LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Rutgers has enough money to pay for fair wages
Public records reveal Rutgers could allocate $20 million needed for equal pay for equal work
As we all know, Rutgers is facing the possibility of a strike. Reasons are many, but in short, faculty, staff and graduate workers have been working without a contract for nine months, and negotiations are stalled. This is an appalling situation, and I write to focus on just one piece of the story here.
Rutgers part time lecturers (PTLs) are paid between a 10th and a quarter of what full time lecturers are paid to teach the same course. PTLs get no job security, no benefits, typically no place to meet students and often do not even get a contract before they begin teaching. Management refuses to begin rectifying this situation because they argue that they do not have the estimated $20 million that equal pay for equal work would cost.
I write to report that this is categorically untrue. I am a member of the University Senate Budget and Finance Committee, and I received several Open Public Records Act requests for Rutgers account information.
These reveal that at the end of Fiscal Year 2022, the President’s Strategic Fund had $31 million in it, and is replenished with $2.6 million, monthly. Presidents should have strategic funds, but if paying lecturers who we depend on a fair wage is not strategic, I do not know what is. The requests also reveal that our Treasurer had $16.5 million in a few of his discretionary funds, which he typically spends on software projects. I will resist commenting on how well those are going.
Additionally, Athletics took approximately $41 million in debt last year and is expected to take at least as much this year. If we can take $41 million in annual debt for an organization that routinely spends on frivolities like DoorDash, napping pods and helicopter flights, we can afford $20 million to pay lecturers who we depend on.
Bottom line: We need to pay people fairly — refusing to do so should never have been a negotiating option. We need to do so before we spend more on software, DoorDash or debt. This is the strategic necessity that we face, and Rutgers management needs to own up to this essential fact, albeit nine months late.
Troy Shinbrot is a professor of biomedical engineering at Rutgers University.
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