Adjunct professors advocate for respect
Adjunct professors are "all about equal pay for equal work,” said John Castella, vice president of the American Association of University Professors-American Federation of Teachers (AAUP-AFT) at Rutgers.
The AAUP-AFT organization has placed bright red signs around campus that read "Respect Part Time Lecturers," and members have attended numerous protests this year in the hopes of earning a more equitable salary.
More than one-third of classes at Rutgers are taught by part-time lecturers in all areas and disciplines. Their compensation is 0.6 percent of the University’s budget, which is why they are working to educate the entire Rutgers community about their hardships working with the University.
More than 30 percent of the workforce are adjunct professors, Castella said. The main goal of these 1,800 individuals is to earn respect.
“Respect comes in a lot of ways, not just in salary,” he said.
Through their current contract campaign adjunct professors are hoping to achieve a secure place within their respective departments. They want to be part of department meetings and able to contribute to the content they teach.
It would also include respect from the University administration, Castella said. They have not yet responded to any of the AAUP-AFT’s recent protests.
“It’s kind of scary where their priorities are,” he said.
University Spokesman E.J. Miranda said the administration was being respectful of the collective bargaining process and the negotiations at the table.
Negotiating teams will act in the best interest of the University, its students and the community it serves, he said in an email.
Castella said he believes there is a knowledge gap between the University and adjunct professors that prohibits them from understanding why their need for respect is so important.
“Administration thinks we just come into a classroom, turn the light switch on, teach and leave ... treating us like we’re on a punch card,” Castella said.
Their jobs are much more involved than that, he said. Part-time professors also write recommendations and are there for students beyond class hours — time they are not compensated for.
James Deloughery, a School of Arts and Sciences junior, said it is a shame that the University does not treat all professors equally.
“I feel like if a professor is compensated unfairly it gives them less of a responsibility to connect with his or her students,” he said.
Rutgers strives to compensate its employees fairly and pays all professors some of the most competitive rates in the nation, Miranda said.
The AAUP-AFT has been told the same thing, but has been denied access to any of the data Miranda is referring to, Castella said.
Of the University’s $3.78 billion budget, only about 27.6 percent was spent on instruction, he said.
Castella said he understands that there is a lot of overhead that comes with running a University of this size, but the main priority should be on education.
“A lot of students see tuition and fees increasing, yet we know that the money isn’t coming down to (the academics),” he said.
This past May, The New York Times wrote an article titled “AT Rutgers: It’s Books vs. Ballgames,” asking these same budget questions.
The article explored the University’s athletic spending, which caused Rutgers Athletics to run on deficit since the 2005-2006 academic year. Because of their participation in the Big Ten Conference, this deficit will continue into the 2021-2022 academic year, according to the article.
According to the Times, one academic department at Rutgers had its library budget cut by $500,000 in the last school year, while Rutgers head football coach Kyle Flood has seen his salary steadily increase.
The University spent $26 million in the last academic school year on Athletics, money that "might have gone to professors’ salaries or other academic needs,” according to the Times.
Castella said he questions the University’s true concerns and asks whether the priorities are in the Big Ten all of a sudden.