COVID-19 Health & Safety We R Not Disposable

Telecommuting: What to Know (March Update)

Updated 3/8/2021

On Wednesday, March 3, Vivian Fernandez sent out a message that extends the relaxation of rules around telecommuting until April 30, 2021. This is a welcome respite, but it contradicts what she told us in January: that telecommuting would be extended to May 31.

We continue to expect telecommuting to be extended through May 31.  We will also advocate for a safe reopening and repopulation at the appropriate time.

If you currently have a telecommuting agreement, then there is no change. If your manager attempts to change to your work schedule, and there is a request for additional in-person work, ask your manager, “what has changed operationally?”. This is not the time to let our guard down, and we will continue to fight for to keep you healthy and safe.

Steps to protect your rights:

You do not need to reapply for a telecommuting arrangement that was already approved and on file.  Continue to work according to that plan.

  1. If you are told to return to in-person work ask your supervisor: “what is the operational need?”  Important: make sure you get a response in writing. Some managers try to avoid this question and instead explain to you all of the safety measures in place on campus. Continue to insist on a response to only this question.
  2. If there is no true critical operational need for in-person work, contact us immediately.  Your supervisor does not have total discretion to force you to return if your work truly can be performed remotely.
  3. If there is a critical need for in-person work, make sure the safety measures are appropriate.  If not, you should object to working under unsafe conditions.
  4. If you have a medical or family reason for not working in-person (and there is actually a critical need for in-person work), request a flexible work hours arrangement that includes telecommuting or a leave request.  Important: this should be your last option.  Attempt steps 1 through 4 first.

If you are requested to return to work in person and there is no operational need to do so, please contact us to help. This is particularly impactful as parents of school age students will require greater flexibility as K-12 schools reopen.

We R Not Disposable

Sign the petition for libraries staff safety and equity

Click here to sign:

URA members in the Libraries at Newark and Camden call for safe working conditions, expanded telecommuting. Please sign and share our online petition. Libraries staff in New Brunswick / Piscataway have a safer work schedule. Why not Newark or Camden?
Our Demand: Immediately close the premises of Rutgers’ Newark and Camden libraries except for essential cleaning and maintenance until at least the beginning of the Spring 2021 semester. Implement staffing by teams alternating in-person and remote work through the end of the COVID-19 public health emergency

With Newark once again at the center of the COVID-19 pandemic, yet staff (but not faculty or students) at Dana Library were required to defy the municipal stay-at-home declaration by Mayor Baraka, and report daily to an almost empty campus.

Rutgers- Camden, too, has most classes virtual and low campus occupancy . Camden, too, is experiencing a surge in COVID cases, yet staff (not faculty, not students) are required to report to Robeson Library every day.

The safety of Library staff members matters as much as the library faculty. Library faculty assigned to the Newark or and Camden campuses work 100% remotely.

Library staff have never been classified as “essential” workers.
If we are “One Rutgers”, let’s treat our staff like that is true. Let’s protect them from unnecessary exposure in their daily commute and on the job.

We R Not Disposable

O’Connell to BOG: “use your influence to rescind the layoffs”

Statement from Christine O’Connell, President
Union of Rutgers Administrators

Rutgers University Board of Governors Meeting
December 17, 2020

My name is Christine O’Connell and I am the president of the Union of Rutgers Administrators-American Federation of Teachers (URA-AFT) and I represent over 2,500 staff who work at Rutgers in hundreds of depts. that span all aspects of academics, libraries, auxiliary services and operations. We are the backbone of this University. When you choose to find savings through layoffs that devastate our lives and the lives of our families, it is a poor choice. You impact not only the staff who are laid off and their families, but you hurt the very students that we espouse to serve.

Your consideration of spending more money to purchase 3 floors at the Gateway building instead of leasing at this time is not one that we support. Perhaps there are reasons that I’m not aware of that this may be a long term cost savings, but when over 1,000 people are laid off and struggling to make ends meet and put food on their tables during one of the worse economic downturns in American history and during a global pandemic, you should choose to retain workers.

Your employees are the people who provide the exemplary service to our students. Students come to Rutgers to get a stellar education to help move them towards success as adults. My members take great pride in their part in that process, from recruiting them, reviewing their applications in admissions, guiding and advising them through their educational journey, feeding them, housing them, and yet continue to be overlooked as integral contributors in Rutgers’ success. We are a great University because of their work.

