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Faculty union pickets from Paul Robeson plaza to Winants Hall

 The rally was held on the grounds of the Paul Robeson plaza because he represented the values of racial justice, internationalism and solidarity, which were also values that the faculty union believed in.  – Photo by Photo by Jaimin Gandhi | The Daily Targum

Yesterday afternoon, the faculty union continued protesting to achieve a contract for part-time lecturers at the University. 

That same day, an agreement had been reached between the University and Rutgers American Association of University Professors and American Federation of Teachers (AAUP-AFT) on a four-year contract that provided a salary increase for faculty members, graduate assistants and teaching assistants. 

The agreement also aimed to establish a process for salary inequity, longer term appointments for non-tenure track faculty and increased diversity hiring, according to an email sent to the Rutgers community from Vivian Fernández, senior vice president for Human Resources and Organizational Effectiveness.

Though the compensation package will provide salary increases of 3% in the first three years and 2.5% in the final year, part-time lecturers were not included in the negotiations for the contract. 

Megaphone in hand, Sherry Wolf, senior organizer for the AAUP-AFT, said that even with the victories won by the faculty union, there were still more battles to fight. 

She also mentioned the significance of Paul Robeson and the plaza named in his honor, which the protestors picketed around as they held up signs and chanted for pay equity. Wolf said Robeson was a revolutionary fighter, standing for the values of racial justice, internationalism and solidarity. 

“It seems utterly shameful to have a plaza in his name roped off as if it's a museum piece,” she said. “Let’s rechristen the legacy of Paul Robeson, a fighter, an activist, a scholar, an actor and frankly, let’s call him what he was, a communist.”

With that, several dozen professors, part-time lecturers and students picketed around the plaza, chanting phrases such as “when Barchi cuts back, we say fight back” and “Rutgers is for education, we are not a corporation.” 

Marian Thorpe, a graduate student in the Department of Anthropology, said that there was a separate bargaining unit for part-time lecturers, which was why the tentative contract yesterday did not include them. At the University, though, there are several thousand part-time lecturers who teach approximately 30% of the total courses offered.

The current trend was that universities in the country had been cutting back on full-time positions, Thorpe said, which was a fact also echoed in an article from The Atlantic. Rutgers was a part of that trend, because despite the fact that the undergraduate population has been rising — in 2009 the headcount was 27,588, and last year it was 50,957 — there was also a 200% increase in part-time lecturers, she said.

The difference between part-time lecturers and other instructors at Rutgers is that the former teach on a semester-to-semester basis, while the latter had more secure positions. 

Lauren Frazee, a graduate student in the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Natural Resources, was at the negotiations over the past few days. She said that the current contract was a culmination of all the efforts the AAUP-AFT had been working on for the past years.

“Everything we’re asking for is less than the yearly profit of the University,” she said. “We felt that these were completely reasonable demands given the situation.”

At 4:35 p.m., Wolf suggested that the faculty union take the picketing from Paul Robeson Plaza to Winants Hall, in order to protest in front of University President Robert L. Barchi. Continuing to chant and even sing, the picketers marched down College Avenue and ended at Winants Hall, singing their composed “Solidarity Forever” inside. 

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