On Wednesday, more than 150 individuals including Rutgers—Camden faculty, graduate workers, students and staff attended a rarely held all-faculty meeting called for Chancellor Antonio D. Tillis to discuss the abrupt firing of College of Arts and Sciences Dean Howard Marchitello last month, according to a press release.
The firing, which occurred on Oct. 26, was allegedly done without warning and is suspected to potentially be linked to Marchitello’s public criticism of ongoing intercampus and pay equity issues seen by the Rutgers—Camden campus, according to a statement from the Rutgers American Association of University Professors and American Federation of Teachers (AAUP-AFT).
In a College of Arts and Sciences Faculty Senate meeting held on Nov. 1, Marchitello said he believes he was fired for having publicly discussed “structural and chronic underinvestment” at the school, according to the statement. He also said that he was instructed by superiors on multiple occasions to refrain from discussing the pay equity program with faculty, despite him playing an important role in the recommendation process.
“Our members in Camden see this firing, without warning in the middle of the semester, as an insult and a threat to everyone — faculty, staff, students, the Camden community,” said Rebecca Givan, president of Rutgers AAUP-AFT, according to another statement from the organization. “This is no way to run a public institution that’s answerable to the Rutgers community and the residents of this state.”
The University has not responded to The Daily Targum's request for comment.
Throughout the all-faculty meeting, questions and concerns from Rutgers community members were raised regarding the firing of Marchitello as well as other ongoing issues, such as intercampus and pay equity, occurring at Rutgers—Camden.
Some of the most common questions asked why Marchitello was dismissed. In response to this, Tillis expressed multiple times throughout the meeting that the firing of the dean is a “personnel” matter and that it is something that he cannot discuss publicly in detail.
“I, nor Provost (Daniel) Hart, anticipated what was going to be the result of this … this decision was a decision that the provost and I discussed, and once the decision was made, we moved forward. And again, unfortunately, we all know what the turn of events was and that’s why we are here today,” he said.
Following the meeting, several Rutgers community members said they were dissatisfied with Tillis’s responses, stating that they believe he did not provide an adequate explanation regarding his firing of Marchitello, only continuing to cite it as “personnel” matters, according to the release.
“Tillis’s decision-making process is baffling,” said Lorraine Minnite, an associate professor of Public Policy at Rutgers—Camden. “First he fires Dean Marchitello, a highly respected faculty and student advocate, in the middle of the semester for no reason and without a plan for succession in place, unleashing chaos on campus. Then he accepts an invitation by the faculty to explain this decision and refuses to explain it. The meeting was a waste of time. We have no more information about what motivated this firing than we did a week ago.”
Daniel Cook, a distinguished professor of Childhood Studies at Rutgers—Camden, said that rather than address the firing, Tillis instead decided to discuss his vision for the future of the school, according to the release. He said Tillis’ message could have had a more receptive audience if he called the meeting weeks ago.
Jim Brown, an associate professor of English and president of the Camden chapter of Rutgers AAUP-AFT, said Marchitello’s firing and ongoing pay equity issues are part of a larger pattern at the University, according to the release.
“The central administration denies our campus equal resources and then punishes us because of the consequences of Camden being starved of funds,” he said.
In addition to attending the all-faculty meeting, dozens of faculty members gathered outside the College of Arts and Sciences commencement for class of 2020 and 2021 graduates later in the day, according to the release. The faculty chose not to partake in their typical commencement roles as an act of protest over Tillis’s actions, still showing up to congratulate students.
“We’re proud of our students and our campus, and we wanted to celebrate that outside the commencement,” Brown said. “Chancellor Tillis’s actions and the policies of the Rutgers administration are making it harder and harder on our students, and that is unacceptable to us. What we did today, as a united Rutgers—Camden community, is to stand up for the future.”
College of Arts and Sciences faculty are supposed to meet once again today to further discuss what will come next in the situation, according to the release.