Contract tensions

Faculty members have been spotted around campus wearing buttons in protest.

Faculty members have been spotted around campus wearing buttons (above) in protest.

By Stephanie Petit
Correspondent

A small group of students gathered Wednesday to show support and start garnering ideas to help the College’s faculty, who have been working without a contract since July.

“We just wanted to get some students together to support them,” senior psychology major Cassidy Bartolini said.

Bartolini and junior women and gender’s studies major Remi Lourenco learned about this issue from their WGS professor Nelson Rodriguez and knew they needed to do something.

“I think it hit home because we both really like this professor,” Lourenco said.

Gov. Chris Christie has issued demands regarding the creation of a new contract for professors and staff at the College.  Despite a clause stating that the former contract cannot be revoked until a new contract is signed, the governor has declared he will not adhere to this and has begun to cut sabbaticals and increments.

“This is the first time we have gone this long without a new agreement,” said Ralph Edelbach, an associate professor and president of The College of New Jersey Federation of Teachers. “That is primarily because the College presidents, including President Gitenstein, have convinced Gov. Christie to put demands on the negotiating table that are totally unacceptable to us and will, we believe, negatively impact each college and its students.”

Some of the demands for the creation of a new contract include faculty relinquishing career development funds, halting cost of living increases, giving up the right to negotiated salary ranges and more. Faculty members have been spotted around campus wearing buttons (above) in protest.

“The quality of your education depends on the ability of our college to attract the best staff,” Edelbach said. “That cannot be done without the guarantee that a fair and equitable contract is and will remain in effect.”

Bartolini said there was a “definite interest” among students she talked to about bringing attention to this issue.

“The fact that a group of students came together on their own to learn about the issues behind our ‘Working Without a Contract’ campaign validates my sense that TCNJ is fortunate to have such outstanding students,” Edelbach said. “In these difficult times, it is reassuring to see students engaged in these types of activities.”

The next step, Lourenco said, was asking what is the student’s role in this.

The students brainstormed ideas of how they can help raise awareness and support the faculty and staff. They decided to educate the campus about the situation using fliers and social media, as well as handing out ribbons and hanging up banners. Other ideas included a public demonstration and attending union meetings.

They also discussed putting together a panel of professors, administrative workers and staff to answer questions and bring light to the issue. Attendees said they hope events like this would get media coverage and take it beyond the College’s campus.

Students also discussed reaching out to friends at other schools going through the same thing, such as Rutgers University, for ideas and support.

Bartolini and Lourenco hope students will become aware of this issue and take action. “Think of a professor that has positively affected your college experience. Think about a staff person who you have turned to for help or support,” their Facebook  event’s page said.

Bartolini encouraged students to look out for future events and support their professors.

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