A judge recently ruled in favor of the Rutgers American Association of University Professors and American Federation of Teachers (AAUP-AFT) after the union filed a lawsuit to obtain financial documents regarding Rutgers Athletics, according to a press release from the AAUP-AFT.
The Daily Targum previously reported the AAUP-AFT learned Rutgers Athletics was in significant debt at the start of 2020 but was not given any details regarding the expenditures or loans. The union then made several requests for documents through the Open Public Records Act (OPRA) that were denied, leading to the lawsuit being filed in July.
In the Oct. 23 ruling, Judge Michael Toto of Middlesex County Superior Court found the University to be in violation of OPRA for failing to provide some of the documents requested by the AAUP-AFT. Although the union will not receive all of the information it requested, the University has to turn over a number of financial documents by Nov. 20.
“Earlier this year, we submitted detailed requests about Rutgers Athletics’ finances, following all the rules of OPRA, but the administration wrongly thought it could deny them using deceptive reasoning,” said Todd Wolfson, president of Rutgers AAUP-AFT, according to the release. “We went to court because secrecy and evasion have no place at a public university, and the judge agreed with us.”
The AAUP-AFT examined the documents available prior to this ruling and said Rutgers Athletics has needed an annual subsidy of between $20 million and $40 million for the past decade, with some of the money coming from required student fees, according to the release.
The union also obtained a summary of the program’s debt as of January 2020, which reported a $76.1 million raise in “internal debt” but did not explain the cause of this increase, according to the release.
“That’s a total of over $100 million transferred to athletics in a period of a year, with no explanation or accountability — transferred away from the University’s mission to teach and research and serve,” Wolfson said, according to the release.
The union said it is hoping for increased transparency surrounding the program’s finances, according to the release.
“We're calling on Rutgers to set an example of what a public university can be in this challenging moment. That starts with coming clean about Rutgers Athletics,” Wolfson said, according to the release.
University spokesperson Dory Devlin said the University will continue to follow OPRA guidelines when responding to requests for documents.