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Rutgers community speaks on pay equity, intercampus equity at Board of Governors meeting

Before the Rutgers Board of Governors meeting, Rutgers community members attended a speakout in front of the meeting's location to protest the University's actions around pay equity and intercampus disparities. – Photo by Courtesy of Alan Maass

The Rutgers Board of Governors held an in-person meeting open to the public only via Zoom in Camden yesterday. A number of resolutions were approved, reports from several Rutgers committees were shared and eight public speakers provided remarks regarding ongoing pay and intercampus equity issues at the University.

The meeting began with remarks from State Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-N.J.) regarding the University’s initial decisions in the first group of pay equity cases addressed in the salary equity program negotiated by the Rutgers American Association of University Professors and American Federation of Teachers (AAUP-AFT) back in 2019.

She said the Board should review the process of this program which allegedly has reinforced salary inequities rather than corrected them, as the Board holds responsibility for overseeing the workings of the Rutgers administration.

“It appears that the University is doing half a job here,” Weinberg said. “What's the point in adjusting pay if the result leaves in place the inequities? This is a moral issue, but equal pay for equal work is not only the right thing to do, it is the legal thing to do right here in New Jersey.”

Weinberg also said she questions whether the Board’s rules align with the Open Public Meetings Act. Earlier this year, the AAUP-AFT raised complaints regarding the Board’s addition of a speaker limit to its bylaws, while a former Senate Faculty Representative to the Board called for increased transparency following his resignation from the position.

Following the comments from Weinberg, University President Jonathan Holloway discussed several issues he brought up in his recent address to the University Senate.

He mentioned Rutgers Athletics, reiterating that the University will remain in the Big Ten Conference and will work to create a financial model that restores balance given the unsustainability of the current financial situation. He also discussed other topics such as the future of work at the University and the creation of the Office of Labor Relations.

On the topic of labor relations, Holloway brought up the ongoing issue of pay equity and the recent release of the first round of salary adjustments for applicants. He said the University has long been engaged in conversations with union leaders on how to move forward in the pay equity process, but recent changes meant this decision could not wait any longer.

“I want to stress that these first letters are initial notifications,” he said. “All requesters have the opportunity to share feedback with their chancellor if they disagree with the proposed change. And I know there are people who disagree with them. We will follow the process we all agreed on. We will keep working with the AAUP-AFT to continue to improve the process for future rounds. This work is ongoing.”

Holloway said he wants to make it clear that the University is committed to getting this right and to being fair and equitable in how they compensate their employees.

After remarks from Holloway, Rutgers—Camden Chancellor Antonio D. Tillis gave a report to the Board highlighting the current standing of the campus. This report came after he completed a 98-day listening tour, which involved meeting students, faculty, alumni and community and business leaders, following the start of his role.

Some main aspects of the report he discussed included Rutgers—Camden’s rankings, enrollment, fundraising, research, student engagement and initiatives. 

Seven members of the Rutgers community from different campuses then called into the meeting to express their concerns regarding the initial results of the first 103 pay equity cases and other factors contributing to inequities for faculty.

Nancy Wolff, distinguished professor and director of the Bloustein Center for Survey Research, said that a lack of transparency on scientific methods used in the process, such as the regression analysis, undermines the science’s integrity.

She also said the pay equity adjustment letters, upon analysis, held the toxic implication that the salary inequities present at Rutgers are deserved, particularly for Rutgers—Camden faculty.

“Our work has been pay equity sausage making — a mix of good intentions and high expectations, combined with the bone, grizzle and fat of delay tactics, misdirection and misrepresentation, all of which has left me without an appetite for what is being called pay equity,” Wolff said.

Going forward, she said the Board should establish a panel of scholars for informing the University’s pay equity standards and processes.

Brian Everett, assistant dean of the Honors College at Rutgers—Camden, said the lack of salary equity for tenured Rutgers—Camden faculty sends a negative message to these staff who often have fewer peers for support and less compensation despite having more responsibilities for their position than staff on other Rutgers campuses.

“I have always been concerned about the frequency in which our full-time staff, who are higher education professionals with master's degrees and doctoral degrees … are working 37 to 40 hours a week for Rutgers but (are) also financially obligated to drive for DoorDash, to work at salons in the evenings and in retail over the weekends just to shore up the monthly bills,” Everett said.

He said talented staff have been leaving Rutgers—Camden as a result and that he hopes the salary inequities can be resolved quickly to support the well-being of Rutgers employees.

Patrice Mareschal, an associate professor in the Department of Public Policy and Administration at Rutgers—Camden, said her fellow campus faculty have been experiencing artificially low salaries compared to faculty at other campuses for years, despite Rutgers—Camden’s contributions to increasing affordability and access to higher education for marginalized groups.

“In Camden, we serve a large proportion of in-state, low-income and racially marginalized students,” she said. “We do the heavy lifting of institutional diversity work without sufficient financial backing. Our faculty and students continue to pay the price in depressed salaries, insufficient research support, decreased services and inadequate infrastructure.”

Evan Jewell, assistant professor in the Department of History at Rutgers—Camden, expressed concerns regarding Rutgers—Camden’s recruitment and retention of faculty in light of course policies and other factors contributing to ongoing inequities.

