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EDITORIAL: University's hiring freeze was enacted prematurely

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Rutgers announced a hiring freeze on April 2, a move that most have considered to marginalize part-time lecturers (PTLs) and reduce its staffing for future semesters. 

The decision comes amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, of course, which forced the University to issue refunds to many students for room and board (among other expenses). Additionally, the state has withheld aid from Rutgers, meaning that cash is tight for the Scarlet Knights.

Cuts needed to be made to stay afloat, but going straight to PTLs, one of the most vulnerable groups of workers on campus? There are certainly moral and logical faults with that decision, and naturally, those who stand up for the workers at Rutgers responded in-turn.

David Winters, acting vice president of the Part-Time Lecturer Faculty Chapter of the Rutgers American Association of University Professors and American Federation of Teachers (PTLFC-AAUP-AFT), condemned the University for its actions, according to an article from The Daily Targum

“The idea that the initial response to what the administration has termed a 'budgetary shortfall' is to immediately cut faculty positions and to cut positions of the faculty who are already the most vulnerable — and to do so at a time where we're all living through an exceptional crisis seems to me to be a wrongheaded set of decisions and an ineffective way to govern this University through a time of crisis," Winters said, according to the Targum. 

First off, this decision is not only bad due to the fact that it severs many people from their livelihood — we will get to that shortly — but also because PTLs make up a large portion of the Rutgers faculty. Many departments are filled predominantly with PTLs as their instructors. By neglecting them, Rutgers is neglecting those departments and the students in them of an adequate learning experience.

In fact, almost a third of all undergraduate courses are instructed by PTLs. 

“More than 1,300 PTLs are responsible for nearly 30 percent of all undergraduate instruction, in addition to teaching in our specialty and graduate schools,” according to the PTLFC-AAUP-AFT.

Additionally, PTLs themselves are not professors with tenure and the other adornments that come with prestigious university employment. They are workers who need their paychecks to support them and their families. They are not the ones receiving private jets, to put it another way.

Some PTLs are industry professionals that teach for the joy of it, and not because it is their sole source of income. By restricting their presence on the teaching body, Rutgers is limiting networking opportunities and connections for their students that would otherwise exist.

They are people who have lost other work in this crisis. They are people like everyone else, and the University wasted no time in using them to cover for its budgetary shortfalls. It did not stop and look at its bloated athletics or administrative budgets — no, instead it attacked those with the least say, a true act of cowardice on behalf of Rutgers.

The funny side of the matter is that Rutgers probably thinks it is helping itself out — or, at least, the administrators think they are helping themselves. But that is not the case. By freezing the hire of future instructors, Rutgers is limiting the expansion of departments, diversity of perspective and quality of education that it wants from the University. It is making the school less attractive to potential students and is without a doubt shooting itself in the foot.

This whole hiring freeze is a premature act of unadulterated short-sightedness, one perpetrated by hyper business-minded administrators who can not understand the meaning of the words “nuance” or “backfire.” The University will suffer from these actions if they are not mended quickly.

Rutgers must cut other budgetary items to make up for lost revenue. Athletics is a good place to start, especially considering that the entire program will be rather unprofitable going forward with the cancellation of games. Not to mention, students involved in athletics will not be harmed as their practices and other team activities have been shut down for the time being.

Administrative bloat is a good second place to look. With all the wasted money Rutgers spends on its higher-ups, there should be no reason to touch faculty pay unless things get particularly dire.

Furthermore, the Rutgers American Association of University Professors and American Federation of Teachers needs to be given a voice when it comes to major spending decisions like this, and students need to back them. Rutgers must listen to those it pays and those who pay it — after all, it could not function without either.

The Daily Targum's editorials represent the views of the majority of the 152nd editorial board. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

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