Protest ensues outside Rutgers Board of Governors meeting
The pool of protesters that occupied the front of Winants Hall yesterday was reminiscent of the crowd that took to Old Queens at the start of this year.
This time, instead of just petitioning for higher worker pay, the consortium of students, teachers and members of the community were also in support of University protected health services and fair contracts for faculty and staff, in addition to an increase in worker minimum wages.
Members from Rutgers United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS), Rutgers American Association of Professors-American Federation of Teachers (AAUP-AFT), the American Association of University Professors–Biomedical and Health Sciences of New Jersey (AAUP-BHSNJ) and Health Professionals and Allied Employees (HPAE), among others spoke and held flyers in the air before select members entered the meeting’s open session at 1:30 p.m.
“We’re here in solidarity … our specific cause is the fight for $15, we want the $15 minimum wage on campus,” said Christopher DiStasio, a School of Arts and Sciences senior.
He said there has been talk that the funds used to increase worker minimum wage to $11 last year. These funds are not coming from the presidential fund, but are instead being squeezed out of other departments, as reported by The Daily Targum.
Either way, he said $11 an hour is not a living wage, and contested that student and adult workers need higher pay.
DiStasio is one of 12 students who were charged with disorderly conduct during a protest that occurred at the Board of Trustees meeting at the end of last semester, the Targum reported.
He said that the group was charged by the Rutgers University Police Department (RUPD) but not the New Brunswick Police Department (NBPD).
“It’s surprising because we’re a university that’s built on the concept of being revolutionary and pushing for the greater good, and when I did that … in a peaceful protest at the Board of Trustees meeting, the University pressed charges against me. It’s very hypocritical and I find it also very offensive. Like I don’t do what I do, none of us do what we do out of malice or hate for the University, we do it because we actually love the University and we want the University to do what’s right,” he said.
On the topic of teacher negotiations, Jerald Isseks, a School of Graduate Studies student and teacher assistant, said AAUP-AFT is in the preliminary stages of its bargaining process with the University, but is wary that the process will drag on. Contracts are supposed to be finalized over the summer.
“The response hopefully will be in the coming months when they see our show of power, they see how many people came out, how many members we have. Our membership is at like 60 percent capacity right now which is the biggest its ever been, it went up from like 20 percent to like 60 percent in the last three years, so hopefully that’s a little bit of a message to them that we mean business,” he said.
Open Session Commences
In his opening remarks, University President Robert L. Barchi spoke on a semester of happenings at Rutgers.
Barchi commented on the University’s meeting with Gov. Phil Murphy (D-N.J.) to create an environment for the transfer of new technology and intellectual ideas on behalf of New Jersey, Rutgers and private contractors. The vacant lot known as “The Hub” in Downtown New Brunswick remains empty for the time being as plans are drafted.
He commented on former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s speech at Rutgers and said, “it was a great turnout and I think that was something that had good participation by all sides in a very civil conversation, just showing how it can be done here at Rutgers.”
Barchi mentioned two students groups that won the Hult prize regional competition earlier this semester and Chelsie Riche, a School of Arts and Sciences alumna, who was awarded the Gates Cambridge Scholarship.
With Dance Marathon fresh out from this weekend, Barchi commended the efforts of the University’s undergraduates, fraternities and sororities in raising more than $1 million dollar for the Embrace Kids Foundation for the second year in a row.
He also praised the five Rutgers—Camden students who saved an elderly man from a burning fire earlier this year, as reported by the Targum.
Rutgers Application Statistics
Barchi said that the total admissions applications to the University were up by approximately 9.3 percent, with 7.3 percent at Rutgers—New Brunswick. Out of state domestic applications are up by approximately 18 percent year after year.
Admitted students who have announced they are coming to Rutgers is up by approximately 7.6 percent from last year, he said.
Rutgers—Camden noted a 50 percent increase on Admit Comings from last year, and last year saw the same increase from the year before that, Barchi said.
Rutgers Accreditation Process
Rutgers is undergoing its accreditation process this year. Barchi said that in a rough-draft report issued by the peer review team from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE), the University passed all its criteria.
The team spent three days at the University and judged it on seven standards of accreditation and 15 requirements of affiliation. These included the University’s mission and goals, ethics and integrity, delivery of the student learning experience and affordability, among other topics, Barchi said.
“I’m delighted to say that we’ve received a draft of their report back … the report indicates that we are fully in compliance with all of the standards and all of the sub-standards with no reservations about any of them,” Barchi said.
The University’s labor relations unit handles labor negotiations, contract administration, policy administration and also oversees employment equity, said Vivian Fernández, the senior vice president for Human Resources and Organizational Effectiveness. The department also deals with investigations regarding sexual harassment, unlawful harassment or discrimination, workplace violence and other matters.
“In that area, we actually conducted over 180 investigations and during that same period of time reduced the turnaround period for those investigations from 102 days to 60 days … we also resolve 140 informal complaints that didn’t rise to the level of an investigation but did require our intervention," Fernández said.
Barchi recapitulated the University’s stance on its unrestricted funds and clarified misconceptions surrounding what Rutgers can and cannot do with the money.
In a presentation, Kathy Dettloff, vice president of Financial Planning and Budgeting at Rutgers, explained Rutgers’ financial situation.
The University reported that its unrestricted net funds in the fiscal year 2017 were $784 million dollars.
“These funds are committed for critical University needs,” she said.
This includes funding financial aid, academic initiatives, unforeseen events and other necessities, Dettloff said.
The University is required to maintain a certain amount of reserve funding in order to maintain its position among other Big Ten schools. In comparison, it currently ranks low among its peers, Dettloff said.
What this means for Rutgers is that it is financially challenged due to its limited liquidity — how easily the University’s assets can be sold or bought without affecting their price — which could lead to higher borrowing costs and increasing pressure on tuition rates, she said.
On a color-coordinated chart, Dettloff outlined the University's unrestricted funds and operating expenses and suggested that in order for Rutgers to maintain a constant ratio between these two numbers, its Board of Governors must target an operating margin — how much profit Rutgers makes after paying its expenses — of 1-to-1.5 percent as expenses continue to rise.
Commencement Speaker Announced
The Board of Governors’ confirmed that Dan Schulman, president and CEO of PayPal and founding CEO of Virgin Mobile, will be the Rutgers—New Brunswick 2018 commencement speaker. He will receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree.
Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, president emerita and former CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), will also receive an honorary Doctor of Science degree at commencement.
The ceremony will take place on May 13 at High Point Solutions Stadium in Piscataway.