Decisions to impact their livelihood are made at a much higher level than ours, but for some reason, those who are making the decisions don’t seem to be cut, even when their work is not vital to the service of our students. Top administration continues to grow, and you shrink those who actually do the work. This hurts our students.
We ask that Board of Governors to use your influence to rescind the layoffs that have happened and return those who have separated and are separating soon, the 8 people in libraries, dozens across EFNEP, Genetics, Physics, Economics, ESL, English, History, Political Science, and dining. These people who were laid off are integral to their departments. Some may be the only administrative person in their department who manage the grants, make sure money is properly spent and accounted for, assist our students, educate in the community and so many more things. Their absence is more than a cost savings, their loss is measurable and leaves a void for our students, and they certainly make more of a difference in the success of our students than whether we purchase another 3 floors at the Gateway building.

COVID-19 Health & Safety We R Not Disposable

Exec. Order 192 & Reporting Violations

On October 28th, Governor Murphy signed Executive Order (EO) 192, which provided additional health and safety protocols that employers must follow. This EO gives details of what workplace employers must provide to protect their employees.

Of particular notice is section 1h. where employers are required to, “Promptly notify all employees of any known exposure to COVID-19 at the worksite, consistent with the confidentiality requirements of the ADA and any 9 other applicable laws, and consistent with guidance from the EEOC;”.

Read the EO >>

Because the state predicted that employers would try to violate parts or all of EO 192, they have provided several methods to bring them to their attention. I encourage you to notify us, Rutgers, and the state if you see violations. Here are the links to report any violations on protocols of health and safety.

Pay Freeze We R Not Disposable

Union Members to BoG: Stop the Layoffs!

Union members were ready to speak out against layoffs and cutbacks at the October 7, 2020,  Board of Governors meeting—until BoG chair Mark Angelson broke out a new rule designed to silence us. URA-AFT members came out in full force and made themselves heard anyway. Here, we publish a collection of the statements that members of PTLFC-AAUP-AFT, URA-AFT, and Rutgers AAUP-AFT prepared for the public comment section. 

Howard Swerdloff
Part-Time Lecturer, Writing Program, New Brunswick

I am speaking regarding item 19b, the appointment of Prabhas Moghe as Executive Vice President of Academic Affairs. I am a New Brunswick Writing Instructor and an executive board member of the Part-Time Lecturers union. Dr Moghe either initiated, or acquiesced in, a thoughtless and callous decision that harmed this university, its students, and teachers.

After nine years of service, with consistently flawless evaluations, two weeks ago, I was summarily dismissed, along with dozens of my New Brunswick Writing Program PTL colleagues. What kind of leader makes decisions like this? One who sees teachers and students as data points on a spreadsheet? A smart leader would understand that we PTLs are Rutgers teaching faculty, not some variable costs. 

Let me provide just one example of the value we actually provide. I want to put a human face on what President Holloway terms “academic excellence,” as many of the other speakers today have done. This email arrived this morning from a student of mine in English 201— one of the programs that would have been decimated as a result of these layoffs.

Hello, Professor Swerdloff!…

I am so sorry to hear about this, and when I received [the news] I was truly upset by it because you were honestly one of my favorite professors throughout my undergraduate career. During the research in disciplines class I took with you, you taught me so many strategies to write a well-thought-out, well-organized research paper, and I took those strategies with me….

I still find myself using them 3 years post-graduation and now in my graduate career, and whenever I have assignments, I frequently reference notes from your class. If you were removed from the Writing Program, it would be truly detrimental to future students. It’s really quite hard to get students excited and passionate about writing a 15–20 page research paper, but you were able to do that, and I think that’s special and very valuable for a university! I’m sure the same holds true for your colleagues, and I am hoping that Rutgers reconsiders this decision.

Unfortunately…I will not be able to speak on the behalf of you and your other colleagues that are affected by this ridiculous decision. If you are speaking during the meeting, please feel free to read the Board what I wrote in this email.…If I was available to speak, I absolutely would…. 


I have many other messages from students and peers, and I have provided a few for the minutes, but in the interests of time won’t read them here. 

It’s past time to treat us as valuable professionals instead of hyper-exploitable, disposable units of labor. President Holloway, members of the Board, you won’t end contingency by firing us contingent workers. If we are to have a new relationship between management and labor, do the smart and just thing: upgrade our status! That means full-time and fractional appointments, equal pay for equal work, job security, and, as an urgent first step, reinstate the rest of my Writing Program colleagues! 

Christine O’Connell
President, Union of Rutgers Administrators-AFT

My name is Christine O’Connell, and I am the president of URA-AFT Local 1766.

I speak to you today because we are part of the beloved community that President Holloway referred to in his address to the University Senate a week and half ago. We are the community that serves our students, supports our faculty, and implements a myriad of programs that provide the face of Rutgers to the community in every county in the state of New Jersey. We do research, we advise students, until recently we fed every student, and so many other things. We are alumni, students, and proud parents of students. We are the backbone of the beloved community of Rutgers University.

