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.