NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - Some of the 3,000 or so part-time lecturers at Rutgers staged a "grade-in" at Winants Hall, filling the bottom floor of the building that houses school president Robert Barchi's office.
It was unclear if Barchi was upstairs Wednesday afternoon when about 50 people entered the building. Most of them appeared to be part-time lecturers, but there were also some students and at least a few full-time faculty members.
More part-time lectures and students continued to arrive throughout the day. By 2 p.m., there were about 75 people crammed into the downstairs space in Winants Hall. A security guard was stationed at the foot of the stairs to make sure none of them could go upstairs.
The contract for the part-time lecturers or adjunct professors at Rutgers expired July 1, 2018. They are seeking a raise from about $5,000 to teach a three-credit course to $7,250. Plus, they are negotiating for access to health benefits.
Sherry Wolf, senior organizer for Rutgers AAUP-AFT, handed out signs to the union members as they entered the building. She said that the school did not want the members to brandish "large" signs, so she distributed ones on 8x11 copy paper. Some signs read "Will grade 4 food" and "RU underpaid?"
According to Wolf, almost one-third of the classes at the university are taught by a part-time lecturer. She also said that Rutgers employs more adjuncts than any other Big 10 school.
Wolf also referenced the fact that Chancellor Christopher Molloy's comments have further made part-time lecturers feel "unwanted" at the school.
Molloy issued an apology to part-time lecturers last month after making comments that "if (part-time lecturers) don't want to do this, they need to get another job. There are probably other people who can fill the role, so it's sort of like supply and demand."
Unlike last month when part-time lecturers flooded into Winants Hall on April 18, hoping to speak with Barchi, Wednesday's work action was quieter. There were no bullhorns or chanting. Many of the professors sat on the marble floor and graded papers and, as Wolf said, "made themselves seen" in their push for higher wages and access to health benefits.
"Virtually all the part-time lecturers have advanced degrees and doctorates," said Mike Slott, a part-time lecturer in labor studies. "They are really committed professions who really want to offer students here at Rutgers a good education. For Rutgers to take the position that they do where they essentially see us as temps or contingent labor that really where we are on the margins of the university. ... It makes us feel unappreciated, disrespected and wanting collectively to make an impact."
Rutgers and the union representing some 5,000 full-time faculty members reached a tentative labor agreement last month.