Rutgers adminstration can’t ignore us forever
Rutgers must address faculty, student concerns for open discussion
Rutgers is an institution running an enormous operation, with academic, research and athletic departments sprawled across huge campuses all around the state. It’s understandable that the budget is often an issue, especially since we receive much less support from New Jersey than we should as a public state school. On top of that, the recent expansion efforts and revamping of various programs in light of our move into the Big Ten Conference is placing even more of a financial strain on the University. That strain has required careful budgeting, and that combined with a lack of transparency and communication among the administration, the student body and faculty members has led to extremely high tensions.
Frankly, Rutgers is becoming so bogged down by bureaucracy that it’s starting to feel less like a university and more like a corporation, run by officials behind closed doors. Faculty members have been protesting for fair contracts and better salaries for years, but tensions have been rising to a boiling point over the last few semesters as the administration continues to fail to at least appropriately address these concerns. Last week, an estimated 1,000 people across all Rutgers campuses gathered to protest for fair faculty contracts. According to a report by the New York Times from 2010, Rutgers University in the Newark, New Brunswick and Camden campuses were all ranked in the top 10 public universities in salaries for full-time full professors. The average salary for professors on the New Brunswick campus was $140,100. With the recent UMDNJ merger, Rutgers has now become the largest government institution, with the highest payroll and staff, in the entire state. But since pay freezes were implemented in 2010, which cut scheduled pay raises that were already part of union contracts with the University, workers have become increasingly dissatisfied with the way the administration is handling their concerns.
University President Robert L. Barchi and the administration are creating a formidable enemy for themselves in the solidarity between disgruntled faculty and an increasingly alienated student body.
Is increasing pay for professors necessarily going to mean better learning environments for us? That’s what we’re most concerned with. As an institution of higher education, Rutgers’ No. 1 priority is and should be its students. Many of our professors are adjunct faculty members with other careers, and the professional experience that they can bring into our classrooms is extremely valuable to us. But these are lecturers who by definition only work part-time at the University and shouldn’t require such a high salary. Some of them are researchers who publish incredible work, but aren’t necessarily the best in a teaching environment for students. They are paid much more because of these publications (as they should be), but that doesn’t necessarily mean we are getting better instruction.
This issue isn’t just about how much faculty salaries should be increased, and whether those raises should be across the board or not — it’s not that black and white. But the fact that there is currently so much dissatisfaction among professors regarding their salaries is a problem in itself. Professors should feel proud to be teaching here, and it should feel like an important, prestigious position. But if the University doesn’t create an environment conducive to that, then there is definitely a problem. Barchi can’t keep canceling meetings and making it even more difficult than it already is for faculty (or anyone, for that matter) to meet with him and voice their concerns. Without a more serious and open level of communication, discussion and negotiation concerning salaries and other issues of legitimate concern for both faculty and students, the University’s goal of reaching excellence really isn’t going to get very far.