But we don’t feel so beloved right now. Mass staff layoffs are being implemented in many departments, including Rutgers Gardens, a place of serenity and a hub of teaching and volunteering in the community; Rutgers Libraries, where the heart of research begins and is a place of study, resources, and services that students, faculty, alumni, and the community avail themselves; and today, staff layoffs are beginning in the School of Arts and Sciences, our largest school in New Brunswick.

They join the ranks of staff in Dining Services and our paraprofessionals who work for the Expanded Food Nutrition Education Program, who teach families who are food insecure in cities like Newark, Paterson, Jersey City, and Camden, on the unemployment line. EFNEP funding is secure, so this decision that devastated the women who work for that program—who are all people of color and mostly single mothers—was truly unnecessary. 

We are some of the most economically vulnerable people across the beloved community who President Holloway acknowledges provide the work that is often overlooked and undervalued. Yet we, as a union, stepped up and reached out to our state legislators to restore funding in the state budget because we knew that it would hurt Rutgers and, by extension, all of us. We helped recover nearly $100 million in state appropriations with our members’ hard work two weeks ago. Yet the layoffs are still coming, and they are catastrophic to our members and their families.

We ask for you, board members, to reverse this layoff trend and rescind the layoffs already issued to help us continue to grow our beloved community into the exceptional research institution which we are proud to be a part of every day. We ask that you influence other decision makers that this is not what Rutgers should represent: a public employer that chooses to hurt those who are most vulnerable when there are other solutions that management will not consider. 

We ask that you pledge that job security and health care will be paramount in your decision making and that the well-being of people is integral and vital to the success of our University. If we are to aspire to be a beloved community, even if we disagree sometimes, we have to believe that we are all in this together fighting this challenge and the challenges that lie ahead. 

Andrew Goldstone
Associate Professor, English, New Brunswick

I am an associate professor of English at Rutgers, New Brunswick. I would like to ask you to do your utmost to protect and enhance the fundamental academic mission of Rutgers and reconsider the proposed budget. This new budget reduces the estimated operating deficit from June by almost 50 percent, yet I believe it omits significant sources of additional revenues and further savings. 

Even on the terms of the budget proposed, however, it is now plain that the June declaration of a “fiscal emergency” was unwarranted. State support has been fully restored, student enrollments are at levels comparable to last year, and the university’s financial reserves have continued to grow. The university has the resources to safeguard its teaching, research, and service missions. This is an essential moment to show the public that these core missions are your priorities, too.

More than a thousand people, including several hundred Part-Time Lecturers, have been laid off since April. More layoffs are continuing to happen. Only recently, in the School of Arts and Sciences, we have heard about 15 staff positions being eliminated and continuing reductions in the availability of courses for Part-Time Lecturers. These are not superfluous people: these are the people on whom the quality of student education and the quality of research depend. Now is the time to make use of the state’s restored support and the basic strength of Rutgers’s finances, and bring those jobs back. 

I also urge you to rescind the declaration of fiscal emergency made to the faculty and staff unions in early June. The emergency decision to freeze faculty, TA/GA, and staff salaries has been intensely demoralizing. It is time for the university to honor its contractual promises. Maintaining good faculty and staff working conditions is essential to maintaining the integrity of teaching and research at Rutgers, and essential to restoring trust at this institution.

New Jersey is in a state of emergency: it needs Rutgers to be strong. Short-term job and salary cuts may seem prudent, but they only harm New Jersey in the end, by undermining the public benefits the university provides. The university’s financial health allows you to chart another course. End the fiscal emergency, restore the lost jobs, support research and teaching.

Alessandra Sperling
Department Administrator, Writing Program, New Brunswick

Thank you for letting me speak with you today. Today, I will be speaking about the proposed budget and the potential for layoffs as a member of URA-AFT.

The threat of layoffs of staff will harm the functioning of Rutgers, of the School of Arts and Science, of the Writing Program where I work, and, most importantly, of our students. My role in the department is primarily scheduling our 50 courses, 600 sections, and over 15,000 students. Scheduling is only one part of the massive work done by the staff in the English Department and in SAS. 

All of us work tirelessly to make students feel safe, secure, and supported in their educational endeavors, especially during this unprecedented time. Without our expertise, students wouldn’t know how to navigate the Rutgers system. In fact, I would argue that we are the community of the English Department, of SAS, and of Rutgers.

I know firsthand about our student experience because I am an alumni of Rutgers myself, having graduated with a BA in English and an MEd in Elementary Education. I used to be supremely proud of this great institution, my alma mater, where I loved working because of our great community. 

Over the last several years, however, I began to feel disillusioned and disappointed by the way Rutgers treated its staff, who I think of as its backbone, and began to hate a place I once loved. I felt great distance between what I thought we were, a place that supported a community of educators and those who uphold that mission, to a place that would rather take advantage of its workforce than embrace the ideals it once set out to uphold.

