Rutgers faculty union urges Rutgers administration to pursue investigation against head football coach Kyle Flood amid allegations
Yesterday afternoon, the Executive Committee of New Jersey's American Association of University Professors-American Federation of Teachers (AAUP-AFT) passed a resolution urging Rutgers to further pursue an investigation into football head coach Kyle Flood following allegations recently made against him.
The allegations state that Flood reportedly emailed a part-time lecturer about the grade of "F" the instructor assigned to football player Nadir Barnwell when Barnwell was said to be in jeopardy of being declared academically ineligible to play.
David Hughes, Rutgers' AAUP-AFT's faculty union president and a professor in the Department of Anthropology, said the faculty is not trying to undermine Flood's job security, but instead pointing out the flaws in Rutgers' overall system that opens the door for higher-earning employees to wield power over other employees in potentially weak positions.
The AAUP-AFT is concerned with labor conditions for part-time lecturers and how quality academic freedom might be compromised with a power imbalance, such as that between highly-paid employees like Flood and employees like part-time lecturers, who are paid considerably less, he said.
“A part-time lecturer earns $4,800 and is employed semester by semester with no job security, no promise or stability and is in a tremendously precarious position,” Hughes said. “First of all, the wage puts that person below the poverty level and then that person depends on the goodwill of administrators.”
Although Hughes said he could not say for sure, he voiced skepticism that Flood would accidentally "twist the arm" of a part-time lecturer because that person is in a vulnerable enough position where they might comply with one of the most prominent employees at Rutgers.
“I see an abuse of power here made possible by a powerless situation on part-time lecturers," he said. "And we are in the middle of a campaign to improve the conditions of part-time lecturers, who themselves are bargaining for a better contract right now."
Hughes said this type of incident becomes more and more likely when the University creates a disenfranchised class of instructors — there are around 1,500 part-time lecturers on campus who teach about 30 percent of the courses, but do so without job security or sufficient salaries.
Aside from the impact on part-time lecturers, students are also affected.
"The integrity of all Rutgers diplomas — past and future — depends upon the integrity of a grading process free of external interference," according to the text of the resolution.
Part-time lecturers, like all faculty, exercise faculty freedom by conducting research and by judging the academic product of students by assessing and grading student effort and work, Hughes said.
“For a coach to interfere with that exercise of academic freedom, it constrains the academic freedom, but it also does a disservice to students because the value of the Rutgers degree rests on the quality of our faculty,” he said.
A spokesperson for Flood was contacted last night, but was unwilling to offer comment.
Teresa Politano has been teaching at Rutgers for 16 years and currently serves as the President of the Part-Time Lecturers Faculty Chapter (PTLFC) of the AAUF-AFT while continuing to teach in the University's School of Communication and Information. Politano shared her "outside opinion" on the passing of the resolution in a phone interview last night, making it clear she did not participate in the resolution's drafting, nor does she have any further knowledge of the investigation of Flood beyond what has been made public.
"I think the University has a process outlined for how a coach can ask questions or reach out to someone on the faculty and direct communication — from what I understand — is prohibited," Politano said. "Obviously it can be very intimidating to receive an email from one of the top officials at the University questioning a grade or questioning any sort of tactics. That's what the regulations are meant to protect, the integrity of the classroom."
Politano offered insight into the dynamic between part-time lecturers and those with higher standing at the University, including coaches.
"As a part-timer, if you're looking for your job to be renewed every semester you also worry about whether or not you're well-liked," the PTLFC president said. "So if someone like Kyle Flood, who is obviously very visible and important to the University, gets in touch with you and questions your grading policies or your classroom activities, obviously that can be intimidating."
When asked if she believes the University should take a hard stance regarding punishment for Flood if the investigation confirms he breached the contact policy, Politano said she did not place athletics above academics.
"I think we forgive in our society a lot ... you know we look the other way too many times when our celebrity athletes and our celebrity coaches do things that they ought not do. I think it's the wrong direction, it sends the wrong message," Politano said. "Wouldn't it be terrific if Rutgers says 'we're not going to tolerate this, our academic integrity is paramount.'"
When asked if she, personally, had ever been contacted directly by a member of any coaching staff in her time at Rutgers, Politano was adamant in her response.
"I've never been contacted by anyone who was on the coaching staff and that's exactly how it should be," she said.
Hughes believes Flood is actually hurting his players by contacting the part-time lecturer.
“Coach Flood has actually done a disservice to his players by undermining their academic credentials," Hughes said.
In the face of the allegations against Flood, Hughes requested that University President Robert L. Barchi reaffirm the academic freedom of all faculty, particularly for part-time lecturers and disclose the results of Flood's investigation to the public.
“Anybody holding a Rutgers degree now, who may have graduated 30 years ago, has a stake in this issue," Hughes said. "We think it is important for President Barchi to act and restore confidence in the Rutgers degree."
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