From the Classroom to the Campus Quad: Professors Protest for Pay Equity
Last month Rutgers-Camden’s faculty took to the campus quad to express their frustration at the lack of inter-campus pay equity.
“Nearly three years ago, our union negotiated a contract with the administration. As part of that contract, we negotiated what’s known as a pay equity program because we wanted to make sure people weren’t underpaid due to race, gender and also inter-campus inequity. What we learned when looking at numbers, is that Camden is systemically underpaid at the faculty level,” said Jim Brown, professor of English and Digital Studies and president of the Camden chapter of Rutgers’ American Association of University Professors — American Federation of Teacher Union, which represents graduate workers, faculty, postdocs and EOF counsellors.
The pay equity program works like this: say an English professor in Camden makes less than an English Professor in New Brunswick who does similar work and publishes a similar amount. The Camden professor could then make the case that their higher paid New Brunswick counterpart is a “comparator” and ask for a raise.
Then, the determined pay gap is fed into an algorithm called a regression analysis equation in order to calculate the pay adjustments.
However, the administration chose what Brown described as “unequal” comparators in order to lessen the gap.
“Eight people who applied for equity adjustments in Camden got zero dollars. This is part of a broader inequity that we deal with on the Camden campus — it’s not just about faculty salaries, it’s about what’s in our budget, what we’re allowed to spend, who we are and aren’t allowed to hire,” said Brown.
The protestors used the volume of their voices and their physical presence to express their frustrations about the lack of transparency used in a regression algorithm to calculate their raises.
Donning union t-shirts and touting signs with phrases like, “An injury to one is an injury to all” and “RU 4 Camden?,” the protestors could be heard chanting, “Equal work! Equal pay!” a phrase commonly used when in reference to the gender wage gap.
Meanwhile, inside the campus center, Rutgers University’s Board of Governors were meeting in the multipurpose room. The session was closed to the public in-person and open to the public on Zoom for a portion. Rutgers’ President Jonathan Holloway and Rutgers-Camden’s Chancellor Antonio D. Tillis were present at the meeting.
Recent reports about Athletics Department spending were partially the catalyst for the protest. While Rutgers froze hiring and laid off part-time lecturers during the pandemic, spending on Athletics rose.
“This is something we have already been shedding lighting on for two years. The transparency we gained with Athletics spending only confirmed what we already knew,” said Mark Hopkins, organizer of the protest and for Rutgers’ AAUP-AFT.
“We’re out here in solidarity letting the Board of Governors know that right now is the time they should be focused on building health and safety on campus, making sure students are comfortable in their living standards, and their workers are properly valued over Athletics Department spending,” he said.
Many faculty members could be seen chanting amongst the protestors like English Department professor, Dr. Carol Singley who has taught at RUC since 1993.
“It is demoralizing to know that I do comparable and equal work to someone on the New Brunswick campus and get paid far less for that same work,” she said.
The Union of Rutgers Administrators which includes everything from assistants to library associates to program and student services staff also showed face at the event.
The protest took place during free period and many professors could be seen heading off to teach their classes afterwards.
Around 1 p.m., the Board of Governors meeting was opened up to the public via Zoom. Professors from other campuses spoke on behalf of Rutgers-Camden faculty and staff.
Dr. Nancy Wolf, Distinguished Professor at the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy in New Brunswick, referred to the use of the regression analysis without transparency of how it was used as perpetuating “deserved inequity” to the faculty at Rutgers-Camden.
From inside the meeting, President Holloway seemingly acknowledged the demands of the protestors outside.
“Everybody at the university is working to get this right and be fair and equitable when paying our employees,” he said.
“They were spending more on athletics while also laying people off at the same time. That’s what this is about — the administration needs to reimagine it’s priorities,” said Brown.