But with a new president comes new hope. Today, President Holloway spoke of a beloved community, and I say that this should include engaging more meaningfully with that community—in fact, the very one that your staff creates. He further spoke about building better employee relations and that management should listen to its employees, again echoing a mission of community. 

I implore you to show us a different Rutgers, the one that President Holloway evokes in his own words, and one that can turn me into a proud alumni again. This starts by immediately returning all staff who have been laid off to their positions and by saying today that there will be no more layoffs at Rutgers of staff, because you, too, see the community we build. This will allow your staff to go back to their incredibly influential work, the work that makes your jobs possible, without concern for their positions and futures. This action is what will return my confidence in Rutgers.

David Letwin
Part-Time Lecturer, Theater, New Brunswick

My name is David Letwin, and I’m speaking on the budget proposal with regards to hiring freezes and layoffs. I’ve been teaching at Rutgers since the fall of 2003. I’m here today as a Part-Time Lecturer and member of the executive board of our union, AAUP-AFT Local 6324, to stand with all PTLs in the fight to save our jobs. 

When President Holloway spoke at the PTL virtual Town Hall in July, he explicitly said he opposed what he called the “adjunctification” of Rutgers. But the answer to low-paying adjunct jobs with no security and few benefits is not to fire or layoff PTLs—the teaching faculty of this university—and cut their courses, but to transform all PTL appointments into full-time positions for those that want them. 

PTLs aren’t the only ones in danger. Other vulnerable Rutgers employees, many of color, have already lost their jobs or are facing layoffs, with the same cruel disregard for the suffering inflicted. All this while huge salaries are siphoned off to coaches and an ever-growing strata of high-level bureaucrats. 

As the teaching faculty of Rutgers, we will not stand by and watch a public university be undermined on the pretext of an alleged fiscal emergency. We are here to say that PTLs and other Rutgers workers, our students—particularly from poor and working class communities and communities of color—and quality public higher education are not disposable.

Heather Pierce
Part-Time Lecturer, Political Science, New Brunswick

My name is Heather Pierce, and I am a PTL in the Department of Political Science in New Brunswick and a member of the executive board of the PTL union. I am here today to speak for my PTL colleagues and for our students. My message is simple: By laying off adjunct faculty, you are harming our students. 

 Like many PTLs, I have a PhD. I’ve published research in top peer-reviewed journals in my field, and most importantly, I’ve dedicated my life to gaining the skills and experience necessary to be a good educator. I am no less qualified than our full-time research faculty to teach at this institution, and yet I’m treated as second class. PTLs are the teaching faculty of Rutgers. We are top-notch teaching specialists, and we deserve to be treated as such. 

 There is a robust literature in education research demonstrating the inverse relationship between class size and quality of education, which is even stronger for online learning. By cutting 25 percent of PTL courses this fall and funneling students into fewer, larger classes, you have already diminished the quality of the Rutgers education. These recent cuts only serve to reinforce this harm. We know this isn’t really about the budget, and while I support the “de-adjunctification” of academia, this is not the way to do it.

 By treating PTLs as disposable, you are signaling to our students that you don’t care about the quality of their education. The fact that PTLs are undervalued, underpaid, and without health insurance or job security tells our students that you, as an employer, don’t even value the very education you are charging them tens of thousands of dollars for every year. If you did, you would compensate PTLs fairly for their own educational experiences. If you are unwilling to pay a fair price for the product you are selling, why should anyone else? What message do you think this sends to our students? 

 Our students deserve better. I call on you to do what is right for them and for the reputation of Rutgers: reverse the recent layoffs, rescind the hiring freeze as it relates to PTLs and restore the courses that have been cut, and start treating PTLs with the respect they deserve. 

 Donna Murch
Associate Professor, History, New Brunswick

I’m going to speak to agenda item 11. I’m very concerned about the proposed layoffs to the Writing Program, which affects our most vulnerable academic workers. This is even more problematic given the restoration in state funding of nearly $100 million being added to our budget. As a member of the AAUP-AFT, it was remarkable to see our Legislative Committee successfully lobby for the restoration of our funding. 

I want to speak to a question of priorities. With this $100 million, it’s important to also send a message to the New Jersey legislature that this money will be used to preserve people’s jobs. 

Alicia Picone Rodriguez
Senior Administrative Assistant, EOHSI

My name is Alicia Picone, and I come to you today as a staff member, a current student, a graduate, a parent, and a true Scarlet Knight from a Rutgers family. I am also a member of URA-AFT, speaking to Item 11. I hope you are all well and safe. 

