At Rutgers, calls to improve gender and race equity among faculty

BY Leah Mishkin, Correspondent | March 8, 2018, 5PM EST | via NJTV News
“We’re really inspired by the #MeToo campaign, by the West Virginia strike of teachers, largely women who won. We’re also inspired by the women’s marches,” said Rutgers University Associate Professor Deepa Kumar.

Kumar, who is also the president of the Rutgers AAUP-AFT teacher’s union, says now is the time to talk about gender and race equity at Rutgers University.

Now is the time to talk about a report over a dozen faculty and graduate students have worked on for the last two years — a report that looks at hiring patterns, salary, promotion and family leave policies at the state university over a 20-year span.

“At our biggest campus, which is New Brunswick, which is where 70 to 75 percent of our faculty are and there’s a salary gap. Women earn less than men,” said Kumar.

The report also shows a disparity in the genders of distinguished professors at the university, where 20 percent are female, 80 percent male. When it comes to department chairs, the report found 40 percent are female and 60 percent are male.

There’s a lot of support for change is coming from male professors.

“It’s not acceptable for Rutgers being the kind of diverse university that it is,” said Carlos Decena, chair of Rutgers’ Latino and Caribbean Studies Department.

Associate Professor of French Ana Pairet has been working at Rutgers University for more than 20 years.

“The atmosphere is wonderful, but are we really being equitable?” she asked.

According to the report, in 1997 close to 5.4 percent of tenured or tenure-track faculty were African-American. By 2017, That number dropped to 4.2 percent. The numbers for Latino and Latina faculty also show little change over the same time period. The report says it’s gone from 2.4 percent up to 3.9.

“Our student body is incredibly diverse. Our faculty body, not so much. In fact we’ve gone backward,” said Kumar.

Rutgers University issued a statement, which reads in part, “Diversity and inclusion are foundational elements of the university’s strategic plan and the president has provided incentives to academic units, including additional financial support for recruiting and retaining diverse faculty. … Decisions about compensation for our unionized faculty do not consider gender, race or ethnicity.”

Still, Decena said his department would not exist without the kind of activism that students pursued in the 1970s.

“The collective voice of the faculty is so important in terms of bringing about real meaningful change and writing that into our contract, so that it can’t just be taken away,” he said.

The agreement between Rutgers and the professors union expires June 30.