University community unite
Greetings, salutations and a resounding welcome back to school. It is the beginning of a new and exciting year at the University. It is my fifth year here and it is going to be the best and most exciting, I know it. There are so many changes happening that I hardly recognize the University as the school I applied to not that long ago. New buildings etch the skyline of New Brunswick, some have been torn down and new ones erected in their place, campuses that lacked an identity have transformed into popular student hang-out locations, yet one thing has not changed at all: People's desire to control where the money goes.
It is understandable that such a battle is fought over every dollar when it comes to a school with an operating budget of $2 billion. However, no matter how much some decisions hurt, they are usually necessary and fighting them will only cause greater problems in the future. The University needs $96 million and, barring some miracle, the money has to come from somewhere. Remember the laws of thermodynamics: Matter cannot be created or destroyed only converted. Due to the physical restrictions of life on earth the administration needs to discover a way to close the budget sinkhole. Unfortunately, the only way to do this is through sacrifices that are being placed upon a community that has already given what most would see as their fair share.
The University is being backed into a corner where they have limited options. Sure, cut the $14 million administration salary in half, which I am not suggesting is that simple by any means. You would hardly make any change to the budget shortfall. Similarly, the administration is a group of people who have been selected to run this University and take on the role of the "bad guy" when times get tough. Someone has to — or do they? It is more important to ask what are they doing that makes them worth vilifying? Did they freeze the salaries of 10,000 people who deferred their 2009 contract raises? Yes. Are they requiring already tight department budgets to get even tighter? Definitely. Were they restricted from putting the burden on the student body through a cap on tuition increases? Yes, thanks to Gov. Chris Christie. Now ask yourself what they were supposed to do.
The administration made the impossible decision to withhold $30 million in raises, which is a significant amount of money when applied to the budget gap. However, by doing so they have alienated the Union of Rutgers Administrators-American Federation of Teachers Local 1766, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 888 as well as numerous other entities both related to the University and separate. The violation of trust between those with power and those without is one of those timeless tales. Corruption and mistrust bubble in everyone's mind and statements like, "We believe this is a strategic decision to shred collective bargaining at Rutgers [and] convince a demoralized workforce that they serve at the pleasure of management," said by Lucye Millerand, president of the URA-AFT. Clearly, this seems to be a statement made to inflate the issue but, rather, it sums up the problem: The University is undermining its workforce by not including us in the decision-making process. No salary freezes without representation, not as catchy as the statement uttered by fiery patriot Patrick Henry, but just as understandable. Unfortunately, collective bargaining has regressed from a way to help build up those who are neglected and mistreated to a forum for demands.
The next question is one that leads to pure speculation, however it must be considered. Would inclusion of these groups have affected the outcome? I do not believe that those who fight so hard for a raise would be willing to forgo it and would instead ask for arbitration, which is the path being taken now. Arbitration only serves those with too much pride. It is the equivalent of everyone losing. Instead of saving $30 million, the University pays out half to those who demand their pay increase. That means the $15 million has to come from other, already too tight, budgets and only guarantees that unless the economy improves by the next school year things will get worse.
The way I see it is that everyone needs to re-evaluate the meaning of the phrase University community. A community is only as strong as its members, and if the people that make the University great are at odds, then all of our dreams and hopes for the future are bleak. Students are educated intellectually and socially. The example being set for our future leaders is bad. Shouldn't the University, which boasts its accomplishments, strive to be a shining city — or University — on a hill? A resounding example to the state, nation and local community. Isn't a job during an economic crisis worth more than a pay raise? May a contract be broken when there is no way to reasonably fulfill it?
Neil P. Kypers is the editor-in-chief of The Daily Targum and a School of Arts and Sciences senior majoring in political science.