He said Rutgers—Camden has seen a substantial drop in class enrollment due to almost all courses being in-person, with professors reporting that some Rutgers—Camden students chose to take courses online at Rutgers—New Brunswick instead of similar courses on their campus.

“Will this actually be taken into account when Camden’s budget is again shown to be in the red?” Jewell said. “It's suddenly not being taken into account in terms of policy. We must now have 10 students or more in an undergraduate class for it to run, which sounds reasonable as per recent rules which are instituted, but it doesn't seem so reasonable when we have unfair policies being instituted that create disparities between campuses.”

Jewell said this issue should be considered within the context of other inequities experienced by Rutgers—Camden members, such as the Responsibility Center Management budgeting system, which Mareschal said was partly responsible for Rutgers—Camden faculty experiencing salary inequities. He said the system has made itself known in basic services as well, such as by driving up charges for phone lines.

“Continuing along this path will only lower faculty morale, drive away our leading faculty to other institutions who can offer competitive salaries and better conditions and hamper any efforts to recruit new faculty,” Jewell said. “This will make Rutgers—Camden a much less attractive option for students in an ever-increasingly competitive higher education landscape.”

Arlene Stein, distinguished professor in the Department of Sociology and director of the Institute for Research on Women, spoke to her acquaintance with Rutgers—Camden faculty at the institute and said they have demonstrated that they deserve equal pay, having to meet the same standards that are expected in other campuses.

“During the pandemic, we have spent extraordinary amounts of time retooling our courses to accommodate online teaching,” she said. “And many faculty members have done so with children at home. It's not an easy task. We deserve to work at a university that compensates us fairly, but the equity process this administration has pursued goes against its public commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.”

Kathleen Farley, president of the Newark chapter of the AAUP-AFT, said Rutgers had an opportunity to repair its faculty appointment and tenure processes but compromised it in discussions with the AAUP-AFT back in 2018 and 2019, leading to the present continuance of inequity.

“Here, talk of the beloved community as these inequities, particularly in Rutgers—Camden, are further entrenched, reveals that some at Rutgers are more beloved than others, particularly those … who work in athletics and (the) administration,” she said.

Cleopatra Charles, associate professor in the School of Public Affairs and Administration at Rutgers—Newark, discussed her personal experiences with wage disparity and her application for a salary adjustment in the University’s salary equity program, which she said was denied.

She said she has the lowest base salary of associate professors in her school, with a difference of $31,000 between hers and that of a male colleague hired eight years after her who does comparable work.

“Women like me should not have to work at a discount,” Charles said. “I am more than a number in a regression model.”

She said a lack of transparency in the existing process enables deans to use their position to make biased decisions regarding what is equitable, resulting in the rejection of her application.

Following these comments, Holloway briefly addressed two issues brought up by the speakers, with those being inequities in remote teaching and the issue of pay equity at the University.

In regards to inequities in remote teaching, he said that he understands the frustration brought forward and, while the issue is complicated, he is currently working with Chancellor-Provost Francine Conway toward a solution.

“As far as the pay equity comments taken as a group here, although they're different nuances (among) them, I hear all of you loud and clear, and I am determined that we will address pay equity concerns in a way such that you will not have to come back to the Board of Governors, repeating the very powerful and poignant stories and personal sentiments,” Holloway said.

Prior to the start of the meeting, a group of 60 individuals from the Rutgers community attended a planned speakout in front of the building where the meeting occurred in order to protest actions from the University regarding pay equity and intercampus equity, said Jim Brown, president of the Camden chapter of the Rutgers AAUP-AFT.

“The pay equity issue was the sort of key issue that we were organized around and trying to make clear that handing Camden faculty paltry raises and thinking that they're just going to kind of walk away and accept it, that's just not going to happen,” he said. “And then, to me, that's part of the larger equity issue which is, it's not just that the faculty are treated differently at Camden, but that the students and the staff are as well.”

He said that the Rutgers—Camden community members in attendance spoke out about how they feel as though they are an afterthought to the Holloway administration and that he does not include them in his vision for a beloved community.

“Pay equity fight isn't only about faculty salaries. It's about the systematic devaluing of the Camden campus and community,” said Kate Cairns, an associate professor in the Department of Childhood Studies at Rutgers—Camden and an attendee of the protest. “And that includes Camden students, many of whom are first-generation and students of color. The Rutgers administration is effectively saying that our work as Camden faculty is worth less. What is that saying to our students?”

Brown said he hopes the protest puts pressure on the Holloway administration to fix the problem and provide equity for Rutgers—Camden and its community members.

In addition, he said that one of the biggest changes the University has to make going forward lies in the ways in which it works out its budget. He said that since each campus is currently treated as a separate entity, this negatively and disproportionately affects Rutgers—Camden given that it is the smallest campus.

“If the Board of Governors heard our message on the need for pay equity, they’ll move swiftly to correct the situation,” said Rebecca Givan, president of the Rutgers AAUP-AFT. “We will all benefit from a fairer, more equitable Rutgers."

Editor's Note: This article was updated to clarify statements made by Everett and Cairns.

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