenure, even when I knew that my contributions were undervalued and ignored.
Please know that today is not one of my proudest days at Rutgers. I am deeply saddened that I have been compelled to seek legal remedy against my beloved University. But my loyalty will always weigh heaviest for values that adhere to principles of fair treatment. And because I am a senior, tenured, accomplished, and principled faculty member, I have a duty to stand up and speak up when I see wrongdoing. I am a party to this lawsuit because there is wrongdoing here. I have not, nor have the other four principled and accomplished colleagues who are also parties to this lawsuit, received fair compensation relative to our male counterparts. We have individually and consistently shown who we are to our students, colleagues, staff, deans, and chancellors through our accomplishments and commitment to excellence for decades. Who we are is as clear as the wrongdoing. Who Rutgers University is will be apparent by what it does and does not do in response to the evidence of wrongdoing. All I know for sure is: this is not how we treat women in a just and fair community or in a beloved community. I am hopeful that Rutgers administration will rise up by lifting up the economic welfare of female faculty in parity with their male counterparts by adopting a zero tolerance for pay inequity in both word and action.