President Holloway speaks of a “beloved community.” Staff are a vital part of that community, involved in all aspects of the university, from faculty support to student services. We have a significant role in maintaining the excellent reputation Rutgers has throughout the state, the country, and the world. While much of our work is behind the scenes, faculty, students, and even parents can attest to their reliance on us to get things done. We are a big reason for “Rutgers Pride.”

I maintain that employee layoffs are unnecessary when we, as union members, advocated to the state in order to provide the restoration of appropriations and funding. We are all aware of the great financial reserves and significant borrowing power that the university has.

We realize that this is an unprecedented time, and the economic environment right now is frightening. But layoffs affect the most vulnerable among us, putting many of us, some with long careers at the university, in a situation without income, health insurance, and/or tuition benefits. As New Jersey residents and consumers, this has far-reaching economic implications.

Throughout this crisis, we have diligently been working to do our jobs effectively, many from remote locations, and we have “risen to the occasion” to maintain the high level of service and education for which Rutgers is known. No one should be laid off. The layoffs that have been implemented should be rescinded, and no further layoffs should be implemented.

We are Rutgers—the staff, the faculty, the students. We are the university. Rutgers should not be the reason people are devastated during the pandemic. Thank you for listening and please stay safe.

David Winters
Part-Time Lecturer, School of Communication and Information, New Brunswick.

I’m the Vice President of the Part-Time Lecturers union. I’m also a member of the University Senate and the New Brunswick Faculty Council. I’m speaking to the proposed resolution on the appointment of Prabhas Moghe as Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs.

I’d like to take this opportunity to suggest to Mr. Moghe, President Holloway, and the Board of Governors that Rutgers is in urgent need of major, structural, democratic reforms. The COVID crisis and our top administrative personnel’s response to it have made tragically evident the blind spots that are created by the centralized, top-down decision-making structure built up by President Barchi.

If the current administration wants to demonstrate a commitment to collaboration and community, then all of the hiring freezes and layoffs need to be rescinded, courses removed from the schedule need to be restored, course caps need to be reduced, and Part-Time Lecturers who seek full-time employment need to be given full-time, non-tenure-track contracts.

The Strategic Plan developed before President Holloway arrived needs to be tossed out and a new planning process, involving the entire Rutgers community from beginning to end, needs to begin immediately. It is inappropriate and ineffective for a half dozen or so administrative personnel to plan Rutgers’ future on their own. It doesn’t matter who those half dozen people are or how incredible they may or may not be.

Faculty, students, staff, essential workers, and community leaders working together to guide Rutgers into its future: that’s Rutgers. We are Rutgers, and we don’t need an Office of Strategy devising effective ways to tell us we’re beloved while it’s also devising effective ways to lay us off.

If we’re going to be a beloved community, we must certainly first be a democratic community where co-governance and co-determination are our common sense. I hope Mr. Moghe will agree and, assuming his appointment is successful, will work on an equal footing with the Rutgers community towards these universally beneficial goals.

Jason Boehm
Administrative Coordinator, School of Arts and Sciences, Newark

I came here today to make an appeal not just to the Board on agenda item 11 but to you directly, President Halloway. 

I ask you, sir: what do words like equity, phrases like Black Lives Matter, and even US history mean to you? I regularly find myself wondering how you could not be aware of all that I have seen in my short time working here? The fact is the words and phrases I just mentioned cannot mean much when the first to the chopping block are those who make up the least of us, historically speaking. 

The layoffs URA have suffered have been overwhelmingly women and women of color. Those layoffs severed these human beings from access to quality health care during a global pandemic. These and future layoffs further impoverish a workforce that is already overworked and underpaid, overstressed and unappreciated. The university claims to be considerate of working families yet the level of stress we experience every day while trying to do our jobs—and, in most cases, educate and care for our children—has produced serious health issues for many, myself included. 

Instead of cutting the bloated salaries of our already overpopulated executive staff, you created three new positions. Instead of using COVID as an excuse to renegotiate the poorly conceived contracts you have with the football coaches and/or restructuring the university to better serve students and treat your workers with at least a shred of dignity, you instead seem to be using COVID as an excuse to once again restructure the university for the economic benefit of those at the top. 

You reportedly said that you wish to negotiate with the CRU in a respectable and mutually beneficial way, yet you still retain the services of Jackson Lewis whose own history of hostility toward unions is notorious. How can we negotiate respectfully if you have brought a gun to what should be a meeting of mutually respected colleagues? 

We work longer hours now and have to pay for our own supplies, which the university refuses to reimburse us for, while experiencing a dramatic increase in home utility bills, a byproduct of working from home, which makes the freezing of our raises another serious issue. Please keep in mind that in two minutes, I cannot accurately articulate everything else that has accompanied these few examples of hyper-exploitation and historically racist and misogynistic trends, of which there is plenty more to speak!

