NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – A caravan of about 70 cars streamed past Rutgers President Robert Barchi’s home on the Busch Campus on Saturday afternoon in a processional protest organized by university union leaders.
Cars and trucks of all shapes and sizes descended on Barchi’s 90-year-old hilltop home in the shadows of the Marco Battaglia practice complex. The entrance to his home was blocked by a wrought iron fence and a member of the Rutgers police who kept watch from inside his Rutgers-issued SUV.
In a parking lot outside the fence, the air was filled with a cacophony of car horns in protest of upcoming cuts to some of Rutgers’ 3,000 part-time lecturers, or adjunct professors.
The social-distancing display was also to draw attention to the plight of Rutgers’ health care employees, who protestors said were working without proper personal protection equipment and we not being offered hazard pay to care for COVID-19 patients.
A nurse speaking into a megaphone said she and her colleagues have been issued one N95 mask in the six weeks they've been tending to COVID-19 patients.
"We're caring for COVID-19 patients," she said. "We are on the front line. We're at risk. PPE for all. Hazard pay for all. Care for us as we care for others."
A Rutgers medical student who is in the middle of his residency said, "It is time the university not just say our faculty are heroes, but pay them like heroes."
It was unclear if Barchi was home during the protest, but one union leader who was urging the caravan crew to blow their horns said, "Let's wake Barchi from his afternoon nap."
The caravan gathered in the parking lot of the PoppaRich Edison at noon and proceed to Old Queens Gate at the corner of Somerset Avenue and George Street. Then it moved toward Barchi’s home, arriving at 1:10.
By 1:37 p.m., the protestors had begun to get back into their cars and leave.
The protestors said they had formed a coalition of unions to stand against these issues. According to a protester press release, a memo has been sent to academic departments calling for a 20% cut to part-time lecturers, 3,000 of whom collectively cost 1% of Rutgers' $4.6 billion annual budget and teach more than a third of classes, has “set off a firestorm of rage and organizing among adjunct faculty.”
"You can't save a university by purging its teachers and cutting its courses,” said part-time lecturer David Winters, vice president of the PTLFC-AAUP-AFT. “By the time Barchi's done saving Rutgers, there won't be anything left.”
Sherry Wolf, the organizer for AAUP-AFT, which represents thousands of faculty, issued a press release Friday announcing the formation of Saturday’s protest.
Almost minutes later, university officials released their own press release, stating that top-ranking administrators were going to take a salary cut in light of the fact that the school is looking at massive losses of revenue related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Barchi informed the university community that he and senior leadership will take a 10% reduction in salary and that other senior leaders will reduce their pay by 5%, according to a press release from the university.
The president called for using all appropriate reserve funds, as well as a freeze on all new major construction projects, among other steps.
“Leadership starts at the top. I will immediately reduce my salary by 10%,” Barchi said. “The chancellors and executive vice presidents, as well as the athletic director and head coaches for football and men’s and women’s’ basketball will also take a 10% reduction in salary over the next four months. The roughly 100 senior administrators who comprise the university’s administrative council will similarly take a 5% pay cut over the same period."
Wolff responded with another press release Friday, calling the administration’s salary cuts “puny” and saying it was an “outrage” the hundreds of part-time lecturers who will lose their jobs in order to save the school $5 million.
The university is bracing for the possibility of an estimated $200 million loss in the current quarter (April 1 through June 30, 2020) and expects more significant losses in the next fiscal year.