Protestors advocate for faculty, staff raises at BOG meeting
Several faculty and staff members protested during yesterday’s Board of Governor’s meeting, which ended with a closed session that did not have public comment.
Before the meeting outside Winants Hall on the College Avenue campus, a table was set with a toy bone on a plate surrounded by chalices. Garlands strung with cards written to the Board of Governors decorated a wooden Christmas tree on the square lawn of Old Queens — all part of the demonstration against the salary freeze of unionized workers.
“What we’re doing here is the Board of Governor’s feast,” said Mieke Paulsen, a graduate student and teaching assistant. “They feasted on funding for the last several years. The Scarlet Knight was eaten down to the last bone.”
The salary issue and those decisions are ongoing within the University, said E.J. Miranda, a University spokesman.
“When I can’t pay my bills, worry about feeding my kids, while paying off student loans, it’s a problem,” Paulsen said.
The protestors eventually took their seats in Winants Hall, some with blankets and books as part of a sit-in while others held signs with slogans saying, “Give us what we earned” or “We got sold out”, as they waited for University President Richard L. McCormick’s overview of the University’s budget.
In a proposed resolution to establish a Master of Arts in Peace and Conflict Studies, some faculty were concerned about the integrity of the program.
Dorian Grumet, University Intellectual Property manager, said although peace and nonviolence are important concepts to teach, the University should practice these concepts before they can offer it as a major.
“I wouldn’t attend a weight-loss clinic if someone teaching it was 400 pounds,” Grumet said. “[The University] is preaching what it does not practice.”
Grumet said students are taught and enforced to act with integrity, honesty and forgiveness, but with the announcement that only select faculty would receive raises, she was skeptical of the program’s appropriateness.
“[The board] does not excel in grace. This administration has much been far from catalysts of goodwill or harmony,” she said. “It is time to lead by example — you can begin with what is taught in our schools.”
Board of Governor Sen. Gordon MacInnes, who was the only person on the board not to approve the amendment, said the board should be cautious when approving graduate degree programs.
“This proposal lacks a core and content of skills that would be expected,” he said, urging that further consideration be taken before approving the course.
Rutgers-Newark Chancellor Steven Diner said the Departments of Sociology and Anthropology have appointed a number of faculty members.
The program, which is offered at other universities, is constructed to give graduate students multidisciplinary perspective of the topic, he said.
The motion passed despite the one disapproval.
Another resolution approached with faculty hesitation was a resolution to attain and renovate 7 Kilmer Rd. in Edison, N.J., to house and store records, which would cost the University $7.25 for the entire project, McCormick said.
Donald Siegel, a University lecturer in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, said before the motion was passed, the board should examine their budget priorities.
“All I would like to say [is] we need to be very careful to balance the community as a whole and not put facilities before faculty as a whole,” he said.
The board passed the resolution to use the facility.
Before McCormick presented the overview of the University’s budget, the board voted to go into a closed session, while protestors shouted “mic check” because they had not had the opportunity to speak at the open session portion of the meeting.
“Go ahead, arrest us,” said Robert Scott, a University assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. “We signed up to speak. We waited patiently. You owe us this. You owe us more than this. Let us speak.”
Scott said this behavior is a pattern of disregard for the public’s demand for fair treatment and the right to free speech.
“They’re making a statement to the entire country — to the entire world — that Rutgers is not serious about being a university,” he said. “They won’t make good on their promise of what they owe people and … respect of allowing people who have followed all the rules and signed up to speak.”
Public comments are not specified to a time period, Miranda said. People sign up to speak about on a proposed action.
Miranda said the board realized there is interest in the budget, and there was no planned action during the meeting. The board was going to allow the public to comment on the president’s overview, but they did not get to the matter on the agenda.
“The matter can be taken up at the next Board of Governor’s meeting,” Miranda said.
Adrienne Eaton, president of the University Council of the American Association of University Professors-American Federation of Teachers (AAUP-AFT), said she was disappointed that despite the amount of faculty present, they were unable to speak.
“I’m shocked, to tell you the truth,” Eaton said. “In the past, they’ve shut the doors on us, they’ve locked the doors. Once they closed the sliding doors up there, and this time they just adjourned the meeting before they heard from some of us.”
Lucye Millerand, president of the Union of Rutgers Administrators-American Federation of Teachers, said this behavior is not unprecedented, citing that the board has been sued in the past for ignoring public meeting protocol.
“We came to hear some employee representatives tell the board that they need to end the salary freeze that’s been going on for more than three years, because they have more than enough money to pay for raises they’ve owed us since 2009,” she said.
The University increased its reserves by $100 million this year, according to a report released on Dec. 6 by Howard Bunsis, treasurer of the AAUP.
Eaton said by enacting a more favorable set of rules for cooperation, the developing conflict within the University can be resolved.
“We’re really interested in them adopting a labor relations strategy that makes sense and is appropriate for this kind of institution,” she said. “We want them to negotiate fairly, which they’re simply not doing right now.”