The median income level in New Jersey is around $79,000 a year, and yet most of us make around $34,000 a year after deductions, only $1,000 more than when I drove a tow truck as my job for 22 years before getting my masters degree in US history from this institution, a decision that on the whole has not improved the life of my family or myself. In fact, I still have to drive the tow truck on weekends because this institution pays so poorly.

The fact is, sir, the vast majority of our staff are overqualified and underpaid and the negative historical trends both you and I are well aware of continue apace. Shame! In closing I will offer some advice to you President Holloway: the university only works if we the members of URA work And so, too, for our comrades in the CRU. Change our history, President Halloway, don’t repeat it.

Grace McGarty
Student Coordinator, James Dickson Carr Library, New Brunswick

My comments address agenda item number 11 and the “Pursuing HR Options” issue. I have already received a layoff notice, which was based solely on a budget decision to eliminate lines of library staff. This is the very staff the university deemed vital to return to campus first during the COVID closure to support the university mission as a premier research institution. 

Staff are an integral part of the vision of Rutgers as a “beloved community.” Layoffs of those who work diligently to support research directly contradict the ideal of “re-centering the academy within the university.”

I perform the functions of two full-time staff jobs as both the Access Services Resource Sharing contact and my primary role as Student Coordinator of 21 federal work study undergraduates. I took the initiative to write detailed procedures that became the prototype used across the library system for low-contact loans and returns of physical books and media during COVID-19.  If you are stressed from unmanageable debt issues, take help for bankruptcy from student loans with the help of a bankruptcy attorney and get a fresh financial start.

With just one month’s notice, student coordinators learned the libraries would be the only employer of Work-Study students this term—only virtually. So I created 90 hours of high-quality curriculum content and built a new website as our virtual forum, crafting assignment modules with themes that engage and enrich the students academically, personally, and professionally. I continue to mentor them on these same intangible life skills.

These students represent the most socioeconomically vulnerable and underrepresented members of society that Rutgers vows to protect and nurture. They are overwhelmingly students of color. But my layoff will hurt these students. They’ll lose their trainer, timekeeper, confidante, budget analyst, and sole professional reference for future education and jobs. 

The personal impact for me is devastating. I will lose the community, colleagues, and job I love—my livelihood, life insurance, ability to save for retirement, and possibly my home. As a person with a disability, losing health insurance becomes a matter of life and death as I can only afford and receive the treatment that manages my chronic blood disorder through my current health plan. 

Consider the spectrum of harm caused by layoffs that disregard the value of individuals who exemplify Rutgers’ ideals daily. Staff committed to excellence and service are not just ledger entries. They are dedicated, caring people…like me.

Karen Thompson
Part-Time Lecturer, Writing Program, New Brunswick

My name is Karen Thompson. I’m objecting to these administrative appointments in light of the following concerns: I’ve been teaching part time at Rutgers for over 40 years, yet I recently found myself among those targeted for layoff. “Layoff” isn’t quite the right word since Part-Time Lecturers or PTLs (as we’re called) are supposedly hired and rehired each semester. That means I’ve been hired and rehired 80-some times. 

Laying off PTLs saves very little money, and no one would even try to say cutting PTLs is cost-saving. One top administrator’s salary could account for 20 PTLs. Evidently, after years of increasing the use of PTLs for teaching (now over a third of the courses at Rutgers), the administration is finally interested in reducing PTLs to protect RU’s reputation—Rutgers leads the Big Ten in the use (or rather abuse) of PTLs/adjuncts. 

When dozens of PTLs in the New Brunswick Writing Program, including me, were notified recently they would not be teaching next semester, there was widespread outrage among students and full-time faculty as well as PTLs. The plan was changed, and some of us got reassurance we would be back next term. But what about the rest of the PTLs who won’t be? What about the students who won’t have course offerings they expect and deserve? And what about the librarians who are being laid off next month. At least one of them, I heard, is close to retirement, saddled with a disability, and set to lose health coverage. PTLs, as you know, receive no health coverage—even during a pandemic. 

Why are the most vulnerable employees being cut, even when Rutgers is well-placed financially, when state funding has recently been restored, when coaches continue to be paid long after they’ve stopped working, and when increasing numbers of high-paid administrators remain complacently safe from layoff? 

Rutgers worries about its reputation without understanding that treating students and employees in this manner affects the RU reputation. The RU-screw may still be its most famous slogan. It’s no wonder the endowment is one of the smallest in the Big Ten, when students and employees may leave Rutgers with such bad feelings. Who wants to donate to an institution that threw you out, or threw out your friends and family? 

