We Are Not Disposable: Don’t Let Rutgers Purge Dedicated Teachers!
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Monday, April 13, 2020
To President Barchi, the Board of Governors, and the broader Rutgers community:
We Are Not Disposable: Don’t Let Rutgers Purge Dedicated Teachers
On April 2nd, in response to the COVID-19 health crisis, Rutgers announced a hiring freeze for all employees, including its adjunct faculty (called Part-Time Lecturers or PTLs). As most PTL contracts must be renewed each semester, this “hiring freeze” could effectively amount to termination for many of Rutgers’ most valuable educators. Since April 2nd, top administrators have instructed some university deans to reduce PTL positions by as much as 25 percent, and to also make cuts to curricula. Administrators made these decisions unilaterally, without consulting the labor unions that represent the more than 20,000 workers essential to fulfilling Rutgers’ core mission. Why are administrators endangering the education of our students and threatening to harm the most vulnerable members of its faculty?
In response to this outrageous and unfair policy, we, the undersigned, demand the following of the administration:
- Rescind the April 2nd policy announcing a PTL hiring freeze;
- Rescind any instructions to Deans to cut PTL hires by 20% or more.
Further, in light of the nature of the COVID-19 health emergency and its implications for the lives and well-being of Rutgers most vulnerable teachers:
- Immediately provide access to Rutgers health clinics for PTLs, and all other uninsured part-time employees at Rutgers, free of any charge;
- Provide compensation in the amount of $1,250 per course to PTLs who put in extra hours to rapidly transition to remote instruction;
- Cancel spring course evaluations because it is unfair to evaluate PTLs for teaching for courses that were transitioned to distance learning;
- Advance all qualified PTLs applying for promotion this semester (before June 1st), without “classroom” observation; and
- Recognize and empower a Rutgers Community COVID-19 Task Force in which all stakeholders—representatives of faculty and other Rutgers’ unions, student representatives, and community leaders—are equal partners in crisis response.
Context: Rutgers employs roughly 3,000 PTLs statewide, who teach thousands of courses, and tens of thousands of students, every semester. Most PTLs make less than $5,500 per course with no benefits, and have worked overtime this spring without additional compensation for moving courses online. Cutting the number of PTLs not only weakens Rutgers’ primary institutional mission—to educate students—it also makes little financial sense. Reducing PTL courses by 20-25% will net less that $6 million in savings, perhaps far less. If Rutgers needs to save money, why not do what Stanford and other universities have done, and begin with temporary pay cuts for top administrators who have the highest salaries? For example, athletic coaches some of whom earn well over a million dollars, continue to draw salaries even while Rutgers sports are suspended. Additionally, there are 247 administrators at Rutgers who make more than $250,000 a year. Temporarily capping salaries at $250,000 could save $29 million.
Further, there is no evidence that the university in fact faces any budgetary emergency. We know that Rutgers retains a “rainy day fund” totaling as much as $805 million, and that it will receive federal stimulus aid (around $55 million). Why not use these funds to ensure the quality education and protect some of the university’s most experienced teachers? Why look to layoff the lowest-paid faculty members, especially when alternative employment is likely to be severely limited due to hiring freezes at other universities?
The COVID-19 pandemic is laying bare the inequities in our workforce and our workplaces. Rutgers PTLs stand together, and in solidarity with all members of the Rutgers community and beyond, whose jobs and well-being are threatened by this crisis, to say: “We are not disposable.” Together, we have the power to stop the university’s thoughtless efforts to manage this crisis on the backs of its most vulnerable employees.
We, the undersigned, call upon the administration to do the right thing and respond quickly to this petition and its demands.
The PTLFC-AAUP-AFT Executive Board
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