RUSA?talks money at meeting
The Rutgers University Student Assembly discussed monetary matters for the upcoming semester during its final meeting of the calendar year.
Looking to increase the salaries of the University’s unionized workforce, RUSA passed a resolution last night at the Student Activities Center on the College Avenue campus to bring the issue to the Dec. 14 Board of Governors meeting.
“Two thousand non-unionized workers are getting raises, and unionized workers will get nothing,” said Francine Glaser, Douglass Governing Council RUSA liaison.
Non-unionized faculty and staff who make less than $100,000 per year will receive a 2.5 percent increase, and those who earn $100,000 or more per year will receive 2 percent, said Glaser, a School of Art and Sciences first-year student.
Pam Navrot, a Cook campus RUSA representative, said non-unionized workers would also receive a $500 bonus this year while unionized receive none.
“By giving out these salary increases and holiday bonuses, the Rutgers administration has made it eminently clear that they are able to increase salaries,” said Spencer Klein, RUSA legislative affairs chair.
Donggu Yoon, RUSA senator, said the salary increases are necessary so that University employees can keep with living costs.
Students questioned the expenses the University would take on as a result of the possible salary increases.
“This University has a $2 billion budget,” Yoon said. “The amount of wages that non-unionized workers would receive would amount to no more than $40 million.”
Matt Cordeiro, RUSA president, said the workers’ union had agreed to a salary freeze in 2008 for the period of one year. The University did not resume the salary increase in 2009 and since then, unionized workers have fought for pay-freeze cancellation.
The student government approved the recommendation that is to be brought to the Board of Governors with 93 percent voting for and 7 percent against.
Continuing with budget matters, RUSA turned from the University budget to the RUSA Allocations budget for the upcoming semester.
Ninety-two percent voted in favor of approving the $500,657.02 allocation for next semester. The group allocated the funding for 350 on-campus groups.
“We reviewed all applications for funding, but throughout the semester we will get late budgets,” said Zain Ahmad, RUSA Allocations chair.
He said the body reviews other requests throughout the semester during the RUSA Allocations board weekly Thursday night appeals meetings.
“We try to come as close as we can to the requests we get,” said Ahmad, a School of Arts and Sciences senior. “If you want to post another event, you have to go through the appeals process.”
When the allocations board budget was settled, RUSA focused on federal student funding through the Pell Grants, which are distributed to students across the nation based on financial need.
Rachel Marcus, federal relations assistant for the University in Washington, D.C., said for-profit universities received more than $1 billion dollars in Pell Grants when their graduation rate reached as low as 4 percent.
“Is that a good number?” she said. “Absolutely not.”
Francine Newsome Pfeiffer, assistant vice president of Public Affairs in the University Office of Federal Relations in Washington, said that was unacceptable.
“If we can make sure that students go to school, they should have a chance of succeeding,” she said.
One item that some RUSA members are happy to see cut from the University are the sale of the R.J. Reynolds tobacco companies’ cigarette products, including popular brands such as Camel and Natural American Spirit. John Cusick, University Barnes and Noble general manager, approved the motion yesterday to remove the R.J. Reynold tobacco brand cigarettes in four stores on campus.
Rich Garzon, president of the University chapter of United Students Against Sweatshops, reminded the student body government of the R.J. Reynolds tobacco companies exploitation of workers in North Carolina.
During the past summer, Garzon and members of the USAS visited a few tobacco company plantations and explored the living conditions in the work camps of the immigrant workers. Most of the immigrant workers at the plantations are of a Mexican origin, Garzon said.
“They showed us some of the fields from where they get the tobacco,” said Garzon, a School of Arts and Sciences senior. “I’ve been to third-world country sweatshops, and this was just as bad.”
According to an open letter R.J. Reynolds issued in October 2011, Reynolds American and R.J. Reynolds stated that they support efforts to ensure workers in all parts of the industry have safe working conditions, and that the company has contracts with independent farmers ensuring they follow all laws.
RUSA members voted overwhelmingly against the sale of those brands at University stores, 95 to 5 percent.
Garzon said he hopes this would at least dissociate the tobacco company from the name of the University, if not make a small impact in their sales.
If the University decides to ban the sale of these cigarette brands from all campus locations, Cordeiro said it would have little financial impact on the budget. Barnes and Noble, which runs the University stores, would take the minimal hit.