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COMMENTARY: High ranks of U. refuse to fix diversity

I write to amplify your recent editorial, "Lack of faculty diversity needs mending,” which points out that faculty poorly represent the diversity of New Jersey citizens, and that Rutgers is among the worst of its peers in gender and racial diversity in its senior administration.

These remarks are very apropos: for the past 11 months, Group of Ten professional managers and lawyers from the senior administration, each earning six-figure salaries, have been dawdling, procrastinating and outright stonewalling in response to faculty, student and staff demands to address exactly these diversity issues.

Item: Female full-time professors on the New Brunswick campus are currently paid $22,000 less annually than male full-time professors. The faculty union has insisted for 11 months on equal pay for women and men so that women want to work at Rutgers. The Group of Ten has both refused to agree to equal pay for equal work and refuses to implement a proposed Paul Robeson program to improve faculty diversity.

Item: Rutgers has the highest percentage of part-time lecturers (PTLs) among the Big Ten universities — more than 17 percent more than the next nearest competitor. Replacing full-time faculty positions with PTLs tends to divert minorities and women into underemployed and underpaid positions. Beyond fundamental unfairness, this results in students and families paying full tuition, but being increasingly taught by teaching assistants (TAs) and part-time employees: not a way to train competitive professionals, either minority or not. The faculty union has insisted for 11 months that Rutgers reverse the trend toward teaching students with PTLs and TAs. The Group of Ten continues to refuse.

Item: University President Robert L. Barchi agreed in public, at the January Faculty Senate meeting, to give faculty a 3-percent-per-year raise. The faculty union, which also represents PTLs and TAs, proposed this amount to the Group of Ten. Similarly, the Union of Rutgers Administrators, representing department and program administrators who keep the University running — and who anyone with eyes knows are largely women and minorities — has also proposed a 3-percent raise. And the Group of Ten, who themselves all got 3 percent months ago, refused.

And a final item: Rutgers leads the Big Ten in fraction of total salaries spent on upper-level managers — more than 30 percent more than its next nearest competitor. In January alone, Rutgers took on four new vice provosts and chancellors. Small surprise that the Group of Ten feels comfortable justifying their $2 million cumulative salaries obstructing proposals over the course of 11 months that 1 or 2 sensible people could decide in an afternoon.

In one sense, many of these items are fine points, but in the larger sense they are simply what happens when an organization bloats its ranks with overpaid bureaucrats. The reason that Rutgers looks less and less like its population as we look higher and higher in its ranks is that the Group of Ten and their fellows have put people in charge of important decisions who refuse. 

They refuse equal pay for equal work, they refuse to stop replacing full-time with part-time workers, they refuse to provide adequate pay for those at the bottom, in favor of those at the top. And most essentially, they refuse to stop spending tuition dollars on bloating their ranks with more overpaid and obstructionist bureaucrats like themselves.

Only when the Rutgers community, parents and elected representatives force them to stop can we hope to begin agreeing to no-brainer proposals like equal pay for equal work, and only then can Rutgers become a university whose faculty and administration looks like its population.

Troy Shinbrot is a Rutgers professor of biomedical engineering. 


*Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

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