CONTACT: Nat T. Bender, nbender [@] aftnj.org, 908-377-0393
Students, faculty and staff identify funding surplus in reserve funds
Rutgers students, faculty and staff are decrying excessive spending on athletics and executive compensation while vital academic departments budgets are depleted, calling for more support for students and an investment in staff comparable with faculty. At a Board of Governors budget hearing, activists are calling for more transparency in making decisions about finances including bargaining fair contracts for workers and freezing tuition.
“The University’s budget is a statement of priorities and we believe Rutgers leadership should place value on compensating staff properly,” said Union of Rutgers Administrators-American Federation of Teachers (URA-AFT) President Lucye Millerand. “President Barchi says that Rutgers is in excellent financial health and we believe that Rutgers could easily afford to raise staff salaries as well as freezing tuition this year.” Millerand pointed to a surplus of more than a billion dollars in reserves that should be utilized to fill vital campus needs.
Representatives of Students For Shared Governance, a coalition of student organizations at Rutgers, are petitioning for a stronger adherence to student voice in academic affairs and governance. The group is joining staff testifying at the hearing. They are calling for regular meetings between high-level management and student groups, and stronger consideration of student voices on issues like tuition.
Workers at Rutgers have lost considerable financial ground over the past five years due to wage freezes, rising medical and pension payments and frozen cost of living increases, according to School of Arts and Sciences Business Manager Heather DeMeo. She calculates that a three percent raise for staff would cost 88% less than was spent on the athletics shortfall in 2014.
“As staff, we believe in the Rutgers vision and we are asking Rutgers to invest in us,” said DeMeo. “If Rutgers were a body, faculty would supply the brains and students the heart, but staff is the backbone. You cannot stand tall without a strong backbone.”
The Rutgers Association of American University Professors-AFT (AAUP-AFT), which represents faculty from the legacy Rutgers departments of the university, have signed a contract which provides more in raises and salary upgrades than the university negotiators are offering to the staff.
Anthropology Professor David M. Hughes admonished Rutgers management to remember who actually administers the university citing upcoming Rutgers Day as an example. “Don’t overlook the backbone of the university,” he said. “While you compensate yourselves handsomely, consider compensating the staff fairly. A great university depends upon motivating great people to continue doing a great job.”
The Board of Governors holds the open hearing pledging testimony will help inform the administration and board members during the development of the university’s 2015–2016 budget, tuition, fees, and housing and dining charges.