A rebellion is brewing in Camden. The underfunding and inequitable treatment of Rutgers-Camden is getting worse, not better. Faculty, grad workers, and students are taking a stand for accountability and transparency in how our university is run. We want a Rutgers where financial decisions aren’t dictated by an unfair RCM budget model but by a vision of a public university that puts our academic mission first and that serves ALL the people of the state.
On Tuesday of last week, Howard Marchitello, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS), Camden’s largest school, was abruptly fired—clearly as punishment for being publicly critical of Rutgers-Camden’s second-class treatment. The outraged response forced Chancellor Antonio Tillis to agree to address an all-faculty meeting next Wednesday, November 10, at 11:20 a.m. That’s the same day as the Arts and Sciences commencement, where our union is planning to mobilize at 5 p.m. to greet and celebrate our graduating students and their families outside BB&T Pavilion—and to advocate for a Rutgers that serves our future students, too.
If you’re in Camden, you’ve probably thought and talked about little else in the past week, at least as far as your work life is concerned. We’re writing to inform those of you in Newark and New Brunswick about what’s happened. But this email is going to everyone represented by our union because this fight matters to all of us, wherever we work. Camden faculty, grads, and students are leading the way for our union right now, but we need to up our organizing game everywhere to meet this challenge and the many others we’ll face during this contract year.
Here’s a rundown of what’s happened in Camden in the past nine days:
After he was dismissed—without warning or even a conversation with Chancellor Tillis, who has been in the job just over five months—Dean Marchitello wrote an email to all CAS faculty correcting the administration’s vague announcement that he was “returning to the faculty November 15” and stating that he had been fired.
The response was immediate. Our Camden chapter called a meeting the next morning, by which time an open letter protesting the firing had already been launched by faculty members. At an impassioned emergency CAS Faculty Senate meeting on Monday of this week, Dean Marchitello stated that he believes he was fired for having talked publicly about “structural and chronic underinvestment” at Camden. The Senate voted to demand that Chancellor Tillis account for his actions at an all-faculty meeting. The president of the Student Governing Association and the student representative to the University Senate both spoke and offered their support.
The firing is bound up with the salary equity program our union has fought for. In addition to addressing discrimination on the basis of gender, race, ethnicity, and other categories, the program is supposed to close the pay gap for faculty on different campuses—specifically Camden, where faculty are paid on average 24 percent less than their equivalent counterparts in New Brunswick and Newark.
As you know from our past messages, the initial decisions in the equity program in late September shortchanged the 103 faculty who received them by at least $750,000 and probably close to $1 million in all. Camden faculty fared the worst—equity salary adjustments for those who got them were less than half of what their colleagues at other campuses received, and one in five Camden equity applicants got nothing at all.
At the Faculty Senate meeting, Marchitello stated publicly that he was instructed by superiors on several occasions to not discuss the equity program with faculty—even though as dean, he had a central part in the process of recommending how much applicants should receive as salary adjustments.
Dean Marchitello’s firing is clearly retaliation for publicly acknowledging the mishandling of pay equity and the wider pattern of underfunding on our Camden campus. This is an insult to everyone at Camden, faculty, staff, and students alike—not to mention an attempt to silence someone who was prominently critical of the central administration.
The firing fits a pattern at Camden: the administration denies Rutgers-Camden equal resources and then punishes it because of the consequences. For years, Camden has been told it is tens of millions of dollars in the red. This is a product of the RCM budget system that plagues us all. Camden is actually a net producer of revenue, according to the university’s own budget summary, but ends up in the red after the central administration siphons off tens of millions of dollars, thanks to RCM. That false deficit was the justification, up until this year, for the university Chief Financial Officer to disallow any non-grant-related spending at Camden above $500 without his personal approval. Meanwhile the athletics program buys “power nap machines” that cost $12,600.
Our Camden chapter is working all out to organize the largest possible turnout for the all-faculty meeting with the chancellor on Wednesday, November 10, at 11:20 a.m. in Penn 401—and for our mobilization to greet and celebrate our graduating students and their families outside BB&T Pavilion that same day at 5 p.m. We’re asking everyone in Camden to not just attend these events yourself but talk to three colleagues about participating as well. And just to be clear: the meeting with Chancellor Tillis may be labeled an all-faculty meeting, but it is an open meeting, and it is for all of us—faculty, grad workers, staff, and students.
We’ll have more asks for support for Camden from those of us in Newark and New Brunswick. This is one of many challenges ahead for our union. The next step in our campaign for a new contract is the contract survey we will launch soon. We need to hear from all of you about what you think we need to fight for and what you’re ready to do to win. And we’ll be asking you the same thing we’ve asked of our Camden colleagues: fill out the survey yourself, but also talk to your colleagues about it and ask them to make their voice heard, too.
Dean Marchitello’s firing is an insult and a threat to everyone—the whole Rutgers community. We’re in this together. And what we’re seeing in Camden right now is the faculty, the staff, and students saying: Enough is enough!
Becky, Todd, Jim, and Jamie
Rebecca Givan, President, Rutgers AAUP-AFT
Todd Wolfson, General Vice President, Rutgers AAUP-AFT
Jim Brown, President, Camden Chapter, Rutgers AAUP-AFT
Jamie Dunaev, Vice President, Camden Chapter, Rutgers AAUP-AFT
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