Reminder: If you haven’t taken our union survey yet, please click here and fill it out now. We need to know what you think to decide how to confront the latest cuts and layoffs.
We’re writing with some great news: We won our lawsuit against Rutgers for wrongly withholding financial data we requested under the Open Public Records Act (OPRA) to try to get answers about Rutgers Athletics and its financial drain on the university—to the tune of more than $100 million transferred to athletics last year. The judge ordered management to turn over much of the information we requested and to pay our union’s attorney’s fees and court costs.
This is a big victory for transparency at a public university that needs to be responsible to its faculty and staff, its students, and the people of New Jersey. We submitted requests for the data earlier this year, following all the OPRA rules, and management thought they could deny them using deceptive reasoning. We decided to take Rutgers to court because secrecy and evasion have no place at a public university, and the judge agreed with us. The ruling lays down a marker in our other efforts to get transparency and accountability from management.
We’re waiting to see what answers to our questions we find in the documents management must now hand over. We’ve protested for years that there’s no good reason why Rutgers Athletics gets an annual subsidy of tens of millions of dollars, paid out of student fees and the budget surpluses produced by our teaching and research. Management’s pipedream of reaching the money-making big time of college sports seems more distant than ever. And this year, we learned about a mysterious $76.1 million increase in what management calls the athletic program’s “internal debt.”
Extravagant spending on a money-losing athletics program is downright negligent amid a global pandemic and economic recession. Management has laid off more than 1,000 union members and demanded cuts in programs, but it has so far refused to redirect the losing investment in athletics in ways that could have prevented some of those layoffs and cuts.
Thanks to the long work of members like Mark Killingsworth in studying the athletics money sinkhole and to our excellent counsel and staff, led by Flavio Komuves at Weissman and Mintz and RUAAUP staff rep Damon Fillman, we succeeded with our OPRA lawsuit. If the data we get shows what we think it will, we will have more ammunition to counter management’s claim that Rutgers’ financial situation leaves no alternative to layoffs, pay freezes, and program cuts.
We need a conversation involving the whole Rutgers community about what we want for the future of our university. We’re calling on Rutgers to set an example of what a public university can be in this challenging moment. That starts with budget transparency and coming clean about Rutgers Athletics.
Speaking of stepping up the pressure, we need to know what you think about the challenges we face and what we’re willing to do collectively as a union. If you haven’t taken the survey we wrote to you about earlier, please take a minute now and click on this link to fill it out—and please encourage your colleagues to fill it out, too..
Todd and Becky
Todd Wolfson, President, Rutgers AAUP-AFT
Rebecca Givan, Vice President, Rutgers AAUP-AFT
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Find the latest messages to members and union statements here.
Read how Rutgers AAUP-AFT is confronting the crisis here.