By Troy Shinbrot
The April 22 column by Asbury Park Press editorial page editor, “Rutgers faculty contract: Good for students and taxpayers too?” raised several good questions about the Rutgers budget. Most significant is where the funds will come from and where they will go.
Answers to both are straightforward. Rutgers has surplus revenues that grow by about $40 million every year. This has traditionally gone three places: Athletics, growth in vice presidential ranks and a stockpiled reserve fund.
Deepa Kumar, president of the Rutgers AAUP-AFT union, speaks during a rally at Rutgers-Newark on Tuesday, April 9, 2019, in Newark. Full-time faculty, grad students, and adjunct professors are rallying for the Rutgers Board of Governors to meet their contract demands, which include equal pay, higher salaries, and more full-time faculty hires.
Athletics has 300 employees, larger than the School of Engineering, led by a director who is paid more than $800,000 annually. None of redirected surplus goes to student athletes. Vice Presidential ranks have grown to over 70, the highest in the Big 10, each of whom is paid a six-figure salary. And liquid reserves have grown to nearly $800 million.
So the union proposes the funds come from the annual surplus. Where will they go? The proposed contract intentionally directs funds to those who need it most — for example, by providing a raise to graduate students whose pay has been flat for five years and have lost 9 percent in real spending power, and by benefiting underpaid colleagues on Camden and Newark campuses.
There is no question that redirecting surplus funds to lower-paid employees puts a squeeze on the current spending model. This is intentional. Rutgers is increasingly following a corporate model that devalues research and education, replaces full-time employees with part-time lecturers without benefits, and uses the savings to benefit upper administration. This occurs at the expense of students and part-time lecturers (still without a contract).
Without a doubt, the administration will, if allowed, pass on the costs of the union contract to students. Not because they need to: the $40 million annual surplus is 3 times the total cost of the contract. But because they want to: to maintain the growth in athletic and other upper management spending. We must all be aware of — and resist — this dishonorable and dishonest use of limited funds from New Jersey students and their parents. And we must all insist on a fair contract for part-time lecturers and others whose contracts have been delayed for over a year.
Troy Shinbrot is a professor of biomedical engineering and a faculty senator at Rutgers.