Below are remarks from Prof. Nancy Wolff, one of the plaintiffs in a pay equity lawsuit, at a December 8 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 of teaching at Rutgers University.
Thank you very much for that warm welcome, and thank you so much Senator Weinberg for endorsing our cause and for advancing a law that allows us to stand here today, on behalf of ourselves as well as other women at Rutgers who are in similar situations.
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 much of that time, Rutgers has consistently and substantially paid me less than my male peers who are doing comparable work.
In good faith, nearly a year ago, I submitted an application to the Rutgers Pay Equity Program, but like all other faculty who submitted such applications, I have yet to receive a response. By continuing to pay me and other applicants unequally, Rutgers is violating New Jersey’s far-reaching Pay Equity Act. Moreover, being treated unfairly in terms of compensation and promotion is a form of harm that undermines our overall wellness and economic security. These are the real collateral consequences of pay inequity. And they are the consequences that motivated me and four other plaintiffs to sue Rutgers for violating New Jersey’s Pay Equity Act.
We, the plaintiffs of the lawsuit, have played by the rules for decades and asked respectfully and repeatedly to be compensated fairly to our male peers. When these steps failed, we reluctantly but resolutely invoked the law. We are following in the footsteps of the great, late US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who along with female colleagues at Rutgers-Newark, filed a lawsuit over five decades ago against the university for pay inequity. They won. It is truly unfortunate that the five of us are fighting the same fight all over again. This Groundhog Day is not a fantasy or a comedy; it is a persistent reality of economic injustice.
The practice of pay inequity at Rutgers has persisted for well over a half a century. With the passage of the Diane B. Allen Pay Equity Act, the practice of paying any group in a protected class less for substantially similar work is now unlawful in New Jersey. And the pay equity program negotiated by the Rutgers chapter of the AAUP-AFT in June 2019 provides a mechanism for relief in lieu of suing the university under New Jersey’s Pay Equity Act. But this is not enough.
Adjusting the salaries of those who are currently paid less for doing comparable work simply corrects for past compensation discrimination. It does not, however, prevent future pay inequity, because the historical process that is creating salary differentials has not been fixed. To solve this problem once and for all requires institutional reform. We, faculty and administration together, need to create a formal, structured process that actively addresses and monitors the causes of salary inequities among faculty. We need to change the culture, and the behavior within the culture, so that only merit guides compensation and promotion decisions.
The goal here is simply equal pay for equal work, so that faculty, women and men alike, are compensated in accordance with the value that we contribute to the academic excellence of Rutgers. The goal is consistent with what the union negotiated in 2019 and with the pay equity law passed in New Jersey in 2018.
Rutgers has the potential, as Senator Weinberg says, to become a national leader in the area of faculty pay equity. We have the know-how, the motivation, and a state law that, when combined together, can both correct and prevent unwarranted pay differentials among faculty doing substantially similar work.
It is my hope that President Holloway will earn Rutgers a title of distinction by acting proactively and intentionally to support a comprehensive, appropriately financed, and systemic response to faculty pay inequity—and, moreover, that he will be motivated by principle to root out the cause of pay inequity and not be satisfied with simply treating its symptoms during times of legal crisis.
I am hopeful that the Holloway administration will advance its espoused values and principles in ways that will demonstrate, in earnest, a zero tolerance for pay inequity at Rutgers, now and forever. This is my hope for us, for the university, and for the state.