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AAUP-AFT protest for negotiated part-time lecturer contracts

 – Photo by Ruoxuan Yang

As Rutgers reaches its 250th anniversary of being a revolutionary higher-education institution, many say the biggest revolution would be paying part-time lecturers.

The Rutgers Council of AAUP-AFT Chapters (American Association of University Professors- American Federation of Teachers) congregated at Busch Campus Center on Monday to protest the lack of contracts, benefits and respect from the University. 

Graduate students, teacher assistants and full-time employees came out to help part-time lecturers negotiate a contract.

“Right now we’re in negotiation with management for a contract for adjunct faculty, and what we’re drawing out is support and goals at the bargaining table,” said Patrick Nowlan, executive director of the Rutgers AAUP-AFT.

The AAUP-AFT works to uphold, promote and defend values essential to the protection of quality public higher education, according to their website. They also plan to enhance the quality of work life by negotiating terms and conditions of employees represented. 

David Chapman, secretary of the AAUP-AFT and Mason Gross School of the Arts adjunct professor, said they are fighting for respect and recognition from the University, but also health benefits, salary and job security.

“We need to have our needs taken care of as well, just like anyone else who has a job,” Chapman said. “It’s hard for part-time lecturers to piece together a living."

Adjunct professors and part time lecturers are looking to be treated like “regular employees," Nowlan said.

“When they teach, they want to be viewed as the equivalent of (a) full time employee that just works part time,” he said. “They want the security that comes with regular employment as opposed to be turned over semester after semester, not knowing if they’re going to have a job in the coming spring.”

He said it is also unfair to students because they do not know who will be regularly teaching the course every semester.

The AAUP-AFT has a proposal that says the University has an obligation to provide some level of support for health benefits.

"... So we’re asking not that they get the full University paid benefits, but we’re asking that they get some prorated portion of that,” Nowlan said.

Chapman said that the proposal states that part time lecturers are asking to be paid proportional to the work they do.

“Whatever fraction they are of a full time employee, they should get that level of pay because they’re doing all that work, and they should be recognized for the value that they bring here,” Nowlan said.

Teresa Politano an adjunct professor in the Department of Journalism and Media Studies in the School of Communication and Information, said she was looking for recognition that the contingent faculty is an integrated and valued part of the University.

The number of part-timers at the University has increased dramatically, she said. 

"... We are the face of the University, we’re the people who stand in front of the classroom,” she said. “We’re looking for a contract that puts us on par with other faculty members.”

Part-time lecturers teach more than a third of classes offered at Rutgers, but earn only about $4,800 per course taught, according to Politano.

“This is not a professional salary. It does not reflect the skills we have, most of these employees have PhDs, and this doesn’t reflect their talents or abilities,” she said.

Many part-time lecturers are still with the University because of the economy and their love of teaching, Politano said.

“Many of us want to use this as a stepping stone or ladder to a career path, but there is not (a) career path, and we’d like one,” she said.

She also said that educators are the core function of the University and that Rutgers needs to prioritize paying them as opposed to what is better for the University financially.

“The University has said it values football, and has built a lot of new buildings, and yet, the people who stand in front of the classroom are not paid well,” she said. “Why is that? Rutgers University was not founded to play football or founded as a corporation, but founded to educate. This is the core function of the University, and Rutgers needs to value its educators.”

Politano said there have been many changes within higher education, and she said she needs to remain nimble and able to easily adapt. The experience of higher education has become very commercial, but Politano believes what happens in the classroom is the most important aspect of college.

John Castella, vice president of the AAUP-AFT and adjunct professor at the School of Management and Labor Relations, said the administration needs to realize where the priorities are for higher education.

“The administration has their priorities a little backwards and needs to make education the forefront of the University again,” Castella said. “It’s about time the administration sees that we are united and they’re going to have a problem.”

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