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U. shortchanged faculty in initial pay equity decisions, Rutgers AAUP-AFT says

Members of the Rutgers American Association of University Professors and American Federation of Teachers pointed to two main reasons for the reduced adjustments. – Photo by The Daily Targum

Rutgers recently released its initial decisions in the first group of pay equity cases, according to a press release. An analysis completed by faculty experts alleges that the University shortchanged 103 applicants by at least $750,000 and close to $1 million overall.

The decisions were released approximately two years after they were supposed to be under the contract, and the Rutgers American Association of University Professors and American Federation of Teachers (AAUP-AFT) claimed that the University manipulated the salary equity program to pay as little as possible.

“It's pretty outrageous,” said Rebecca Givan, president of the Rutgers AAUP-AFT. “The pay equity process was really promising … The administration also seemed ready to address long-standing inequities and provide a way for faculty to correct these inequities, and the implementation of the program has just been an insult.”

University President Jonathan Holloway announced last week at the University Senate meeting that total awards would be more than $1 million, according to the release. Though, the union’s analysis showed that the University reduced the awards by approximately this amount.

“‘One million dollars’ sounded like a lot … but that works out to less than $10,000 per person for these faculty members, some of whom were underpaid by that much each year while at Rutgers,” Givan said. “And our analysis shows the initial awards would have been twice as high if the administration stuck to the program we negotiated.”

She said the University did not follow the agreed-upon terms of the original contract and made several changes that ultimately resulted in the decreased amounts. In addition, she said the University hired a law firm, Jackson Lewis, that is notoriously anti-union.

One of the changes the University made to the original program has to do with comparators, or faculty peers in which applicants choose to show how much they believe they are being underpaid, according to the release. 

In the beginning of the process, the chosen comparators were reviewed and endorsed by deans in many cases, according to the release. Though, in the majority of cases for which the union has complete information, the comparators initially endorsed by the deans were switched, leading to a reduced salary adjustment for many of the applicants.

“The deans had said, ‘Yes, this increase is the one that I think is right, given how underpaid you are,’” Givan said. “And then the deans and University Compensation Services adjusted that down and said, ‘Oh, actually, I take back what I said earlier, you should be paid less than that.’”

University spokesperson Carissa Sestito said the award letters are recommendations and the results are not final.

"The amount of any recommended equity adjustment will be determined by the respective chancellor, or designee, in consultation with the dean and compensation services," she said. "The chancellor, or designee, is responsible for approving any increase and for communicating such a decision to the faculty member making the request."

Givan said that while they do not have a complete set of data, based on the information that they do have, the total effect of the change in comparators and the use of the regression formula was approximately a 34 percent reduction from the recommendations endorsed by the deans.

In addition, in the 49 cases for which the union has full information, the comparator switches cost applicants more than $218,000, according to a letter from Rutgers AAUP-AFT to its members.

She said that in many cases, female applicants chose male colleagues for their comparators given that they are often underpaid in comparison to them. Though, she said the male comparators were switched out and replaced with other underpaid women instead.

“If you take out, for example, male comparators and replace them with lower-paid female comparators, you’re simply compounding the problem of gender pay inequity,” said Deepa Kumar, a professor in the Department of Journalism and Media Studies and 1 of the 5 plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the University on the basis of gender pay inequity.

Givan said that another change Rutgers made which negatively impacted the adjustments involves the use of a specific regression analysis formula provided by the University’s law firm. 

This formula typically reduced the adjustments received by applicants, sometimes to zero, and ultimately reduced the original awards by more than half a million dollars alone, according to the press release.

“Both the changes in comparators and the Jackson Lewis regression were used to suppress these awards and to keep faculty from actually getting true equity,” Givan said. “They violate the terms of our contract, they violate the spirit of equity, they violate any commitment to actually treating people fairly.”

Haydee Herrera-Guzman, an associate professor in the Department of Mathematical Sciences at Rutgers—Camden and 1 of the 5 plaintiffs in the lawsuit, and Jim Brown, president of the Camden chapter of Rutgers AAUP-AFT, both said that Camden faculty have been disproportionately impacted throughout this process.

Brown said more than half of applications in the program came from their faculty, with the reductions in salary adjustments hitting his colleagues much harder in comparison to others, according to the release. The union’s analysis found that Camden faculty received the lowest average salary adjustments despite having the greatest need for pay awards to achieve equity.

Camden faculty made up 42 of the initial 103 decisions, with eight of these individuals receiving no salary adjustment at all, compared to the five from all other campuses who received no salary adjustments, according to the letter.

Additionally, the average salary adjustment for the remaining 34 Camden faculty members was just more than $6,800, which is less than half of the average award for individuals from other campuses who will get an adjustment, according to the letter. 

Givan said the total effect of the change in comparators and the use of the regression formula for Camden was approximately 82 percent in comparison to the overall rate of 34 percent.

“At every turn, Camden students, staff and faculty are treated differently from our counterparts at the other campuses,” Brown said.

For faculty who are dissatisfied with the results, Sestito said "a faculty member can submit a written response regarding the results provided by compensation services to the chancellor and may appeal the decision by the chancellor to the executive vice president for academic affairs."

Givan said that going forward, the union will continue to call out the inequitable treatment of the Camden campus and of the women and faculty of color, as well as continue to work to ensure that they can enforce the terms of their contract.

“(The University has) to decide whether they're committed to pay equity or not,” she said. “If they're not committed to pay equity, they can keep doing what they're doing, but if they're committed to it, they have to guarantee that all increases will be funded centrally by the University so that underfunded units don't feel that by paying their faculty equitably they need to make sacrifices elsewhere. And they need to consider a faculty-driven process that allows faculty expertise to determine these decisions rather than putting them in the hands of an algorithm.” Editor's Note: This article was updated to include a statement from the University.

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