Takeaway: Graduate students still need funding extensions. Read about what we’re demanding at the bargaining table and talk to your colleagues about what we can do to win them. Please share the testimonial campaign organized by Rutgers Grads United on social media.
Fiscal emergency negotiations continue, and every week we don’t reach a deal, Rutgers loses $1 million. Our proposals are simple: a no-layoff guarantee, PTL reappointments, a schedule for paying our canceled raises, and funding extensions for graduate students. This last issue is critical for members of our union in particular. Management must ensure that all grad students have the funding they need to complete work disrupted by the COVID emergency. In exchange, our members would agree to participate in a work-sharing program. We continue to stand with our union coalition partners as we try to negotiate a program (watch our Coalition press conference from yesterday).
We want you to know what we are fighting for at the bargaining table, but first, a word about the stakes. For our grad workers, they are obvious: some of our colleagues simply won’t be able to complete their degrees if they don’t get both additional time and funds to cover the delays caused by the pandemic. What a waste of years of work if they are unable to complete their degrees! Please take the time to read and share the testimonials that Rutgers Grads United have been gathering for a social media campaign.
But we know the stakes are high for the rest of us, too. For many faculty, our teaching, research, and service depend on collaboration with grads. If management doesn’t extend grad funding—or if it introduces an inadequate program without negotiating with us over the necessary support for grads—it will impact all of us negatively. Management has acknowledged the impact on research for tenure-track faculty and allowed a two-year exclusion from tenure clocks. Why shouldn’t they acknowledge the same disruption for graduate workers?
That’s why we are calling on management to agree to a proposal that ensures that any grad whose work has been delayed or disrupted during the pandemic gets the funding extension they need. We are proposing a simple and transparent process to apply for extensions, overseen not by management alone but a joint committee composed of management, faculty, and grads. We have proposed that funding extensions come in the form of additional TA/GAships, not fellowships; that the money be allocated centrally, not on a department-by-department basis; and that they include tuition remission.
Why TA/GA positions? TA/GAships are union positions with state employee health benefits, a guaranteed minimum income, and assurance of job security.
Why central funding? The money needs to come from central so our departments don’t have to rob Peter to pay Paul. Department-by-department funding is a recipe for forced austerity, requiring faculty to decide what priority to cut to meet other needs. Already we’ve seen the negative consequences: some departments have dipped into research funds and borrowed against future years’ budgets to support grads.
We know we aren’t asking for too much. Management is claiming it faces a fiscal emergency, based on a budget that estimates a final deficit of $97.1 million for the current fiscal year. But that same budget projects a $34.5 million shortfall for Rutgers Athletics. More than a third of the estimated budget hole is caused by subsidizing a money-losing athletics program! If there’s money for extracurriculars, there’s surely money for our central mission.
Our grad worker leaders have played the central role in developing our proposal. Now we need to spread the word. Rutgers Grads United is working to get more grads involved in the testimonial campaign on social media. All of us should share these testimonials on social media and spread the word among our colleagues: Rutgers must do right by our grads!
Alexandra, Erin, Todd, and Becky
Alexandra Adams, Executive Council, Rutgers AAUP-AFT
Erin Santana, Member, Rutgers AAUP-AFT
Todd Wolfson, President, Rutgers AAUP-AFT
Rebecca Givan, Vice President, Rutgers AAUP-AFT
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