Whispers have been floating throughout the Rutgers University campus for quite some time of a teacher strike, and whether people are interested in the solidarity of faculty or the possible break from classes, there are a lot of questions being asked.
So what does this mean? And what do we know?
To understand the effect is to understand the cause. The union at Rutgers, American Association of University Professors - American Federation of Teachers (AAUP-AFT), has been fighting "the corporate university" for over a year to achieve affordable education, more diverse representation, and better quality of our education. This could call for the first faculty and grad strike in the university's 253-year history, as President Barchi's priorities have been deemed twisted to those who are affected by them.
"Our working conditions are our students' learning conditions," said Rutgers AAUP-AFT.
The union has outlined what exactly they are fighting for, including three subcategories of equity, quality higher education, and security. This includes equal pay for part-time faculty, female faculty, and faculty in Newark and Camden campuses for equity, improvement of student/faculty ratio by hiring more full-time faculty, more diverse faculty, and more teaching assistantship to improve the university's quality of education, and salary increases ahead of cost-of-living, five-year graduate funding packages, longer and more secure contracts for non-tenure track faculty, and family/research-friendly work schedules for security.
AAUP-AFT has also highlighted some unnecessary, costly expenses that Barchi has been selecting to indulge instead of faculty salaries. These expenses include athletics subsidies ($193 million), liquid unrestricted reserves ($783 million), and money spent on coaches/administrators "golden parachutes" ($11.5 million).
Union members at Rutgers Newark have demonstrated protests by picketing for three hours last Tuesday. Rutgers — New Brunswick plans to follow this display if no contracts are made or improved, affecting its approximate 38,000 students just as the spring semester draws to a close.
"It's a final warning — contract or strike," said Deepa Kumar, the president of Rutgers AAUP-AFT. "Do the right thing and give us a fair contract. Otherwise, we will have no choice but to go on strike."
I stand with AAUP-AFT Rutgers professors who are prepared to strike in order to defend affordable, quality higher education. When we organize and stand together, we win.
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders)
Though the university's spokespeople are claiming that negotiations are underway, a strike is still on track to happen at some point next week, leaving classrooms empty and students without work.
"Yeah, it's going to be complicated. Every syllabus is going to be screwed up," said Margaret Curran, an undergraduate student at Rutgers University – New Brunswick. "But it's something that needs to be done. We understand and we stand with our professors."
It's time for Rutgers to fix its priorities. Our faculty is what keeps our university running. We stand with our teachers, and we expect change.
For more information, you can visit www.rutgersaaup.org.