Faculty and staff protested at Friday’s University Senate meeting with complaints about the slow contract negotiation process and Rutgers’ compensation policies. But University President Robert L. Barchi objected to claims that Rutgers treats its faculty poorly, saying that professor salaries here are in the “upper tier” of American Association of Universities institutions.
Barchi spoke at the Senate’s meeting at the College Avenue Student Center on the progress of Strategic Plan initiatives and the difficulties in funding and organizing a large institution without support from the state.
The meeting kicked off with Chairwoman Ann Gould’s report on revisions to the selection process for commencement speakers and honorary degree recipients.
The University senate made the changes in light of last year’s controversial choice of Condoleezza Rice as commencement speaker, a decision led by the Rutgers Board of Governors.
“The Senate Executive Committee decided that the most significant issue with this particular commencement speaker and honorary degree recipients was the process by which this candidate was selected, “ she said.
She said the new method would be through a senate committee of faculty, staff, students and alumni. They are currently forming that committee, which they hope to establish in time for 2017 commencement.
In the interim, the senate will pick the speaker out of a list that the University secretary will compile.
Barchi then gave his report, which began with his personal story. He came to Rutgers uncertain of his ability to make a difference, but realized the University had “pent-up” energy for change.
He highlighted several accomplishments of students and faculty, such as a seven-point increase in SAT scores among incoming first-year students.
Although many have criticized the bloated size of administration, Barchi said Rutgers was in the bottom 10 percent in terms of the ratio between administrators and students.
“We have to have really good people in those jobs, because if they miss a ball, there will be no one to back them up,” he said.
He used this to discuss the appointment of several administrators, such as Brian Strom of Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences.
According to The Star-Ledger, Strom received a base salary of $675,000 and could earn $4 million in compensation in his first five years.
The Strategic Plan, both a document outlining Rutgers’ goals and the methods used to find those goals, played a large part of Barchi’s speech.
He said the University has formed two major committees to discuss changes, one to review the school system and organization and another to recommend short-term technology changes and analyze technology’s influence on Rutgers.
Despite the committee’s analysis, Barchi is not satisfied with the computer support system in place at the administrator level. He hopes to procure better systems for research services as well as financial analysis.
“It’s hopeless to get that information with the antiquated systems we have,” he said.
“We’re working on it with bubblegum, but what we really need to do is change it.”
Another one of his priorities for change is minority recruitment for faculty and staff.
Rutgers has one of the best diversity programs in the country, but they do not receive enough recognition for it, he said.
In the Q&A period, David Hughes, a professor in the Department of Anthropology, said Barchi’s claim that faculty are the “heart and soul” of the University was not reflected in their salaries.
He said the median salary for full professors is in the 91st percentile, while salaries for associate professors are in the 94th percentile. Salaries for assistant professors were in the mid-range, 50th to 60th percentile.
In response to a question about retaining faculty and raising salaries, Barchi said he was trying to be responsive. But he could not guarantee anything.
“Every time you ask me to do something, I have to not do something else,” he said.
During the protest, Hughes said the funding for professors’ salaries should come from the University’s spending on athletics.
Hughes also challenged Rutgers’ spending on athletics, which he said also endangers students’ brain health.
“I believe that we’re not so cynical to exploit these young men’s bodies for profit,” he said. “Why are we doing this? Why are we putting their bodies, their cognitive abilities, at risk?”
He pointed to football head coach Kyle Flood’s recent contract extension as an example of overspending. Meanwhile, Rutgers cut the library budget for new books and databases.
Lucye Millerand, president of the Union of Rutgers Administrators, said many union members are taking home less than they did in 2008 when they factor in health care and pension costs. They have had a salary freeze for the past two years.
Rutgers has more than 15,000 staff members, including dining hall workers, library staff and the staff of academic departments, according to Rutgers official website.
The $1 billion Rutgers holds in reserve is the result of pay cuts to staff members, she said.
“That money was stolen from our pockets,” she said.
Stephen Moorman, associate professor at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, is frustrated that Rutgers continues to refer to him and other faculty as “legacy [University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey]” staff members rather than full Rutgers professors.
The faculty at RBHS is negotiating separately for their contract with Rutgers. They are fighting over the compensation system, which Rutgers says should be based on productivity.
But Rutgers defines productivity in terms of numbers – the number of published works, the number of classes they teach or the amount they bring in for the clinic, he said.
The definition does not include the work they do outside of the office to prepare, or the value they bring teaching students in the clinic.
“The administration wants to computerize everything,” he said.