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Faculty protests for higher wage contracts

In spite of the rain and cold weather, members of the Rutgers American Association of University Professors-American Federation of Teachers protested for fairer faculty contracts in the Voorhees Mall area.
Photo by Tianyun LinIn spite of the rain and cold weather, members of the Rutgers American Association of University Professors-American Federation of Teachers protested for fairer faculty contracts in the Voorhees Mall area.

The cold weather and pouring rain could not stop a large crowd of professors and faculty members from protesting yesterday outside Douglass Student Center.

Toting megaphones and picket signs, the protestors demanded salary raises and fairer distribution of funding. The protests took place on all four New Brunswick campuses, as well as Newark and Camden.

Sherry Wolf, lead organizer of the Rutgers American Association of University Professors-American Federation of Teachers, said the University is run like a corporation behind closed doors.

Administrators should not be paid more than the average tenure-track professor, yet Rutgers President Robert L. Barchi makes $650,000 in salary per year, Wolf said.

Rutgers adjunct professors have no pensions, no health care and no benefits, and Rutgers disposes of them quickly, she said.  

Protestors chanted, “Hey Barchi, what do you say? Rutgers needs a raise today!”

According to The New York Times’ economy blog Economix, the average salary of a Rutgers-New Brunswick full-time professor is $140,100, the eighth-highest salary for public universities.

But David Hughes, a professor in the Department of Anthropology, said professors who teach in business, medicine and law skew the numbers since they are “paid on a different scale.” School of Arts and Sciences professors get paid much less, and non-tenure track professors earn around $40,000.

Wolf said she knows non-tenure track professors who work as baristas on the side. But outliers make the salary of professors seem higher and distort the reported average pay.

“Outliers are like our President Barchi,” Hughes said. “We are primarily fighting for people on the lower end of the scale.”

The administration also needs to take the cost of living into account when setting salaries, said Nikol Alexander-Floyd, associate professor in the Department of Women’s and Gender studies.

The cost of living in New Jersey is double compared to other states, she said. 

AAUP-AFT has requested a 6 percent salary increase for three years, but instead, Rutgers has frozen wages for four years. Hughes said the average salary should be 18 percent higher.

“We used to get regular increases that kept the pace with inflation, but now we are way behind the rate of inflation,” Hughes said.

The union battle is also a sign of corruption at Rutgers, said Albany Stafford, a School of Arts and Sciences senior. Holding a megaphone, he asked whether anyone in the crowd had ever received “an absurd $70 parking ticket” and said the University “hands them out like candy.”

Stafford said Rutgers stopped publishing the millions of dollars received from ticket revenues in 2010, which was the same year they discontinued the L bus to save money.

“Where did the millions of dollars from parking tickets go?” he said.

In addition, corruption at Rutgers can be found in the Athletics Department, Wolf said. Rutgers cut library funding by $2 million at the same time they gave football head coach Kyle Flood a $3.5 million salary guarantee.

Students and faculty cannot do research without libraries, and Rutgers should be investing more, not less, in libraries, she said. 

“Last year, $48 million was ‘suddenly found’ to subsidize sports. That’s four times what it would cost to give all faculty a raise. That one subsidy,” Wolf said. 

Rutgers would not have to raise tuition to give professors fair compensation, which Wolf said she opposes. The money could be distributed more fairly, rather than being allocated to the Athletics Department, she said. 

A raise would positively affect students, Wolf said, which is why the AAUP slogan is “Faculty working conditions are students’ learning conditions.”

“Students are paying $25,000 a year, but it’s not going to the professor that’s teaching them in front of the room,” she said.

In addition to unfair compensation and distribution of funding, the protestors argued faculty are undermined in their governing power at Rutgers. 

Floyd said faculty does not have the opportunity to weigh in on critical decisions in the institution. For example, the professors were not able to help select the president. Faculty was once locked out of a Board of Governors meeting, she said. 

“I came to Rutgers University for the professors who won Pulitzer Prizes for their work, not the football,” Floyd said. “I didn’t spend 23 years [getting a Ph.D.] to be treated like this.”