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Rutgers faculty union says University libraries should have closed before mandatory executive order

Gov. Phil Murphy (D-N.J.) issued an executive order Friday, requiring all libraries in New Jersey to close. Prior to this, the Rutgers University libraries remained open despite opposition from members of the University's faculty unions. – Photo by The Daily Targum

Gov. Phil Murphy (D-N.J.) announced the mandatory closure of all municipal, county and state public libraries on Friday, which included libraries and computer labs at both public and private higher education institutions, according to a press release.

“New Jersey will continue to be proactive in our approach to identify and enact measures to promote social distancing,” Murphy said, according to the release. “While many of these facilities are an important part of the fabric of our communities, it’s critical that we take this opportunity to slow the spread of coronavirus seriously.”

This measure comes just days after the members of the Rutgers American Association of University Professors and American Federation of Teachers (AAUP-AFT) and the Union of Rutgers Administrators and American Federation of Teachers (URA-AFT) asked the University to close its libraries to protect the health of library staff, The Daily Targum previously reported.

On Tuesday, Todd Wolfson, president of the AAUP-AFT, and Christine O'Connell, president of the URA-AFT, sent a letter to Senior Vice President for Human Resources and Organizational Effectiveness Vivian Fernández to voice their concerns about the libraries remaining open, the Targum reported.

“Unless employees are providing absolutely essential services — services critical to ensuring the health, welfare and safety of others — requiring our members to physically report to work, places them and others at risk and is contrary to the unprecedented global efforts to contain the COVID-19 pandemic,” Wolfson and O'Connell said in the letter, according to the Targum.

After the executive order to close all public and private libraries was announced, forcing Rutgers’ libraries to close as a result, Rebecca Givan, vice president of the Rutgers AAUP-AFT, said they should have closed before this. 

“It is an outrage that the president of the University, a medical doctor, insisted on leaving faculty and staff in an unsafe workplace for so long,” she said. “We worked tirelessly to undo this reckless University decision. Rutgers has many other options for ensuring that students have access to the technology they need to complete their work for the rest of the semester.”

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