Rutgers faculty members enter fall semester with expired contracts, negotiations underway

Contract negotiations between the Rutgers administration and the Rutgers faculty union — the American Association of University Professors-American Federation of Teachers (AAUP-AFT) — have been ongoing for approximately six months.

According to its website, AAUP-AFT is demanding equal pay for equal work for all faculty, more diverse hiring practices, job security, academic freedom, affordable healthcare and education.

David Hughes, vice president of AAUP-AFT and a professor in the Department of Anthropology, said that as a result of theongoing negotiations, many Rutgers faculty members are currently working on expired contracts.

“Negotiations are ongoing. The current collective negotiations agreements continue in effect until new agreements are negotiated,” said University spokesperson Dory Devlin in a statement to The Daily Targum.

The University did not comment on the number of faculty members working with expired contracts.

Hughes said these faculty members are still getting paid because the terms of the past contract extends past the July 1 expiration date until a new contract is signed. But, they did not receive raises or cost-of-living adjustments on July 1 due to the contracts expiring.

He explained that there has also not been a response to the union’s salary proposal, creating uncertainty about the future.

“PTLs (Part Time Lecturers), many of whom only earn $5,200 per course, should not have to live, work and teach under this cloud of uncertainty and insecurity,” he said.

Hughes said the union wanted negotiations to start in December 2017 due to the wide-ranging nature of their requests. Negotiations actually ended up starting in May 2018, but the administration did not initiate negotiations until March 2018.

Since starting, AAUP-AFT and the administration have been conducting approximately two sessions per month, each lasting around two hours, he said.

Another point of emphasis for the union is increasing the amount of contingent faculty who become tenure tracked, which Hughes said the administration has said no to.

“Almost twenty years ago, almost everyone who taught at Rutgers was tenured tracked,” he said. “What happened was they enlarged the student body. To save money, instead of hiring more tenure track faculty, they hired more part-time lecturers.”

Hughes said that converting part-time lecturers to full-time lecturers is a budget-neutral proposal that ensures faculty can offer students more opportunities such as internships, labs and independent studies since they know they will be around for multiple semesters.

AAUP-AFT has been active in protests on campus in recent semesters, pushing initiatives it supports, such as a $15 minimum wage for student workers and a freeze on tuition increases. The organization has requested that the University pay for these demands using the approximately $800 million it has in unrestricted reserves.

At a Board of Governor’s meeting in April, Kathy Dettloff, vice president of Financial Planning and Budgeting at Rutgers, said the University’s unrestricted net funds in the fiscal year 2017 were $784 million, according to the Targum. The funds are committed to critical needs such as funding financial aid, academic initiatives, unforeseen events and other necessities, she said.

The University is required to maintain a certain amount of reserve funding in order to maintain its position among other Big Ten schools, Dettloff said. It currently ranks low among its peers.

In regards to the more recent negotiations, the vice president of Academic Affairs and Administration, Karen Stubaus, did not respond to a request to comment.

Hughes said he believes that the stalling of the negotiations is due to a lack of concern on the part of the administration.

“This all boils down to (Rutgers President Robert L.) Barchi,” Hughes said. “If he authorized his team to meet with us and respond to our proposals, they would. There are over 200 administrators here. They moved efficiently on privatizing the medical school and giving ex-Chancellor (of Rutgers—New Brunswick, Debasish) Dutta a half-million dollar holiday. The administration doesn’t take negotiating with the faculty seriously, and therefore doesn’t take its undergraduates seriously.”

Sam Leibowitz-Lord