On April 21, about 70 members of Middlesex College’s full-time faculty, along with some current students, attended the Middlesex County Board of County Commissioners meeting in New Brunswick to support Local 1940 AFT as it continues its efforts for a new contract.
Sheema Majiduddin, a counselor at Middlesex College, was the first in a long line of speakers, and she addressed the overall atmosphere at the school. “The reality is that enrollment is low. Morale is at an all-time low. Communication [with the administration] doesn’t exist,” she said, also noting that longtime MC employees have recently left for other job opportunities or have retired.
“So I hope you are with us for the much-needed change that needs to happen at the institution and at the college,” Majiduddin said to the board. “I just want you all to know that we’re all in this together.”
Local 1940 AFT President Pat Payne opened her comments by referencing her history with Middlesex College (she’s a graduate who’s taught there for 32 years) and her family’s lifelong connection to Middlesex County, “a place we choose to live where the standards are high, and thanks to the leadership of county officials like you, remains so.”
“Tonight we are here to ask for your continued support to maintain those same high county standards for Middlesex College, to continue to support teaching and learning, to continue contributing to the success of our students. We ask, when given the opportunity, you voice your support for the faculty of Middlesex College,” she said.
Payne recapped the full-time faculty’s efforts at the school during the pandemic, among them the swift transition to a virtual platform, which was preceded by purchasing their own technology and equipment: “And we never missed a beat. We never canceled classes. We never turned a student away from a counseling session or a library service.”
She also summarized the struggles over the past two years to negotiate a new contract with Middlesex College’s administration.
“Tonight we are here to publicly show the commitment that each faculty member in this room has, that each student has, that members of the public have, who all wish to see our institution once again begin to thrive,” Payne said.
She added, “At this point, it seems almost incomprehensible that the only thing we’ve asked for is a fair contract settlement — nothing more than that.”
In an April 22 email to her members, Payne gave kudos to the other speakers and acknowledged the “shout-outs from random members of the public who were present at the meeting. It was a good night to be a faculty member.”
Next up for Local 1940 AFT is an informational picket May 3 at 2 p.m. on the Middlesex College campus, in front of Chambers Hall.