Our new President Holloway speaks of the “beloved community,” but are some of us excluded from it? He mentioned “invisible employees” who should be more recognized. Are PTLs among them? He says he is interested in making Rutgers a place people want to work. But is that happening—or the reverse? Show us the Rutgers that values all its employees, especially those in close contact with students, like PTLs and librarians.

Bridget Purcell
Teaching Instructor, Anthropology

My name is Bridget Purcell, and I’m a full-time Teaching Instructor in Anthropology at the New Brunswick campus. I’m here to stand in solidarity with my PTL colleagues in the Writing Program and to call out the cruelty of any layoffs in the midst of a pandemic and an economic collapse. As my colleagues remarked, there is no good budgetary rationale for this act. In other words, the problem is not economic; it is moral and political. 

We want to believe that Rutgers can be a moral leader in this moment of society-wide reckoning with questions of racial and economic justice. President Holloway, you’ve called Rutgers a “beloved community,” in which all members “deserve to be recognized and respected for a job well done.” And you’ve specifically acknowledged the “so-called invisible work[ers]” who make this university run. How, then, can this administration lay off our most economically precarious colleagues, from Part-Time Lecturers to dining and custodial services? 

 I’m asking the board to tell our administration that they have a choice. Either they can champion social justice or they can lay off our most vulnerable community members. Either they can praise essential workers or they can treat their own workforce as disposable. They cannot do both.

 I’ll add that keeping Part-Time Lecturers on the payroll is the floor, not the ceiling, of what they deserve. These positions should be converted into full-time jobs that accord respect, job security, and fair compensation. This is not too much to ask. We are here because as teaching faculty, we know the value of our work. It’s high time that our salaries and our working conditions reflect that value.

Daniel Sidorick
Part-Time Lecturer, Labor Studies and Employment Relations

The people who keep the university running, from the PTLs to the dining workers, continue to suffer under decisions which treat us as disposable. PTLs have put tremendous effort into converting courses to an online format, with no additional compensation, in a job with low pay and no benefits. The reward Rutgers has given us is repeated waves of layoffs, the latest in the Writing Program. We are being treated as third-class citizens, and we refuse to accept that. All PTLs in the Writing Program must be employed if Rutgers is to continue teaching this core competence to its students. 

But not only do we need our experienced teachers, we also need realistic class sizes in this period of pandemic, and especially for writing-intensive courses. One of my courses has had its cap raised by 20 percent, and the same has happened to many others. How will larger class sizes enhance Rutgers’ reputation? In another critical area, we will be asked to return to campus in this dangerous time, though we have no health insurance. 

With enrollment stable and state funding restored, there is no excuse for the university to continue making its teachers and students suffer. It can find millions for a notorious anti-union law firm and for athletic coaches but so far has failed to fund the teachers at the center of its core mission. We expect to be treated with the same dignity that you expect to be treated with. We will accept nothing less.

Stephen Patrick Schaefer
Library Associate, Paul Robeson Library, Camden

I am asking to comment on the proposed budget, specifically the item “pursuing HR actions” in the presentation—in other words, layoffs.

I am pretty new to Rutgers—just over six months now—so I don’t presume to speak for everyone of my colleagues in the University Libraries and in other Departments who are similarly affected by recent decisions. However, I can share my own experience, and hopefully by analogy, I think I can voice some version of our concerns.

I was hired in mid-February. After a long effort of trying to improve my job and career situation, I pulled up stakes, and my wife and I drove across the country. I arrived at the Camden campus in late March, one week after everything was forced to shut down. It has been a challenging six months, but I have been grateful for the opportunity to pursue my own personal goals while contributing to an institution whose effects ripple out into the community and the wider world. 

However, that brief opportunity is now at an end. The pandemic and subsequent economic turmoil has upended many plans and expectations. The current proposed budget, however, expects those upended plans to be passed on and paid for by upending the lives of individuals in the Rutgers community, in the form of layoffs.

The data the university is using to determine this budget is not incorrect, and viewed from the perspective of data and prevailing theories of management, the choices are not incomprehensible, vindictive, or even in all ways unreasonable. However, the data does not show how those decisions specifically complicate, put on hold, or even possibly ruin the plans and hopes and lives of the affected individuals.

The university is asking members of the Rutgers community to sacrifice for the greater good of the university’s position in the world, its reputation, and its future. However, I argue that the greater good—the position, reputation, and future—is the Rutgers community of which we are an integral part. In conclusion, I ask the Board of Governors to please reconsider your decisions and work with our unions to help find a more equitable solution than the one currently offered.

Cynthia Saltzman
Part-Time Lecturer, Anthropology

More than once, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, when the country was hurtling towards almost Depression-era unemployment, PTLs have confronted the threat and reality of massive layoffs at Rutgers. I realize that these are difficult times, but shifting the burden to the most vulnerable members of the Rutgers community who play a vital role is neither fair nor sensible. It is cruel.

