EDITORIAL: Lack of contract negotiations is puzzling
More full-time faculty could have multiple benefits for students
The contracts agreed upon between the University and Rutgers’ faculty union, the American Association of University Professors-American Federation of Teachers (AAUP-AFT), expired this past July, but a number of faculty members still remain without a new contract. That is not to say that our professors are not getting paid — they are — but negotiations are ongoing, and faculty members have not received raises or adjustments in salary based on cost of living.
The exact reason Rutgers faculty members are currently working on expired contracts is somewhat unclear — it could be due to incompetence on the administration’s part, or certain unattainable requests made on behalf of the union or some other reason. But whatever the reason, the fact that negotiations are still ongoing when they expired nearly two months ago is puzzling, especially since the union sought to begin negotiations of 2017. Negotiations were not even actually initiated by the University until this past March, and they did not end up starting until May.
Much of Rutgers’ faculty is made up of part-time lecturers or adjunct professors, who get paid less than full-time, tenure track professors. David Hughes, the vice president of Rutgers’ AAUP-AFT, said when the administration decided to enlarge the student body a number of years ago, they opted to hire more part-time lecturers rather than tenure track faculty in order to save money. Today, these part-time lecturers are living under a certain amount of uncertainty with regard to their contracts with the University.
Within negotiations with the administration, the union is pushing to increase the amount of contingent faculty who have the opportunity to become tenure tracked. Despite their push, the administration has not responded positively. But it is interesting to consider the positive effect that more full-time faculty members would have not only on those employees who wish to become tenured, but for students.
There are clearly a number of benefits for employees that come along with a full-time position even outside of the monetary and healthcare sorts of compensations. For example, full-time faculty members presumably have more of an ability to serve on and join committees that allow the faculty voice to be heard more fully, which can help improve their experience at the University.
But in some sense, even students should be concerned about there being a lack of full-time faculty members. Full-time professors have offices and can more easily hold regular office hours. Since they are around for the long-term, they have a unique ability to become closer to and mentor students, which is an important aspect of a professor’s role on campus. And in general, full-time professors are the backbone of the University, pushing the curriculum to evolve and putting more time into the positive educational experiences of students.
It seems the administration should more seriously evaluate the obvious importance of the well-being of the faculty here at Rutgers. While it may not be the case that the administration is careless with regard to its faculty, the fact that many faculty members are still without renewed contracts does give off the appearance of such — and that appearance of carelessness raises serious questions about the University’s level of care for the well-being of its students. If the administration seems not to care about helping out its employees, then what might their view on students be?
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