Last week, at the annual State of the University Address, we looked forward to getting answers to some of our questions from Rutgers President Jonathan Holloway. For instance: Why has the university been sitting on nearly $365 million in COVID relief funds? Why don’t we have free testing for everyone at Rutgers as the Delta variant continues to spread breakthrough infections throughout the country? Who will be held accountable for the Rutgers Athletics financial disaster, and how will Holloway’s administration prevent such a thing from happening again?
Representatives from our union came to the meeting prepared with questions. Unfortunately, we didn’t get the answers that we needed.
In his address, Holloway skated over this past month’s financial news bombshell: that Rutgers not only borrowed more than a quarter of a billion dollars to funnel towards our Athletics program during a time of so-called fiscal emergency, but also reported these loans as income in violation of NCAA guidelines. Holloway refused to call the university administration to account, and instead stated that “despite recent assertions, the athletics budget has been managed appropriately and has had consistently clean audits.”
This is egregious, especially considering that Rutgers Athletics violated university policy by financing athletics operating deficits with nearly $80 million in university loans. (Check out our “Rutgers Athletics Debt Scandal: Key Facts” flyer here.)
President Holloway may have stated that the present course is “unsustainable,” but he did not go further than that. In fact, he ignored the majority of these issues altogether, stating that he is proud of the athletics program’s “commitment to integrity.”
Let us be clear: We—as educators and union members—stand alongside our student athletes, and we are proud of their accomplishments. However, we do not stand by financial practices that strip money from the core mission of the university while laying off educators, at the expense of students and student athletes alike.
President Holloway’s speech also named university labor relations as one of the three major concerns his administration faces. After acknowledging the power of organized labor at Rutgers (“[There is] no other university in the country where unionized labor plays such a central role in the direction of the university”), Holloway announced a new office of labor relations—headed by David Cohen, Rutgers Deputy General Counsel, who is not only a holdover from the Barchi administration, but a former governor Chris Christie appointee! Holloway also failed to adequately answer the questions posed to him in the Q&A session by leading labor representatives, including longtime PTLs and current PTLFC Executive Board members Karen Thompson and Cynthia Saltzman.
Thompson addressed Holloway’s empty rhetoric and complete lack of attention to PTL needs directly:
“You spoke to the graduates about the terms and conditions of their future. My immediate reaction is: What about the terms and conditions of our present? When you talk about the future of work—everybody stepped up to do something to get through the pandemic, and PTLs are working for free because [we] . . . get paid by the course, and so anything we do extra to prepare for remote teaching is unpaid work. I call that wage theft. . . . If the athletics budget is 2.8% of the university budget, the PTL budget for 3,000 employees is less than 1%!”
Holloway’s response? “I have paid more attention to PTLs than past presidents.” We appreciate the attention. However, we are still waiting to hear what, if any, actions the Holloway administration will take to address the problem that Holloway himself labeled as “adjunctification.”
Soon after, Saltzman posed her own question:
“You talked about a new way forward for labor…. My question is: Can we count on you to work towards ensuring that PTLs gain job security? This is a particularly important question for a number of reasons. Rutgers recently laid off 400 PTLs during the pandemic, and some faculty members who have been promoted from PTL 1 to 2 to 3 have found their course loads [reduced], so their overall pay is less, which renders their promotion meaningless. Furthermore, lecturers have to apply for their job every single semester. I’ve been here for 25 years, and I have applied 50 times for my job. We don’t receive a contract often until right before we need to teach, and we feel very insecure and unrecognized.”
Holloway sidestepped her concerns by suggesting he does not have the authority to make an executive-level decision: “There’s an interesting logic problem here… to what extent does one exercise presidential authority over departments?”
Holloway is the President of this university and has been now for well over a year. His job is to make sure Rutgers provides the best quality education possible for all students. Treating 30 percent of the university’s faculty as disposable and exploitable labor does real harm to students. If it isn’t his responsibility to make sure PTLs have what they need to teach their students effectively, then whose responsibility is it?
As Holloway himself said at the close of his speech: “We can do better. In order to do so we will have to take new approaches to how we work, how we govern, how we collaborate, how we discover, how we learn, how we consume… and how we trust. If we are to become the very best version of ourselves it will require nothing short of a reset in how we conceive of this university in its base and best practices.”
We agree. It’s time for a reset, President Holloway. Which is why, this year, we’re organizing to demand Rutgers shifts its priorities back to its core mission: teaching and learning.
Will you join us—and our adjunct colleagues nationwide—in calling for equal pay for equal work, a path to full-time employment, affordable health insurance for PTLs, and more? We will need every single PTL on board to transform this university and make our voices heard!
PTLFC Executive Board