LETTER: Students, faculty should work together to challenge U. practices
To the Editor:
I am writing to congratulate you for an editorial about the non-transparency of Rutgers’ fiscal practices. And I wish to provide you with some additional ammunition, if you find what I am about to say of interest. I have been relatively quiet, with respect to campus politics, for the past 15 or 20 years, but I believe I was the number one thorn in the administration’s side throughout the 1980s and early to mid-1990s. I joined the faculty in 1977, so I am in my 39th year here. I am quite sure that I hold the Rutgers University record for having written the greatest number of letters criticizing, chastising and viciously condemning the Rutgers administration for inflicting, upon the faculty and students, near-criminal acts, one after another. The abuses range from misuse of funds, to unfair, egregious punishment of faculty (including unprecedented and unwarranted evictions of four professors from their departments) to failure to maintain research and teaching buildings, and on and on and on. My brazen exercise of academic freedom earned me the unenviable distinction of not having been promoted for 34 years and later of being passed up in Nobel Prize voting.
I counted my first 500 Rutgers protest letters and then I estimated the next 4,500. In recent years, I have added about 40 or 50 new letters to those 5000 letters in the 1980s and 1990s. When, in 1982, I signed our first protest letter, along with seven of my colleagues, my hand was shaking almost uncontrollably. I felt that I was taking such an enormous step. Not long after this, my hand was always steady as a rock, as I made Rutgers protest letters one of my highest priorities. Seldom did I have a co-signer. Most of the egregious actions I condemned were carried out by the Rutgers administration under the reign of former University President Francis L. Lawrence, a tyrant if there ever was one. So most of my letters were related to his actions and inactions.
If you have retrievable archives of past letters to the Targum, Targum headlines and full color spreads, you will find scads of them involving me and my colleagues in the Department of Biochemistry. Many other letters went to the Home News Tribune and The Star-Ledger. Our department was the only holdout department in the entire University during the Lawrence reorganization debacle. Campus-wide reorganization was begun by President Edward J. Bloustein and completed under the Francis Lawrence administration. Eight biochemistry professors, only three of whom are still employed here, spearheaded the fight against massive reorganization. We were punished severely, but, despite being tried in absentia by a kangaroo court of administration apologists, we escaped “de-tenuring.” And most of us escaped expulsion, although three of the biochemists were forcible evicted from the Busch campus by armed campus police and tossed into our Cook Campus department on the very next day. There was no hearing prior to that expulsion. The eviction of the three Busch campus biochemists caused our department to implode, as three existing professors left right away. Despite the fact that our department has its roots in the Selman Waxman department of soil science where Waxman discovered streptomycin in the soil right outside my office window, some began to see the Biochemistry and Microbiology department as a dumping ground for faculty dissidents. All we asked of the Lawrence administration was that, if we were to be forcibly moved into another building, we wanted the facilities in that building to be no worse than what we already had. In other words, we demanded to keep our “terrible” facilities rather than be forced into “dreadful” ones. Lawrence refused to honor this demand, so we stayed where we are and never moved.
We got close to the deeply imbedded corruption at Rutgers. We and the faculty union (the American Association of University Professors) had Lawrence on the ropes with just two or three professors applying all the pressure. In trying to seek justice, we visited and corresponded with Congressman Frank Pallone (D-N.J. 6th District). We went to Trenton to visit a couple of governors, and we visited the criminally convicted state senator and former New Brunswick mayor, Richard Lynch. He told us that University politics were much more corrupt than N.J. state politics. Coming from a soon-to-be-jailed state senator, his sentence says a lot.
William W. Ward, Ph.D. is an associate professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology.
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