Senate Majority Leader: “What’s the Point in Adjusting Pay if the Result Leaves in Place the Inequities?”
CAMDEN, NJ—Some 75 Rutgers faculty and staff members spoke out on the Camden campus as the university’s Board of Governors met in person on October 6. Inside the meeting, in virtual public comments, professors, students, and the state Senate majority leader echoed the calls outside for equity and justice.
“We hope the Board of Governors and the administration at Rutgers heard, inside and outside their meeting, the voices of the people who make our university work,” said Rebecca Givan, president of Rutgers AAUP-AFT, the union representing full-time faculty, graduate workers, postdoctoral associates, and counselors. “We want Rutgers to be a model for other universities to follow, but we need the board and the administration to lead in a new direction.
Top on the list of issues addressed at the meeting was equity. Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg delivered a blistering critique of the Rutgers administration’s mishandling of a faculty salary equity program. As Weinberg recounted, the first round of decisions in the groundbreaking program—inspired in part by the state Equal Pay Act that Weinberg shepherded into law in 2018—shortchanged more than 100 faculty members by at least $750,000 and probably close to $1 million in all, according to an analysis by Rutgers AAUP-AFT.
“It appears that the University is doing half a job here,” Weinberg said. “What’s the point in adjusting pay if the result leaves in place the inequities? This is not just a moral issue. Equal pay for equal work is not only the right thing to do. It is the legal thing to do here in New Jersey.”
“There is no reason at all for the state’s premier public university to perpetuate inequalities,” Weinberg continued. “It’s out of step with New Jersey values, and it is also out of step with New Jersey laws.”
Nancy Wolff, a distinguished professor and director of the Bloustein Center for Research, also sharply criticized the administration’s handling of pay equity. Wolff is one of five women professors who sued the university last year for violating Weinberg’s Equal Pay Act.
“Nothing about the methods to determine the pay equity adjustments can be truthfully labeled as fair or reasonable or meaningful, even if $1.2 million was approved to fund these adjustments,” Wolff said. “The legal team negotiating on behalf of President Holloway has cast a deep and dark shadow on his vision for a stronger, better, more just Rutgers and his hope for a beloved community.”
Patrice Mareschal, an associate professor of Public Policy and Administration, emphasized the unfair treatment of Rutgers’ Camden campus, where she teaches.
“In Camden, we serve a large proportion of in-state, low-income, and racially marginalized students,” Mareschal said. “We do the heavy lifting of institutional diversity work without sufficient financial backing. Our faculty and students continue to pay the price in depressed salaries, insufficient research support, decreased services, and inadequate infrastructure. And so my question to you, President Holloway, and to the board is: what are we going to do to move from equity words to action and bring our salaries and resources into parity with the rest of the university?”
Rutgers President Jonathan Holloway acknowledged the criticisms later in the meeting. “I hear all of you loud and clear,” Holloway said, “and I am determined that we will address pay equity concerns in a way such that you will not have to come back to the Board of Governors repeating these very powerful and poignant stories and personal sentiments again.”
At the union-sponsored speakout outside the board meeting, other Camden faculty told similar stories. With participants marching around her, Kate Cairns, an associate professor of Childhood Studies, spoke through a bullhorn: “When the Rutgers central administration devalues Camden faculty, they devalue Camden students, staff, and residents. To say that our work is worth less is to say that these people are worth less, and we won’t stand for it. We are here today in solidarity to say that Rutgers-Camden deserves more.”
Jim Brown, president of the Camden chapter of Rutgers AAUP-AFT, tied the lack of resources and respect for Camden to another hot topic at the board meeting: the financial mess of Rutgers Athletics, which ran up a quarter-billion-dollar debt since it joined the Big Ten in 2014.
“Despite the inequities, anyone on this campus will tell you how great it is to live and work here,” Brown said. “So it’s especially devastating to hold that thought in your head at the same time as you hear they’re buying napping pods for the athletics program. And we have a president of the university who says that all athletics programs lose money, that’s just the way it is. Apparently that’s an acceptable loss. But any time Camden needs resources, that’s an unacceptable loss. We take that personally.”
Christine O’Connell, president of the Union of Rutgers Administrators, which represents some 2,500 administrative workers across the Rutgers campuses, told the speakout that staff members also feel disrespected by the administration. “We need to work with you guys, and you guys work with us,” O’Connell said. “Let’s work together so all workers at Rutgers get the respect and dignity and the compensation that we deserve.”
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