We reel in disbelief over the tragic events at Penn State. We ask ourselves what can be done to prevent a repetition of such grossly unethical conduct — the alleged crimes and the abject failure of accountability at Penn State. Sunshine is the most powerful disinfectant, and access to university records by the public, media, community organizations and other government institutions is a deterrent to this sort of infection.
Fortunately, New Jersey’s public universities are subject to our state’s Open Public Records Act. However, Penn State University is exempted from Pennsylvania’s Right To Know Law, the corresponding legislation across the Delaware.
“Thank goodness,” we say, “that sort over cover‐up can’t happen here.” But the Governor’s Task Force on Higher Education, in its December 2010 report, suggests New Jersey loosen the OPRA provisions on public colleges and universities. The task force, chaired by former Gov. Tom Kean and primarily comprising college and university executives, notes:
“Requests for open public records are regularly submitted … by the public, labor unions, the media and government officials. … The institutions must produce the records … using valuable resources. The state should prohibit multiple requests for the same reason by the same entity.”
Readers who have followed The Star-Ledger’s coverage of irresponsible spending, no‐bid contracts and personal executives contracts with six‐digit separation payments to recognize the value of OPRA data to New Jersey’s public. Those who remember the State Commission of Investigation’s 2007 report “Vulnerable to Abuse” appreciate the need to have adequate records available to government officials.
Our organization, the Union of Rutgers Administrators (AFT Local 1766), uses the Open Public Records Act to obtain data on the complete Rutgers payroll twice each year. These “multiple requests” are not frivolous — they enable comparisons of data over time. Researchers call this “longitudinal analysis.” It is used to identify change. Continue reading OPRA helps protect NJ schools from scandals like Penn State’s→
“As an employee of Rutgers and as a member of the Union of Rutgers Administrators, I believe that when the University makes an agreement with its workers, it has to keep its promises. In 2009, our Union agreed to wait an extra year for our raise. And when that year was up, Rutgers didn’t pay. How can you now look us in the face and consider spending millions of dollars for a new building?
If Rutgers is truly facing hard economic times, then you should do the decent thing today and vote NOT to award millions of dollars for construction of a business school in New Brunswick. To spend millions on yet another building, while freezing our salaries, increasing tuition, and withholding raises, is the modern‐day version of saying “Let the students and workers eat cake”.
I hope that, before this meeting ends, this Board gets its priorities in order. Your first obligation is to the students of this university. Take those millions of dollars and pay down the rising tuition and fees for these students. Pay the staff and faculty the living wage that you promised us. We can’t feed our families or pay for health care with bricks.
Rutgers major unions – URA‐AFT, AAUP‐AFT, AFSCME Locals 888 and 1761 – have offered, since July 2011, to settle our salary freeze grievances
So what is holding us up? Here’s the picture for URA:
URA and AAUP offered a similar framework for a settlement. Elements included: partial retroactivity, a raise for FY 2011‐12 and FY 2012–13, and compensation to PERS retirees who did not get what State PERS members got through the MOA.
Management has made an offer which would extend the contract an additional 3 years, but would not give any new money, beyond the payout of the 9% which was provided in our original contract. That 9% would be spread out until FY 13–14.
Management has not ended the unequal treatment of URA members. While faculty members received a raise in 2010, and AFSCME members are receiving increments this year, we have received no raises since July 2008.
Management is not addressing the significant increases in the cost of health and pension benefits to our members. While many of us would consider any raise to be an improvement, we have to consider what our needs will be (considering recent changes to our healthcare and pension system) over the next 3 years before we can vote on any settlement.
Until we see an offer from management which moves in the direction of resolving these inequalities, we need to keep all our alternatives open. Those include: mobilizing to protest the salary freeze and educate the community about real financial mismanagement at Rutgers, negotiating a new contract for 2011–2014, and pursuing the two arbitration cases we have scheduled with Arbitrators Light (Phase 2) and Mastriani.