Rutgers University President Robert L. Barchi announced today steps being taken to mitigate the financial effects the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has brought to the University.
“Compared to most of its peers across the country, Rutgers has been uniquely impacted by the pandemic. We are located in the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States, creating challenges around both the length of our expected recovery and our ability to attract new students,” Barchi said in the announcement. “Perhaps no other state government has been hit as hard financially as New Jersey, which has necessitated the freezing of many appropriations, including a significant portion of Rutgers funding.”
Barchi said the University anticipates a loss of approximately $200 million for this year. He said University chancellors and Universitywide responsibility-centers and offices have been asked to model double-digit decreases in budgets when preparing for the following year.
One step Barchi discussed in the announcement was his recommendation to the Board of Governors for a freeze on undergraduate tuition and fees at their current level in the 2021 budget.
“Although much remains to be determined about the coming budget year, one thing is certain — we cannot and will not close the gap on the backs of our students and their families,” Barchi said.
In addition to this, Barchi said he will take a 10 percent salary reduction over the next four months, alongside University chancellors, executive vice presidents, Athletics Director Pat Hobbs and the head coaches for football as well as men’s and women’s basketball in New Brunswick.
University vice presidents, provosts, vice chancellors and deans who make up the administrative council, as well as the entire New Brunswick Athletics leadership team will take a five percent salary reduction over the next four months, he said.
Barchi said they will also be turning toward the University’s reserve funds to offset lost revenue. He directed the University Finance and Administration to collaborate with Rutgers’s chancellors to determine which needs are most critical and to divert portions of these reserves that are not essential to the functioning of the University.
All active construction and renovation operations will be reviewed by the University to designate which projects are able to continue, with plans for all new projects being stopped, he said. Other spending areas related to University operations, such as hiring consultants and conference expenses, will be suspended.
Barchi said the University-sponsored travel ban, which was previously put in place due to the public health emergency, will continue until further notice.
The Daily Targum previously reported the University’s announcement of a hiring freeze. Barchi said this measure will continue until further notice, with all new postings and job offers being suspended indefinitely. He said exceptions to this were recently outlined by University Human Resources.
He also said noncontractual pay increases will be prohibited until further notice and will apply to all nonaligned personnel. The University will also be looking into available and necessary personnel options, such as reductions in force and further wage freezes, among other things.
“I know that many in our community are suffering great financial hardships, uncertain employment prospects and disrupted personal and professional plans. Holding tuition and fees flat for undergraduates will help ease part of this burden for our students, but more help is needed,” Barchi said. “We will continue to advocate aggressively at the federal and state levels for programs that would minimize the burden of this crisis on our employees and our students.”
Following the release of this announcement, members of the Rutgers American Association of University Professors and American Federation of Teachers (AAUP-AFT) offered criticisms of the University's financial response.
Todd Wolfson, president of the Rutgers AAUP-AFT, said it is an outrage that top earners at the University are taking temporary pay cuts while simultaneously laying off many low-wage adjunct faculty, according to a press release.
“The layoff of 20 percent of our Part-Time Lecturers (PTL) saves Rutgers a mere $5 million, while putting some of the most precarious workers on campus in a financial tailspin,” Wolfson said, according to the release. “How is this (a) shared sacrifice when a PTL who earns $5,500 per course is laid off and therefore unable to buy food, while Barchi’s salary goes from $871,000 this year to (approximately) $850,000?”
The Rutgers AAUP-AFT said the University’s financial response to the COVID-19 pandemic falls short in comparison to that of other higher learning institutions, who are taking 20 to 25 percent salary reductions for a year, according to the release.
“You can’t save a university by purging its teachers and cutting its courses,” said Dave Winters, vice president of the Part-Time Lecturer Faculty Chapter of the Rutgers AAUP-AFT, according to the release. “By the time Barchi’s done saving Rutgers, there won’t be anything left.”
In partnership with the Coalition of Rutgers Unions’ allies, the Rutgers AAUP-AFT is calling upon the University administration to be transparent in its financial response, according to the release. It is asking for it to not only commit to spending a minimum of 50 percent of its unrestricted reserves, but also to suspend or drastically cut expenses for the University’s athletics program for the 2020-21 academic year.
The Coalition of Rutgers Unions will join the University in discussing the creation of a people-centered approach to the COVID-19 crisis if the Rutgers administration is willing to take these steps, according to the release. In addition to this, the union is asking Barchi and his administration to work with the Coalition of Rutgers Unions to maximize federal and state support for the Rutgers community.
“Rutgers needs to open (its) books, spend some reserves, chop from the top and protect the academic mission above extracurriculars,” Wolfson said, according to the release.