Trying to save money by cutting PTL courses, or laying part-time lecturers off, is like—to use someone else’s metaphor—Bill Gates looking for coins in the couch cushions. PTLs come from diverse backgrounds; they are self-supporting, Black, Latinx, with children, and single. All of us are now facing dire uncertainty; many do not know if they can collect unemployment insurance, have health care, or if they can find another job.

Rutgers is also getting terrible press. This will eventually affect enrollment, but it is already affecting our reputation. Some of the newspapers and periodicals that have mentioned that Rutgers is firing its adjunct faculty include: the Washington Post; Politico; the Chronicle of Higher Education; several New Jersey newspapers; and the Daily Targum. Furthermore, 1,500 renowned and influential scholars at universities around the United States have signed a petition saying that they will not speak or lecture at Rutgers because of its treatment and firing of adjunct faculty.

As a member of the University Senate, I recently heard President Holloway speak about his desire to create a beloved community at Rutgers. People were so optimistic about his vision, and I remain excited about his presidency. I trust that under his helm, and yours as the Board of Governors, you will re-envision the budget to be fairer and more equitable and preserve our jobs and salaries.

Legislation Pay Freeze We R Not Disposable


Write the New Jersey Legislative Budget Committee now!

The extraordinary FY21 budget process is moving very fast.  Instead of holding hearings, the Senate and Assembly budget committees are taking only written testimony.

Please speak up NOW to prevent and roll back layoffs and undo the “fiscal emergency” that is holding our raises hostage.  Below is a sample letter you can edit and send to the budget committees with the stroke of a keyboard.

Add your title, sign with your name and town– add any specific details you wish.

Then e-mail to:  

The job you save could literally be your own.

Sample letter on NJ Budget.

COVID-19 Higher Education We R Not Disposable

Stop Layoffs: Contact Your Legislator

One hundred members of URA have been laid off since June and the threat of more layoffs is still very real. Faculty and staff at the State Colleges and Universities have negotiated a no-layoff pledge in exchange for furlough days and delayed raises. So have the workers at the State executive departments (DOT, Treasury, etc).

Join me and ask your state legislators to stop the layoffs.

Through the month of September, as the NJ Legislature debates the State budget, we will ask our legislators to bring Rutgers to the table to save jobs… and money.

If we lose our jobs, most of us will need rental, heating and even food assistance—from the State. We will have no health insurance— and the cost will fall on the State budget.

Rutgers leadership have been lying to legislators by saying that they were negotiating with us on furloughs. They agreed to meet with the URA once for 45 minutes, ignored our proposal and offered no counter proposal.

By protecting our jobs with a no-layoff agreement, we will also prevent Rutgers from dumping its financial issues onto the State’s balance sheet. It’s simple to contact your State Senator and Assembly persons, and it’s urgent we take action before the budget is passed on September 30.

In solidarity,

Christine O’Connell
URA-AFT, Local #1766

We R Not Disposable

Petition: no layoffs, no cutbacks

Tell President-designate Jonathan Holloway

Please call on the new president of Rutgers University and the Board of Governors to stop layoffs and cutbacks that will devastate students, university employees, their families, and communities throughout New Jersey.

Sign the petition >>

URA Contract Videos We R Not Disposable

Bryan Cardinale, Rutgers Dining Services

In June 2020, Rutgers University targeted employees in Dining Services for layoff, despite multiple negotiations sessions with unions to implement a “win-win” alternative to layoffs that would save the University hundreds of millions of dollars. The University instead chose to save money on the backs of hundreds of its workers who will now go without benefits or medical coverage. Shame on Rutgers and the leadership team of Joe Charette, Sal Mena and Bob Barchi.

COVID-19 We R Not Disposable

Wage Freezes, Job Losses Possible as Rutgers Declares Fiscal Emergency

Chuck O’Donnell, Patch

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – More than 20,000 Rutgers employees could have their scheduled 3% raises postponed and others could lose their jobs as the university deals with a projected $260 million deficit caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The school has declared a fiscal emergency as referenced in certain labor union contracts, which then triggers a mandatory 21-day negotiating period.

During the time, the university and its labor unions “investigate” the next step before any action is formally taken by Rutgers, according to a statement provided to TAPinto New Brunswick by a university spokesperson.

That action could include the postponement of a scheduled 3% wage hike that is scheduled to kick in on July 1.

During a video conference last week with leaders of a coalition of 19 labor unions representing more than 20,000 employees at Rutgers, Christine O’Connell called for the university to take a “humane” approach to negotiations. O’Connell, the president of the Union of Rutgers Administrators, is urging the university to “do as little harm as possible.”

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