On March 8, two professors at The College of New Jersey, two of its students and one alum made the most of their chance to address six New Jersey legislators about TCNJ’s significance and its budget crisis.

“We want to talk about the crippling financial challenges that we are now facing,” AFT Local 2364 President and biology professor Matthew Wund said during his opening remarks to the engaged crowd in the Intercultural Center, within TCNJ’s Roscoe West Hall. “These challenges are the result of a shrinking number of traditional college-aid students in our region, inflation, an expanding debt burden due to past investments in new buildings, woeful neglect in existing infrastructure, and yes, state support that has been disproportionately low relative to that received by other four-year state colleges and universities in New Jersey.”

Wund noted the “tremendous pain and sacrifice experienced by our colleagues” at financially challenged William Paterson University and New Jersey City University.

“We are concerned that we are on the same path as them, and we want to fix the situation before it spirals out of control,” Wund said. He added that work is being done with Michael Bernstein, TCNJ’s interim president, “to find additional cost savings and to meet his targets.”

The legislators — Sen. Andrew Zwicker, Assemblywoman Tennille R. McCoy, Sen. Linda Greenstein, Assemblywoman Verlina Reynolds-Jackson, Assemblyman Anthony S. Verrelli and Assemblyman Wayne P. DeAngelo — represented Districts 14, 15 and 16. After hearing from Wund, associate professor and AFT Local 2364 member Zakiya Adair, students Amechelle Leander and Arjana Goroveci, and 2018 graduate Mattheus De Souza, all six elected officials were given an opportunity to address the audience.

The last of them to speak was Zwicker, the vice-chair of the Senate Higher Education Committee.

“When you look at the 10-year funding profiles for all four-year public institutions in the state of New Jersey, TCNJ is at the bottom of the list,” said Zwicker, whose wife received her master’s degree from TCNJ. “[Over the past decade], TCNJ has been the worst-funded institution in the state [yet] you are producing some of the highest graduation rates, some of the best students that we see in New Jersey. You’re doing that in spite of the funding that you’re receiving, which is even more remarkable.

“We get it. There are enormous economic challenges right now. … We absolutely need to hear from not just AFT leadership but rank-and-file members. Because if you don’t advocate for yourself, who will?”

TOP: AFT Local 2364 President Matthew Wund delivers his opening remarks March 8.
ABOVE: TCNJ student Arjana Goroveci addresses N.J. legislators from Districts 14, 15 and 16.
(Photos by Chris M. Junior)

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